The more time adolescent girls spend in front of Facebook, the more their chances of developing a negative body image and various eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and exaggerated dieting. This has been shown in a new study from the University of Haifa.
Eating disorders include a wide spectrum of abnormal mental and behavioral conducts related to food and body weight, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. This study, conducted by Prof. Yael Latzer, Prof. Ruth Katz and Zohar Spivak of the Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences at the University of Haifa, set out to examine the effects of two factors on the development of eating disorders in young girls: exposure to the media and self-empowerment.
A group of 248 girls aged 12-19 (average age: 14.8) took part in the survey. These girls were asked to provide information on their Internet and television viewing habits. Regarding the latter, they were asked to give the number of popular shows related to extreme standards of physical image (the “Barbie” model) that they watched. The girls also filled out questionnaires that examined their approach to slimming, bulimia, physical satisfaction or dissatisfaction, their general outlook on eating, and their sense of personal empowerment.
The results showed that the more time girls spend on Facebook, the more they suffered conditions of bulimia, anorexia, physical dissatisfaction, negative physical self-image, negative approach to eating and more of an urge to be on a weight-loss diet. Extensive online exposure to fashion and music content showed similar tendencies, but manifested in fewer types of eating disorders. As such, the more the exposure to fashion content on the Internet, the higher a girl’s chances of developing anorexia. A similar direct link was found between viewing gossip- and leisure-related television programs (the likes of “Gossip Girl”) and eating disorders in adolescent girls. The study also revealed that the level of personal empowerment in these girls is negatively linked to eating disorders, such that the higher the level of empowerment, the more positive the physical self-image and the lower the chances of developing an eating disorder.
In this study, exposure to the media and the consequential sense of personal empowerment was found to be associated to parenting practices. Girls whose parents were involved in their media usage; who knew what they were viewing and reading and where they were surfing on the web; who watched, surfed or read along with them; and who conducted cooperative and critical discussions with their daughters about the content of their surfing habits, showed more personal empowerment, forming a protective shield against eating disorders.
On the other hand, parents who were not involved in their media exposure, were not aware of the content that their daughters were consuming, and instead of sharing and becoming familiar with that content chose to limit or prohibit exposure, led to lower self-empowerment in their daughters. This, in turn, has a positive link to various eating problems and negative body image.
“Significant potential for future research and application of eating disorder prevention lies in an understanding of how parenting decisions can have effect on an adolescent girl’s sense of empowerment and that enforcing a girl’s sense of empowerment is a means to strengthening body image. This study has shown that a parent has potential ability to prevent dangerous behavioral disorders and negative eating behavior in particular,” the researchers stated.
Dietitians and other health professionals have long recognized the importance of establishing healthful nutrition practices during teenage years. Diet and exercise patterns adopted during these prime developmental years set the stage for life-long habits that can mean the difference between vitality and infirmity in later years.
Your calorie needs vary depending on your growth rate, degree of physical maturation, body composition, and activity level. However, you do need extra nutrients to support the adolescent growth spurt, which, for girls, begins at ages 10 or 11, reaches its peak at age 12, and is completed by about age 15. In boys, it begins at 12 or 13 years of age, peaks at age 14, and ends by about age 19.
In addition to other nutrients, adequate amounts of iron and calcium are particularly important as your body undergoes this intensive growth period. From ages nine to 18 years, both males and females are encouraged to consume a calcium-rich diet (1,300 milligrams daily) in order to ensure adequate calcium deposits in the bones. This may help reduce the incidence of osteoporosis in later years. The recommended calcium intake can be achieved by getting at least three cups of fat-free or low-fat milk daily or the equivalent amount of low-fat yogurt and/or low-fat cheese. For those who don’t wish to consume dairy products, a variety of other calcium sources are available such as green, leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified soy products, and other calcium-fortified foods and beverages.
To meet energy needs, teenagers should eat at least three meals a day, beginning with breakfast. Studies show eating breakfast affects both cognitive and physical performance; that is, if you eat breakfast, you may be more alert in school and better able to learn and to perform sports or other physical activities.
Snacks also form an integral part of meal patterns for teenagers. You often cannot eat large quantities of food at one sitting and often feel hungry before the next regular mealtime.Healthy mid-morning and midafternoon snacks may be appropriate for you you.
Fast-growing, active teenagers may have tremendous energy needs. Although your regular meals can be substantial, you may need snacks to supply energy between meals and to meet your daily nutrient needs. If you are less active or who have already gone through the growth spurt, you may need to cut out the snacking.
Teenager’s food choices are often influenced by social pressure to achieve cultural ideals of thinness, gain peer acceptance, or assert independence from parental authority. These factors may increase your risk for developing eating disorders. An eating disorder is an emotional and physical problem that is associated with an obsession with food, body weight, or body shape. A teenager with an eating disorder diets, exercises, and/or eats excessively as a way of coping with the physical and emotional changes of adolescence. The three most common types of eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Each type has its own symptoms and diagnosis.
According to the National Mental Health Information Center, as many as 10 million girls and women and one million boys and men are struggling with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (a disorder causing people to severely limit their food intake) or bulimia (a disorder in which people binge and purge by vomiting or using laxatives). Both anorexia and bulimia can lead to convulsions, kidney failure, irregular heartbeats, osteoporosis, and dental erosion. Those suffering from compulsive overeating or binge-eating disorder are at risk for heart attack, developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol, kidney disease and/or failure, arthritis, bone deterioration, and stroke.
