Child Diets Essay, Research Paper
America s children are afraid to eat. It is a fear that consumes, shatters lives, even kills. It is an obsession that takes away from their joy, their curiosity, their energy and their sense of normal life. To be overweight is to fail. It is irrational, but children are succumbing to the same destructive cultural messages about body and weight that plague adults. Instead of growing up with secure and healthy attitudes about their bodies, eating and themselves, many children fear food and fear being fat.
Children and teens today are struggling with a major health crisis that is dominating their lives in often determining ways. They live in a culture that tells them that their bodies are wrong and promotes destructive values through media, advertising and the entertainment industries. Weight and eating have become an obsessive concern for American children of all ages.
The crisis consists of four major weight and eating problems. They are dysfunctional eating, eating disorders, overweight and size prejudice. Children are desperate to have the right bodies, obsessed with the need to be thin, and fearful that they will not be loved unless they reach near perfection. There should be no surprise that children see, hear and take to heart that cultural ideal that to be thin is to have the best of everything and to be fat is to fail.
Weight issues have become an obsessive concern for American children of all ages. Clearly it is an national; crisis when harmful attempts at dieting are common in the third grade and even earlier. It is a crisis when more than two-thirds of high school girls are dieting and half are undernourished. One in five take diet pills, and many girls as well as boys are using laxatives, diuretics, fasting and vomiting in desperate attempts to slice their bodies as slim as they can. There are big changes in the way children eat today, changes in what they eat, and how they eat. Examples of these changes are easily seen. The fourth grader who only eats small amounts of each food on her plate, never feeling really satisfied, because she is afraid of getting fat. The twelve year-old who comes home to an empty house and eats continuously on what ever snack foods are available. The junior high girl who skips breakfast and lunch, has a candy bar and diet coke after school, finds a way to skip the evening meal with her family, then goes on an eating binge in the evening. The two wrestler who fasts for two days before his match to make weight, then eats nonstop for the next day or two. The high school student who refuses meat, eggs or any foods she imagines might make her fat.
Dysfunctional eating is a new term to describe the inappropriate, abnormal, or disordered eating behaviors which disrupts normal eating life, but not to the level of clinical eating disorders. Dieting a form of dysfunctional eating starts in children as young as age seven or eight, and by age eleven is so common that researchers are calling it the norm for girls in America today. Children are growing up with skewed attitudes toward food, eating and weight because of fear of fat. They are turning away from normal eating and mealtimes with family to restricted , restrained and chaotic form of eating.
A growing number of studies document this disturbing trend. More than half of fourteen year-old girls in a study of one-thousand suburban Chicago girls had already been one a least one weight loss diet. Thirty to forty-six percent of nine year-old girls and forty-six to eighty-one percent of ten year-old girls in a California study had disordered eating, restricting their food due to fear of fat. Many young people eat chaotic or irregular way. For example, fasting, dieting , skipping meals, snacking, restricting their eating at times and bingeing at others. They may have a fear of fat, body dissatisfaction, and a strong desire to change their bodies in ways they perceive as more socially desirable. This pattern may also include people who eat erratically because of illness or insufficient food.
Many girls and young women, and some males, eat less food then their daily needs and requirements for healthy growth and development. They may be dieting successes and may develop anorexic eating patterns, even though they do not meet the clinical criteria for a anorexia nervosa. They are able to successfully restrict their eating so that they may maintain a thin body and weight which is lower than normal, given their genetic and environmental heritage. Under eating may occur because of depression, alcoholism, or other factors. Many children and adults may eat more food on a daily bases than their bodies want or need, eating past satiety, and well above maintenance and growth needs. Body size is not to be taken as an indicator of this type of dysfunctional eating. It cannot be assumed that large persons eat abnormally, or past the point of satiety. Some individuals overeat from emotional or stress-related reasons, such as to gain comfort, deal with anger, or relieve anxiety or boredom. Other overeat from habit. Others may simply eat more because an abundance of good tasting food is readily available. Disruptions of hunger, appetite and satiety regulation, may also fit in this category.
The person with dysfunctional eating behaviors may feel tired and lacking in energy, especially when undernourished. Children risk stunted growth intellectual development, according to poverty studies worldwide. Bones may not develop normally. Or bone demineralization may begin, leading to stress fractures. Puberty may be delayed and normal sexual development arrested. Dysfunctional eating affects weight, yet in its various forms it is associated with a wide range of weights as genetic potential interacts with environmental lifestyle factors. Associated with chaotic eating, dieting, and bingeing, weight will often cycle up and down in a yo-yo fashion. Consistent under eating can be expected to result in a stable weight lower than normal for that person. Over eating will probably result in higher weight than might be normal for that individual.
One of the most dramatic effects of dysfunctional eating related to undernourished is its impact on personality and the thought process. It can have severe emotional effects. The undernourished girl with dysfunctional eating easily becomes moody and upset, is irritable, anxious, apathetic, increasingly self-absorbed, and focused on her appearance. As interest in food takes over she may retreat from social activities and lose interest in school work, career, family and friends. She may feel lonely, alienated, disconnected from society. She tends to lose interest in the values of generosity, sharing and caring, and pull back from volunteer activities and helping others.
As American adults continue to obsess about weight and diet, it is hardly surprising that eating disorders among their children have risen to crisis levels. While overweight may carry health risks over a life time, some eating disorders, like anorexia nervosa, can be deadly and take but a few years to kill. Several estimates suggest the severity of these disorders. One estimates that ten to fifteen percent of anorexia nervosa patients die of their illness. The Canadian National Eating disorder information centre in Toronto warns that both anorexia and bulimia can have severe physical and emotional effects, and in ten to twenty percent of cases can be fatal. Many specialists in the field are convinced that the current high rates of eating disorders in the US are the inevitable result of sixty to eighty million adults dieting, losing weight, rebounding, and learning to be chronic dieters. The majority of chronic dieters are women.
