Eating Disorders

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– 90% of teens with anorexia are females.
– 50% of teenage girls and use unhealthy weight control behaviors
– 69% of females (ages 10 to 18) state that photographs of models and celebrities in the media motivated their “ideal” body shape
– 80% of 13-year-olds have attempted to lose weight
– By age 17, 89% of girls have dieted

Black girls are 50 percent more likely than white girls to engage in bulimic behavior


Though anorexia is less common in Black Americans than in white Americans, Black Americans with anorexia develop the disorder at a younger age and struggle with it for longer periods

Though our understanding is based on the experiences of white women, eating disorders and disordered eating do affect people of color at significant rates. The limited research involving Black participants offers the following statistics:

  • Recurrent binge eating is more common among Black women than among white women.
  • Black girls are 50 percent more likely than white girls to engage in bulimic behavior.
  • Though anorexia is less common in Black Americans than in white Americans, Black Americans with anorexia develop the disorder at a younger age and struggle with it for longer periods.

It is important to note that even this research is based on frameworks and diagnostic tools developed with white women in mind. Accurate estimation of prevalence is difficult, and it is believed that a large percentage of eating disorders in Black Americans are unreported and untreated.

Early warning signs of eating disorders

Adolescents can become fussy about particular foods or lose weight for lots of reasons. It is important to get any concerns checked by a health professional.

Some signs that a young person might have an eating disorder and that should be investigated further include:

  • rapid weight loss or weight gain
  • changes in shape
  • feelings of unhappiness with body shape and size
  • an intense fear of gaining weight
  • denial of being hungry
  • deceptive behavior around food — for instance, throwing out or hiding school lunches
  • avoiding food and eating in social situations
  • excessive physical activity
  • compulsive exercising and a need to be active all the time
  • eating in secret
  • cutting out particular food groups, such as meat or dairy products
  • developing food rituals – such as always using the same bowl, cutting food up into tiny pieces or eating very slowly
  • behavioral changes – such as social withdrawal, irritability or depression
  • sleep disturbance.

Types of eating disorders

The main types of eating disorder include:

  • anorexia nervosa – characterized by restricted eating, loss of weight and a fear of putting on weight
  • bulimia nervosa – periods of binge eating (often in secret), followed by attempts to compensate by excessively exercising, vomiting, or periods of strict dieting. Binge eating is often accompanied by feelings of shame and being ‘out of control’
  • binge eating disorder – characterized by recurrent periods of binge eating (can include eating much more than normal, feeling uncomfortably full, eating large amounts when not physically hungry). Feelings of guilt, disgust and depression can follow binge eating episodes. Binge eating does not involve compensatory behaviors
  • other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) – feeding or eating behaviors that cause the individual distress and impairment, but do not meet criteria for the first three eating disorders.

Risk factors for eating disorders

We don’t know why some older children (aged eight years and over), particularly adolescents, develop an eating disorder and others don’t. However, many factors might influence an adolescent to develop an unhealthy eating pattern or to become afraid of gaining weight. These factors may be psychological, social, environmental or biological.

Often, a combination of things may trigger an eating disorder in a vulnerable person.

Psychological risk factors

Personality factors that make a person more at risk of developing an eating disorder may include:

  • low self-esteem
  • perfectionism
  • difficulties expressing feelings like anger or anxiety
  • being a ‘people pleaser’
  • difficulties being assertive with others
  • fear of adulthood.

Social or environmental risk factors

Social or environmental risk factors in the development of an eating disorder may include:

  • being teased or bullied
  • a belief that high expectations from family and others must be met
  • major life changes such as family break-up, or the accumulation of many minor stressors
  • peer pressure to behave in particular ways
  • a parent or other role model who consistently diets or who is unhappy with their body
  • media and advertising images of the ideal body size and shape as slim and fit
  • a cultural tendency to judge people by their appearance.

Biological factors

Contributing biological factors may include:

  • adolescence and its associated physical changes
  • genetic or familial factors – for example, families that are overly focused on food, weight, shape and appearance.

If you have an emergency situation, please call 911. If there is any information that is not listed or you need help with resources, please call or email us as or (725) 696-7230. We will put you in touch with the right people to help you and your daughter.

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