Formerly Obese Teenagers Are at High Risk for Eating Disorders


Today in America’s Holy War on Obesity, teenagers who “beat” fatness and manage to become thin (MISSION ACCOMPLISHED BANNER) are at a significant risk of developing eating disorders and unlikely to have those disorders diagnosed. Because, hey, thinness is the goal—not health. Thinness is everything, thinness is the be-all and end-all, and thinness signifies health whether actual health is achieved or not. Sure, you might be starving to death, but at least the public doesn’t have to look at your big thighs anymore! WORTH IT.

Via USA Today:

“For some reason we are just not thinking that these kids are at risk. We say, ‘Oh boy, you need to lose weight, and that’s hard for you because you’re obese,’ ” says Leslie Sim, clinical director of the eating disorders program at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and lead author of a case study report in October’s Pediatrics, published online today.
In the report, Sim and colleagues review two cases in which teens with a history of obesity developed severe, restrictive eating patterns in the process of losing weight. But indications of an eating disorder went unidentified and untreated by medical providers for as long as two years despite regular check-ups.

That is the consequence (or, one consequence) of erroneously using body size as a measure of health. Harmfully restrictive eating patterns are considered “disordered” in naturally thin people, but in fat people they’re a civic duty. They’re “willpower.” They’re “caring about your body.” Great work, War on Obesity. You’re totally “winning.” LOOK HOW HEALTHY EVERYONE IS NOW.

It’s a “new, high-risk population that is under-recognized,” says Hagman, medical director of the eating disorders program at Children’s Hospital Colorado, who was not involved in the new report.
The kids she sees in this condition “are just as ill in terms of how they are thinking” as they are in terms of physical ailments, she says. “They come in with the same fear of fat, drive for thinness, and excessive exercise drive as kids who would typically have met an anorexia nervosa diagnosis. But because they are at or a even a little bit above their normal body weight, no one thinks about that.”

For the billionth time, how about we just treat fat people like human beings? How about public health campaigns focus on health for all people, regardless of aesthetic standards? How about we let fat people love their bodies instead of telling them to torture their bodies every day of their lives? “Health” isn’t one-dimensional. Mental health is health. Not having dizzy spells and hair loss and missed periods and chest pain and impaired concentration is health. That fat teenager you’re telling to “put down the fork” in the name of “health” might actually be anorexic. And if that’s your version of health, then you have zero business commenting on mine.

Image via Africa Studio/Shutterstock.

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