In 2001, research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry stated that for every four females with anorexia, there is one male, and for every eight to 11 females with bulimia, there is one male. More recent research from the Harvard University Medical School suggests that up to 25 percent of adults with eating disorders are male.
I applaud the author for sharing her thoughts and pointing out the dangers of eating disorders and the angst felt by her and other young girls in today's society. The emotional pain people may feel when they are labeled "fat" by their peers may indeed be traumatic. Yet this pain is far less dangerous than the health hazards associated with the most prevalent eating disorder affecting Americans today, in both sexes, in all age groups, in all socioeconomic groups, and in all ethnic groups - being overweight or obese.
Obesity has been described by the U.S. Surgeon General as epidemic and a national health crisis. Obesity is the fastest-growing cause of disease and death in America today. Nearly two out of every three American adults are overweight or obese. One out of every eight deaths in America is caused by an illness directly related to overweight and obesity. Unless this growing trend is stopped, poor diet and lack of physical exercise will soon replace tobacco as the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S.
Even more alarming is the incidence of obesity in American children and adolescents. Over the past three decades, the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2 to 5 years, in adolescents aged 12-19 years, and it has more than tripled for children aged 6 to 11 years. At present, approximately 9 million children over 6 years of age are considered obese. Unfortunately, these trends simply mirror those seen in adults. Frequently, it's a family affair; parents who are overweight tend to have overweight children.
It is somewhat ironic that, despite the fact that a great deal of emphasis in our society is placed on being thin, being overweight or obese is so prevalent. I am certain that most, if not all of your readers, are aware of the adverse effects of being overweight or obese. Someone who is 40 percent overweight is twice as likely to die prematurely as is an average-weight person.
These effects are not limited to a person's physical and emotional health, but in a society that does emphasize thinness, those individuals who are overweight or obese are stigmatized. This stigma may go much further than being labeled "fat" by one's peers and the associated mental distress. An obese person may have limited opportunities and may even face significant prejudice or discrimination, whether seeking employment or a potential romantic partner.
There are many factors behind the obesity epidemic in America today and they go far beyond the scope of this letter. Most Americans are aware that as a society, we eat too much and exercise too little. The prevalence of processed foods, fast foods and junk foods has also been a major contributor.
Plus, now more than ever, life is more sedentary, especially in children.
The changes that must occur in our society also go beyond the scope of this letter. For the overweight or obese adult, the simplistic answer is "eat less and move around." Individuals who are overweight or obese should consult with their physician or other health-care provider to identify whether there are any underlying medical issues that may be contributing to their weight.