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Eating Disorders: The Silent Killer
The Silent Killer: A Sneaky Suicide
Starvation is obviously a big problem around the world, this much is true. But there is the kind we can control and the kind we can’t. If anyone is more qualified to end the starvation killing off some of the teenage population, it is the victims themselves. The victims of anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is the type of starvation we are most capable of ending. While we can’t feed thousands of the inhabitants of undeveloped countries, we can stop the rising number of teenage girls, guys, and young adults from starving themselves or binging and purging. This type of eating disorder, bulimia, is making the victim flush all sorts of health, literally, down the toilet. This includes oral health, physical health, and mental health. Nobody is safe from these diseases, which have be known to destroy the lives of any girl or boy, young or old, any race and culture. This is a disease that must be stopped. This is a disorder with a past, present, and even more dangerous future. This is an epidemic which is not as easily put down as one would think. This is America’s future if nothing is done soon. This is anorexia. This is bulimia. This is the future of the world.
Dying to Be Thin: Centuries of Starvation
Starving models and teens regurgitating on a regular basis is really no new news for the world. Sure, recently the problem flamed up and became a gigantic influence on society; however it has been creeping around for a lot longer than most people probably thought. The silent killer has been reaping through the lives of teenagers and young adults since the end of the nineteenth century. The initial few symptoms were discovered in 1873. When this happened, the doctors treating these cases blamed it on mental activity and psychological ideas. These first cases that appeared were ones of starvation (anorexia nervosa). Bulimia first appeared in the 1970s, nearly a century later! Treatments, such as over-the-counter drugs and such were first approved to treat bulimia in 1994, the main drug being Prozac. This was the first step in fighting the disorders from the FDA, or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“Key Events in the History of Eating Disorders” 1). At first, attention was drawn to the athletes with such disorders but not much was done about it until 2005 (Dryden-Edwards 1). That was the year that the National Collegiate Athletic Association first put together a handbook detailing what coaches should look for in order to identify anorexia nervosa and bulimia. The disorders weren’t taken as seriously as they are now until 2006, when a fashion model under the name of Luisel Ramos died from anorexia. The government of Spain then sprung into action, adding weight guidelines to the fashion shows which would soon be featured in the city. Other hosting cities weren’t as quick and pushy with their guidelines, making them less binding or not adding any at all (“Key Events in the History of Eating Disorders” 1). As you can see, it is obvious that the symptoms have been evident awhile but only recently have they drawn attention and research. This all adds up to the present state of eating disorders and what the future holds.
Modern Pressures: The Current State
As is palpable from the previous paragraph, eating disorders have been evident in the world for much longer than anyone would’ve thought possible. As you can see, in modern times, they are still on the rise and are threatening to get worse by the minute. As much as seven million American women and one million American men possess an eating disorder currently. The most vulnerable group for an eating disorder is that of early adulthood or the teenage years. Most people with bulimia usually obtain the disease by or after the time they turn fifteen. Anorexics usually get the disorder by age seventeen, which is why it is believable that 11% of the class of 1990 high school students had an eating disorder (“Eating Disorders” 1-2). Even more recently, a 1997 study from Commonwealth Fund saw that about one in five female high school freshmen agreed to the fact that they have displayed symptoms of bulimia (“Eating Disorders” 3). However, modern pressures are also to blame for the up-and-coming eating disorder epidemic. It has been studied and proven that early teenagers who weighed in at less than average became more likely to date than the girls in the same age group who were obese or just an average weight. Not only that, but the current entertainment industry has pushed images of stick-thin models and actresses into the pages of magazines read by teen girls constantly (“Eating Disorders” 5). Our society makes it seem as though being thin is the only way to be attractive and well-liked. In order to maintain a slim figure and a good reputation as a well-liked girl or boy, Americans waste billions per year on products claiming to help them in their quest for a low weight. This includes laxatives, exercise machines, and weight-loss pills and drugs (“Update: Eating Disorders” 1-2). It is also a known fact that currently the race with the most victims of eating disorders is white females. This is true because other races, such as Hispanics, blacks, and Asians tend to have a wider range of ideals and acceptance among their people (“Update: Eating Disorders” 3). Currently, bulimia consists of binging and then using methods to keep weight down and prevent weight gain such as obsessive exercise, throwing up, taking laxatives, and possess dehydration, fatigue, and constipation. The modern definition of anorexia hasn’t changed as much. It consists of low blood pressure, ritualistic behavior during meals, absence of menstruation, staying about 15% or more normal body weight, and a negative body image and of course, starvation. Some of the symptoms for bulimia are also included in the definition of anorexia, such as vomiting, taking laxatives, and obsessive exercise (“Eating Disorders Signs” 1). The current state of eating disorders and symptoms have varied little from the initial state of which.