Anorexia nervosa means nervous lack of appetite. The phrase refers to a syndrome characterized by loss of appetite, aversion to food, and weight loss. Lack of appetite implies a lack of interest in food, and this is most certainly not the case with anorexics. Starvation causes virtually all anorexics to experience and indeed battle intense feelings with hunger. Hunger id denied, it is manifest in an obsessive concern with food, calories, diets, mealtimes, and food preparation. Anorexia nervosa is a relentless pursuit of excessive thinness. It interferes with the fulfillment of responsibilities to the self and other because it produces intense and irrational fear of becoming fat, an obsession with food and weight control, and a life-threatening weight-loss. A series of starvation induced physical and psychological changes threatens control over eating and motivates more conscientious efforts to reduce. The result is truly a vicious circle of weight loss, hunger, and fear that will become a deadly loop if the process is not acknowledged and reversed.
The cultural features of anorexia nervosa are difficult to specify because the disorder emerges over time as a complex mixture of the relentless drive for thinness, the effects of starvation, and commonly associated psychology disturbances. A significance in weight loss is one of the cardinal features of anorexia nervosa. Most anorexics have two or more significant disturbances in the perception and interpretation of the message from their own bodies. Misperceptions of external body shape constitute a distorted body image, while inaccuracies in the experience of internal sensation such as hunger or anger are called disturbances of interceptive awareness.
There are two types of distorted body images. The most common is perceptual disturbance in which the anorexic seems literally unable to see how thin she has become. Some anorexics can see that certain parts of their bodies are thin, but insist that their stomachs, thighs, and hips are fat and in need of further reduction. The second type of body image distortion is emotional rather than perceptual. These anorexics can see that they are too thin, but they are either happy in this achievement or they cling to slenderness as protection against a body that they detest in its normal form.
Anorexics are as out of touch with their emotions are they are with their bodily sensations concerning hunger. Often they do not know what they are feeling or how to express it, a condition known as alexithymia. Many feel blank or hollow inside, incapable of experiencing anger of finding a genuine sense of pleasure in anything but weight loss.
There are five effects of starvation that anorexics experience. The first one is obsession. Although anorexics stubbornly refuse to eat, they are often preoccupied with food and food preparation. They savor collecting, reading, and talking about books on cooking or nutrition. The second one is unusual eating and drinking habits. Many anorexics develop strange ways of consuming what little food they allow themselves to eat. For example, they may cur each piece of meat into four identical pieces. Then they will only eat three of them, making sure that the fork does not touch their lips and that they chew each chunk exactly twelve times. The third one is emotional disturbances. Descriptions of anorexics commonly note that their depression, anxiety, and contentiousness. The fourth one is social withdrawal. One of the reasons that anorexia nervosa is so devastating for the family is that self-absorption makes the anorexic oblivious to the needs of others. The fifth one is binge-eating. From one-third to one- half of all anorexics periodically lose control of their hunger and proceed to eat tremendous quantities of food.
As the illness progresses, anorexics experience severe psychological turmoil. Chronic anxiety about weight gain and appearance, the effects of malnutrition on the brain, the severe stress involved in combating the body s natural inclination to maintain weight at a healthy level. Over time the anorexic becomes irritable, indecisive, depressed, defiant, and resistant to change. The obsession with reducing and the effort necessary to over come a mounting hunger create a fog that blankets normal psychological functioning, leaving the anorexic at times in what amounts to a dissociated state.
The psychical effects of anorexia nervosa represent the inter section of starvation, chronic stress, and abuse of weight control methods such as over exercising, self-induced vomiting, laxatives, and diuretics. The effects of starvation and purgatives can be severe and even fatal. Currently, the mortality rate is between two and three percent, but it has been as high as ten percent in the past. Starvation has at least a score of negative effects on psychological and physical functioning. Numerous problems with the brain-body systems that regulate basic bodily functions. Sleep id disrupted, it is difficult to stay warm, and sexual drive id decreased. Cardiovascular problems such as slow, irregular heartbeats and a drop in blood pressure. These result in light-headedness and dizziness that worsen during exertion. Muscle wasting and muscular weakness. Susceptibility to severe and sometimes fatal illnesses, such as bronchopneumonia and kidney or cardiac failure. The hair on the head becomes thin and brittle and begins to come out in clumps during combing. A fine, raised white hair called lanugo appears on the cheeks, neck, forearms, and thighs, probably to conserve heat. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including chronic constipation and abdominal discomfort, follow ingestion of even a small amount of food. The palms and soles of the feet may become yellowish in appearance from a diet consisting primarily of vegetables such as carrots. These vegetables contain a yellow or red plant pigment called carotene.
Repeated self-induced vomiting has a variety of negative effects on each component of the digestive system. The backwash of vomit produces unusual patterns of enamel erosion and tooth degeneration, a process that is compounded by decrease in the ability of the saliva to serve its protective function. The throat and the esophagus may be chronically sore or otherwise irritated, and the person may complain of difficulty in swallowing. The abuse of laxatives exacerbates the digestive problems created by starvation. For example, stomach discomfort, cramping, and paradoxically, constipation are all worsened by chronic laxative abuse. Such abuse also leaves the anorexic weaker by making it more difficult for the intestines to absorb fat, protein, and calcium. In cases of extreme abuse the bowel becomes completely dysfunctional.