“I’m never wearing this outfit again. I look so fat in it. My picture only got 10 likes in 5 minutes.”
These are words I’ve actually heard a teenage girl say regarding a picture of herself she posted on Instagram. It made me so sad to hear her say this, but this is the reality so many of our kids face each day. The desperate need to be “liked” by not only their closest friends, but thanks to social media, people they barely know. Exposing themselves to this type of public criticism affects their self-esteem and in some cases can lead to eating disorders. Some teens willing to starve themselves to get the attention they desperately seek. What’s even more frightening is that they are starting at a younger age. Dr. Metee Comkornruecha, an attending physician in adolescent medicine at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital says in the past he often saw kids 13 and 14 years old struggling with eating disorders. Now parents are bringing them in at 11 and 12 years old with eating issues. In many cases, social media plays a big role.
In fact, according to USA Today, there are websites like “pro-ana” (pro-anorexia) and “pro-mia” (pro-bulimia) which promote these dangerous eating disorders. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have given these communities a global platform and offered users support for one another’s self-destructive behavior. Claire Mysko, head of youth outreach for the National Eating Disorders Association says Twitter users can participate in monthly challenges that set limits on calorie intake and give workouts to follow. Some Instagram users seek likes to complete tasks, such as “1 like = 2 hours of fasting”. That’s frightening when you consider teens have access to these sites. And it’s not only girls who are at risk, more and more boys are suffering from eating disorders. Dr. Comkornruecha says for every 10 girls with eating disorders there’s one boy and the numbers are going up.
And there’s more than just their physical appearance at risk. If parent’s don’t catch it in time, they could lose their lives.
So, what are some of the signs to look for if you’re worried your child might have an eating disorder? Dr. Comkornruecha says any sudden change in behavior, especially becoming more socially withdrawn should raise a red flag. Other signs to look for are:
If you notice any of these signs or fear your child might be suffering from an eating disorder be sure to contact your pediatrician as soon as possible. For more information about Nicklaus Children’s Hospital’s Eating Disorders Treatment Program, please call 305-668-5525.
Beatriz Canals is an Emmy nominated journalist and proud mom. She has a 12 year old son, Andres and 24 year old step-daughter, Victoria.