Seeing a dietitian like Nastaran for medical nutrition therapy as well as seeing a medical specialist for psychotherapy are two integral components in the treatment of eating disorders. These are such complex illnesses that the expertise of multidisciplinary healthcare professionals is required.
Overweight and Obesity
Adults are not alone in the concern about weight management. In addition to the increase in the prevalence of adults who are obese or overweight, adolescent and childhood obesity and overweight are also on the rise.
Data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2003-2004), indicate that 14 percent of two to five year olds and 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 12-19 years in the United States are overweight. The prevalence of overweight children and adolescents has quadrupled and tripled, respectively, in the last 30 years. Only a small percentage of overweight children may attribute their problem to endocrine disorder or other underlying physical problems. Overweight and obesity can be determined by Body Mass Index (BMI).
If you are overweight, you need to reduce the rate of weight gain while still allowing for growth and development. Overweight children and adolescents are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. Therefore, health professionals emphasize healthful eating and the importance of physical activity as a life-long approach to weight management and to overall good health and quality of life. Before going on a diet, a healthcare provider and/or dietitian like Nastaran should always be consulted.
Strong bones, good muscle tone, and lower risk of developing chronic diseases are some of the key benefits derived from regular physical activity. Furthermore, being physically active promotes psychological well-being and reduces feelings of depression and anxiety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Division of Adolescent and School Health, 77 percent of children aged nine to 13 years participate in free-time physical activity and only 39 percent engage in organized physical activity. Among high school students, 63 percent participate in vigorous physical activity and just 25 percent engage in sufficient moderate physical activity. Twelve percent engage in little or no physical activity at all.
Participation in physical activity tends to decline as you get older. The long-term consequences of physical inactivity include an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, asthma, arthritis, and premature death. To maintain good health status you should engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week
Source: International Food Information Council
Using the results of Project EAT-II: Eating Among Teens, researchers from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Texas, Austin, analyzed the diets, weight status, weight control behaviors, and drug and alcohol use of 2,516 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 23. These participants had been part of Project EAT-I, an earlier survey of middle school and high school students from 31 Minnesota schools using in-class surveys, food frequency questionnaires, and anthropometric measures taken during the 1998-99 academic year.
Participants were identified as current (4.3%), former (10.8%), and never (84.9%) vegetarians. Subjects were divided into two cohorts, an adolescent (15-18) group and a young adult (19-23) group. They were questioned about binge eating and whether they felt a loss of control of their eating habits. More extreme weight control behaviors including taking diet pills, inducing vomiting, using laxatives, and using diuretics were also measured.
The authors found that among the younger cohort, no statistically significant differences were found with regard to weight status. Among the older cohort, current vegetarians had a lower body mass index and were less likely to be overweight or obese when compared to never vegetarians.
Among the younger cohort, a higher percentage of former vegetarians reported engaging in more extreme unhealthy weight control behaviors when compared to never vegetarians. Among the older cohort, a higher percentage of former vegetarians reported engaging in more extreme unhealthy weight control behaviors when compared to current and never vegetarians.
In the younger cohort, a higher percentage of current and former vegetarians reported engaging in binge eating with loss of control when compared to never vegetarians. In the older cohort, a higher percentage of current vegetarians reported engaging in binge eating with loss of control when compared to former and never vegetarians.
Writing in the article, Ramona Robinson-O'Brien, Assistant Professor, Nutrition Department, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, St. Joseph, MN, states, “Study results indicate that it would be beneficial for clinicians to ask adolescents and young adults about their current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors. Furthermore, when guiding adolescent and young adult vegetarians in proper nutrition and meal planning, it may also be important to investigate an individual's motives for choosing a vegetarian diet.”
While vegetarians tend to eat healthier diets and are less likely than non-vegetarians to be overweight or obese, they may be at increased risk for binge eating with loss of control, and former vegetarians may be at increased risk for extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors, according to researchers at University of Minnesota, University of Texas and St. John's University.
The researchers analyzed vegetarianism, weight, dietary intake and weight-control behaviors data from a population-based study in Minnesota of more than 2,500 males and females between 15 and 23. They found vegetarians ate healthier diets than non-vegetarians when it came to fruits, vegetables and fat intake. Among young adults, current vegetarians were less likely to be overweight or obese.
However, adolescent and young adult vegetarians were also more likely to report binge eating with loss of control compared to non-vegetarians. Among adolescents, former vegetarians were more likely to engage in extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors. And among young adults, former vegetarians were more likely to engage in extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors than people who either were currently vegetarians or had never followed a vegetarian eating plan.
Examples of extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors included “took diet pills,” “made myself vomit,” “used laxatives” and “used diuretics.”
The researchers conclude: “Adolescent and young adult vegetarians may experience the health benefits associated with increased fruit and vegetable intake and young adults attain the added benefit of decreased risk for overweight and obesity. However, vegetarians may be at increased risk for disordered eating behaviors, such as binge eating and unhealthful weight-control behaviors.
“Study results indicate that it would be beneficial for clinicians to ask adolescents and young adults about their current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors. Furthermore, when guiding adolescent and young adult vegetarians in proper nutrition and meal planning it may also be important to investigate an individual's motives for choosing a vegetarian diet.”
Source: Journal of the American Dietetic Association