1 in 5 Kids Suffer From Disordered Eating

Disordered eating is an umbrella term used to describe unhealthy behaviors while not officially having a diagnosis. According to a study published by JAMA Pediatrics, more than 1 in 5 kids and young adults suffer from disordered eating.

The research team utilized 32 studies from 16 countries and discovered that approximately 22% of children and young adults displayed eating disorder behaviors. More girls had disordered eating symptoms than boys, especially older adolescents with a higher BMI. Disordered eating is not necessarily an eating disorder but refers to malign behaviors related to food that may harm their bodies.

Per the National Eating Disorders Collaboration, disordered eating can include severe dieting, restrictive diet, or even binge eating. It can also include using diet pills, avoiding meals to maintain or lose weight, and more. Disordered eating can sometimes lead to an eating disorder if not handled safely.

"Proportion of disordered eating was further elevated among girls, as well as with increasing age and body mass index. These high figures are concerning from a public health perspective and highlight the need to implement strategies for preventing eating disorders," reported the study. Despite the study result, it does have certain limitations as it depended on self-reported answers from kids and adolescents. To dig deeper into the study, researchers now need to determine the cause behind the rising number of disordered eating habits and also implement more programs to help kids who exhibit symptoms of disordered eating.

Maintaining a healthy weight and eating properly is crucial, especially for children, and disordered eating can occasionally lead to serious health complications.

What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is an umbrella term used to describe any mental health conditions associated with eating, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder (BED), and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED):

  • Anorexia nervosa is when an individual retains from eating or over-exercises to keep the desired weight they have in mind.
  • Bulimia nervosa is having no control over your eating habits and doing rigorous actions to avoid putting on weight.
  • Binge eating disorder is when an individual consumes too much food to the point where they feel uncomfortable.
  • Other specified feeding or eating disorder is when an individual does not match into any of the above categories, yet experiences other symptoms related to eating, such as night eating syndrome.

If needed, there is a National Eating Disorders Association helpline available via online chat, call, or even text to guide anyone struggling with difficulty.

How can disordered eating be treated?

Whether it is disordered eating or an official diagnosis of an eating disorder, it is crucial to seek professional help, such as going to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. A psychiatrist can prescribe medicine, and therapists can provide different types of therapy tailored to one’s symptoms.

A registered dietician can also provide knowledge on maintaining a healthy lifestyle with food and meal planning. Nutrition is a critical area for disordered eating, as it can help one learn about nutrients and food without feeling obligated to starve or stay away completely from certain foods.

It is also important to have social support, such as your family, spouse, and friends.

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