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
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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