Stepping Off The Scale: The Future
Of course, this epidemic is called an epidemic for a reason: it doesn’t just end, it spreads like wildfire. And this wildfire will continue to spread and it will tear down things as it goes through society, things like self-confidence and a positive self-esteem. This “wildfire” is just as hard to extinguish as real wildfires, also. The future of society is literally, being thrown up into the toilet if we don’t do something about the case of eating disorders soon. But what CAN we do? We can’t control the eating habits of millions of adolescents and young adults forever, or even for a short while. It’s impossible! However, if we don’t do something soon, more girls and boys will be walking around looking like living skeletons. By definition, anorexia is diagnosed by the following symptoms: excessive weight loss by unhealthy means (such as excessive exercise or laxatives), not letting one stay in the normal BMI range and insisting on weighing 15% or more less than normal, dreading any type of weight gain, plummeting self-esteem, loss of menstruation, fatigue, depression, irregular heart beat, very fine body hair appears, weak and breakable hair and nails, and unusually low blood pressure. The average symptoms of bulimia include the following: binge eating often followed by a regurgitation episode regularly, feeling no control over eating habits, trying to prevent weight gain in strange manners such as using laxatives, regurgitation, fasting, or lots of exercise. Dehydration, fatigue, depression, constipation, tarnished teeth and gums from stomach acid, puffy cheeks and an unusual heart beat are also all symptoms of bulimia (“Eating Disorders Signs and Symptoms (sidebar)” 1). If we don’t do anything to prevent more girls and boys giving into pressures induced from athletics, pop culture, society and the like, this is the future of America. We will become the nation of bad teeth, chipmunk-cheeked, dehydrated, depressed teens. Is this what we as a nation want to be known as? We are a nation filled with hope, promise, and opportunity. However, if nothing is done to stop this from happening, we will become the nation of skeletons.
Monitoring every meal to make sure it is being eaten and not thrown up immediately after is crazy. Making everyone obese would be just as problematic as slimming everyone down to a deathly skeletal size. You have to admit, if you want to change this “disease”, you must go about doing so with grace and ease, which is not achieved through crazy manners such as the ones stated above. Why can’t we do that? Simply because it would be impossible. How are we supposed to suddenly change this around that quickly and dramatically? Answer: We can’t. Not like that. There is absolutely no way we can switch it up so there is absolutely no bulimia or anorexia anymore, but the problem can be resolved through lots of little changes. First off, probably one of the biggest changes we can make is to take out the stick-thin models in fashion magazines and stop making extreme thinness culturally acceptable and preferable (“Eating Disorders” 1). Another way we can make it better is by letting more average-looking women slip on to the runways for big names like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Marc Jacobs, thus increasing publicity (big names equal more press) and more cultural acceptance. Something many high schools and universities have been doing lately to help stop this epidemic is establishing support groups and counseling groups which warn girls of the problems associated with the disease before many of them start (“Eating Disorders” 1). Most of the ways we can stop the eating disorders from spreading is in the hands of today’s and tomorrow’s teens and young adults. Nurse Donna Boguslav supports this argument by stating the following: “You’re vulnerable if your identity is defined through someone else’s eyes. Your sense of self-worth must come from within and not rely on external appearances”. Indeed, experts agree the best way to do what Donna stated includes focusing on the good traits you have, appreciating compliments, and stay away from both the scale and the mirror. This bit of advice was taken from James Rosen, a psychologist at University of Vermont, whom evidently agrees with Nurse Boguslav (“Eating Disorders” 5). Will all the above ideas together cure eating disorders for good? It’s way too early to tell. First we have to throw all these ideas into motion. But, hey, it’s a start.
Dreyden-Edwards, Roxanne. "Anorexia Nervosa." MedicineNet.com. MedicineNet, 1996. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
“Eating Disorders.” Issues and Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues and Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 14 Apr. 2000. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.
“Eating Disorder Signs and Symptoms (sidebar)." Issues & Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 21 Dec. 2007. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.
. "Key Events in the History of Eating Disorders (sidebar)." Issues & Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 21 Dec. 2007. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.
“Update: Eating Disorders”. Issues and Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 21 Dec. 2007. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.