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Teen Documents Her Starvation on Video

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Karen is gripped with anxiety as she stares at her plate of roasted turkey drizzled in gravy, cinnamon-flavored yams and cranberry sauce. The holiday dish smells delicious, but she can't bring herself to enjoy it. "Karen" (not her real name) has already decided she'll probably vomit after dinner, and she's not alone. In a survey conducted by the CDC's National Center for Health Studies, over 19% of females between the ages of 12 and 15 are trying to lose weight.

Parents, if you think your child struggles with food, ask yourself these questions:
  • Is your child constantly on a diet?
  • Does your child only restrict herself to certain types of food?
  • Does your child disappear into the bathroom after meals?
  • Do you smell vomit on her breath, in her hair, or in the restroom?
  • Does your child have calluses on her knuckles from sticking her finger down
    her throat?
  • Does your child have broken blood vessels in her eyes?
  • Does your child have "chipmunk cheeks" from vomiting repeatedly?

For people who struggle with body image, Thanksgiving is a holiday of obsession and resentment. "Sometimes I can block out the thought of what I'm eating so I can eat it," says the 15-year-old high school freshman. "But holidays are harder to deal with for people who struggle with food because there's so much food in front of them."

Three weeks ago, Karen began documenting her frustrations with food on YouTube. Her video diary is an honest look at her war with weight. Karen recalls her battle beginning as early as 10 years old. "I remember in fourth grade thinking that I had to lose weight," she says. Obsessed with counting calories, the 5'4" teen admits to restricting her diet to 600 calories per day. Karen, who started out at 110 lbs, now weighs only 103 lbs. Her goal is to reach 98 lbs., which she considers the perfect weight.

Karen came up with the idea to turn the camera on herself after watching other girls' weight loss videos. "I was like, 'Wow.' In the beginning, they looked chubby, but in the end, they were thin. They did it." YouTube isn't the only website young teens are divulging their dieting secrets. Girls are also joining Facebook groups like "Ana's Boot Camp," lured by promises of radical weight loss without having to exercise, encouraging its members to dramatically decrease their daily caloric intake.

What appeared to be a healthy proposition is actually a dangerous diet.

Click to view three of Karen's videos below.

While Karen may not believe she has a problem, Dr. Lisa Boesky, clinical psychologist and author of "When to Worry: How to Tell If Your Teen Needs Help," finds Karen's behavior disturbing. According to Dr. Boesky, girls with eating issues often take pride in their weight loss and self-control. "They don't see how damaging it is," says Dr. Boesky. "The more weight she loses, the more proud she is of herself." Karen's willingness to post her weight loss videos on the web also worries Dr. Boesky. "The dieting and weight will take on a life of its own because she has an audience she needs to please. So, the pressure is even greater. She'll be getting a lot of attention, which will only feed her obsession."

Although she opens up on the Internet, Karen is hiding her eating disorder from her family. "I haven't talked to my mom about my eating issues," says Karen. "I don't think it's that bad. I eat enough." Breakfast is usually oatmeal or an English muffin while lunch consists of a granola bar, Fruit Roll-up and an apple. Her mom makes her dinner but, "If it's something that I don't want to eat or I didn't plan on eating and it doesn't seem healthy, I feel like I should throw it up," Karen says.

Another issue is Karen's perception of her mother's diet. "I eat as much as my mom eats. We're not big eaters," says Karen. "We're people who eat to live, not live to eat."

According to Dr. Boesky, "Moms have to watch what they say and how they're modeling normal healthy eating. Daughters pick up on mom's views of diets, weight and eating very early on." The key, Dr. Boesky believes, is teaching children to eat in moderation. "The goal is not to restrict or overindulge, a struggle for most people," says Dr. Boesky.

Dr. Boesky suggests Karen plan ahead by creating a strategy to "eat healthily and joyfully."

She offers the following tips to ease holiday cravings:

1. Try to keep the focus off food. The holidays are about celebration and socialization. It
doesn't have to take over.

2. Don't go to Thanksgiving starving. If you have a tendency to binge around large
quantities of food, you should eat a little beforehand. If you do overeat (which is easy
to do over the holidays), it's important not to beat yourself up.

For Karen, Thanksgiving is just another day of stepping on the scale. "I weigh myself once in the morning, once when I get home and once before I got to bed," says Karen. "When I get to my weight goal, hopefully I'll be happy with it ... and I'll think I look great."

Momlogic strongly supports COPPA and is committed to protecting Karen's privacy.

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65 comments so far | Post a comment now
Colleen November 25, 2008, 4:02 PM

Anorexia has touched my family so I know about this illness. This little girl was fine weight in vid # 1, just needed to get in shape a bit from the looks of her. 98 lbs. wouldn’t be *that* bad it’s only 12 lbs less than her start. But her obsession w/ food is bad and needs to be dealt with, or she probably won’t stop. My niece got down to 70 lbs, at age 15, delayed menarche, now that is bad.

