Appalling. Disappointing. And not surprising. That’s what I think about the recently released survey results that show an astonishing rate of pre-teen children exploring bulimia as a weight-loss tool. According to the Huffington Post article, “Kids Vomiting to Lose Weight, Even Before Puberty,” out of 16,000 responses from surveyed pre-teens, “15 percent of 13 to 15-year-olds said they had tried vomiting to lose weight in the last year, and nearly 16 percent of 10 to 12-year-olds said they had.” Can you imagine your sweet little daughter in elementary school, leaning over the bathroom toilet to force her cafeteria lunch back up to flush down? It might sound dramatic, but according to this survey, this is more realistic than we might think.
The truth is that our children desperately need guidance on what foods to eat in order to maintain a healthy body weight. With skinny cover magazine and glamorous celebrity visual images everywhere in our media-overloaded society, girls don’t have to look far to learn the expectation for what “beautiful” looks like. However, when you’re between the ages of 10 and 15, you might not have the street smarts to realize that a lot of what they might see is touched up by an image editor, or perhaps even by a plastic surgeon. But I digress. Our children are clearly in distress, and it’s our job as parents and a society to respond to these startling statistics by providing education on healthy diet and exercise.
In fact, the survey showed that the behavior of vomiting “was more pronounced in children who engaged in what are generally regarded to be unhealthy behaviors. For example, more than 20 percent of those who said they’d tried vomiting at some point also admitted to eating fried food on a daily basis. And another 18 percent said they sat at a computer for more than two hours a day.” Rather than eating fried foods, vomiting, and living a sedentary daily life, if these children were – instead – eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, followed by regular physical activity, they would probably achieve equivalent weight loss, with the added bonus of sustainable internal nutrition and overall health. A+!
Many adults (young and old) develop psychological and subjective responses to food, resulting in eating disorders. So, it would not be completely impossible that that might be the case with these children. However, barring some highly upsetting emotional damage or traumatic and stressing experience, I believe that kids need our help in making healthier food choices. If you’re a fan of Jamie Oliver’s hit TV series, The Food Revolution, then you might argue that it’s the responsibility of the school systems. My opinion is that if the schools step in, they better not start recording BMI on report cards – what a recipe for self esteem disaster! We have a generation of kids with poor self esteem already which is leading younger and younger to eating disorders!
There’s a fine line between families and administrations promoting healthy habits in children, and overstepping the delicate stability of self confidence in children today. Whatever your position, our kids are crying out for help. It’s time for us to step up and help them. Fill your fridge at home with produce and ditch the processed junk. Pack your kids’ lunches and steer them away from sodas. Involve them in your cooking process, so they learn the basics of preparing fresh foods. Most importantly, talk with your children about their feelings about food, so if they are having problems with vomiting, you can help them turn around that path to health destruction.