Julie November 25, 2008, 5:15 PM

You have a BMI of 16.3. This BMI puts you under the body classification of “Anorexic” according to the CDC (US Center for Disease Control & Prevention). - That is what the BMI is for 5’4” and 95 pounds. - Scary right - she says she doesn’t want to be normal weight at 110 pounds. That would still put her BMI at underweight. You have a BMI of 18.88. This BMI puts you under the body classification of “Underweight” according to the CDC (US Center for Disease Control & Prevention).

She says she doesn’t want to exercise but that is exactly what she needs to to to get the firm body she is looking for.

I must make the commitment to myself to exercise so that my daughter wants to exercise.

concerned mom November 25, 2008, 9:29 PM

Moms please take heed. This is such a sad, scary story. Talk to your daughters about anorexia before it’s too late.

me. November 26, 2008, 3:17 AM

this girl is ridiculous. her body is fine. as another commenter said, all she needs to do is exercise. she isnt fat at all. its scary to know people like her are like this.

Jill November 26, 2008, 11:58 AM

Is Colleen for real? Just needs to get in shape? Really- women calling out women who look perfectly fine. Its sad. Its women like the first commentator that make other women want to starve themselves. Enough with the competition!

EKP November 26, 2008, 2:59 PM

Uhhhh how is this any different than a person committing suicide over the internet? Sure…it isn’t instant but the outcome is the same. Love how there isn’t a rush to save her or intervention by the police. These types of videos don’t disgust people with EDs they inspire…youtube has tons of videos like this…girls documenting their weight loss and the comments sections are filled with other girls encouraging them to keep going and starving themselves…I see no difference in that versus the guy who kills himself with an OD of painkillers…sad :(

crissy November 26, 2008, 11:54 PM

I was like this at a couple years older than her… She gets positive attention thin and she also gets negative. Its awarding and rebellious and she and most thrive on both.
How do we change this??? I’m not sure.
Its a strength within that needs to be fixed, changed.
Very sad, its an awful way to live especially as the years go on very shameful.
My thoughts and prayers to all of them

crissy November 26, 2008, 11:57 PM

Its also not always running to the bathroom… I used to use doubled up plastic bags in my room and throw them out in the morning in the bottom of the trash… also drinking alot of fluids after meals, is a huge sign.

A.C. November 27, 2008, 1:10 AM

I had a minor eating disorder when i was her age so I can partially relate to the way she is feeling. Probably part of the reason why she feels fat is because she is not fully developed. I remember being a teenage girl and thinking “why do I have no wasteline?” chances are she subconciously feels that losing weight may make her waist more defined. I was 5’7 and 100pds and felt “decent” about my weight because I would see these models with a fantastic waistline and want to be like that. I would do crunches hours a day trying to get that wasteline- I didint really until 3 years later and 30 pounds extra later.

Wayne November 27, 2008, 7:39 AM

Stay skinny, kid. Society is brutal to fat women, and whatever it takes to stay thin is worth it.

Be realistic about how much weight you need to lose, though.

V. November 27, 2008, 9:02 AM

This is ridiculous. This girl isn’t clinically anorexic, and it sickens me to think that she’s getting so much attention when there’s people who are actually suffering from diseases like this who need real help.

Lori November 27, 2008, 10:26 AM

At 45, I have a lot of experience with a how men are also affected by the model-thin women that pop culture holds up as the standard. When I was dating at 38 years old, most men weren’t interested because I was a size 12. Thankfully, I found my sweet husband who loves me for me. Trust me, most men want a twiggy wife or girlfriend, who more resembles a 13 year old girl than a real woman.

Kirstie November 27, 2008, 6:38 PM

V - how could you possibly say something like that? Based on a BMI, she’s ‘underweight’, not ‘emaciated’, so no, she wouldn’t have lost enough weight to be truly anorexic by DSM-IV standards - but in no way does that mean she doesn’t have a problem and isn’t well on her way to getting down to a loss of 20% body weight and achieving a DSM-IV diagnosis. The thought patterns, emotional issues, and behaviors are there - all she needs is time to lose “enough weight to be a real anorexic.” It’s people like you who belittle the problem who exacerbate it.
I was once told by a nurse that I couldn’t have an eating disorder, I hadn’t lost enough weight (I was only about 7 pounds short of hitting that diagnosis), so I should be a smart girl and eat an apple. Because of having not lost enough weight despite everything I did to myself to lost weight, I couldn’t be treated and covered by insurance.

Her weight is not the most important thing that needs to be treated - it’s the behaviors and thought processes. That’s the only way to get better. How could you possibly believe this girl doesn’t need “real help”?

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