Eating disorders rates amongst teens escalate

Olivia Summons, Editor-in-chief

For an anonymous junior, feeling consumed by personal body image issues has compromised their ability to perform both in school and in life.

“Some people I know just don’t like themselves and they can’t cope with that,” the anonymous student said.

Kate Clemmer, licensed clinical social worker and Community Outreach Coordinator for The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, says that high school can contribute significantly to the development of eating disorders due to added pressure and stress from academics or interpersonal relationships.

It is reported that an estimated 11 percent of high school students have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, and many more struggle with body image concerns.

In an interview, the anonymous student expressed that, based on anecdotal evidence, this statistic is not surprising.

“I know a bunch of people who have [struggled with body image concerns], including myself,” they said.

According to the most recent Maryland wide youth survey, over 20 percent of high school girls and nearly 10 percent of high school boys in Maryland are going to extreme lengths in an attempt to lose weight.

Sophomore Nick Schiefelbein, a member of the Junior Varsity wrestling team, concurs that he is often required to lose weight to compete.

“Basically you have to control what you eat. It’s not that hard to maintain weight, but for some people that are really close to it [reaching the weight limit for a certain weight class] have to work harder than others,” Schiefelbein said.

And this mentality is not limited to those who must meet athletic requirements. In a 2014 survey recorded by The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, 42 percent and 44 percent of middle school students in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, respectively, were trying to lose weight.
Junior Alexa Silao, a judo fighter, describes her experience with dieting as a trying one.

“It constantly gets in the way of me being able to go out with friends, but that’s less of the fact that I’m making weight and more of me not trusting myself to have enough discipline to hold myself back from eating unhealthy food or over-eating while I’m out,” Silao said.

According to Clemmer, girls who engaged in strict dieting practices were 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder within six months than non-dieters. Even girls who dieted moderately were five times more likely to develop an eating disorder within six months than non-dieters.
Students report that the increasing trend of teens with eating disorders and body image concerns is rooted in the ideals portrayed on social media.
The anonymous junior described their trouble reconciling perfect body images on Instagram with the reality that most pictures are edited.

“In the moment, I can’t help but to compare myself to it. I constantly have to remind myself that what I see is not always real…there’s always Photoshop,” the student said.

Senior Audrey Bartholomew suggests that addressing the lack of representation on social media platforms could make a significant difference for the upcoming generation of teenagers in a digital world.

“Diversity is everything. If I had seen models when I was younger who looked like me, it could have changed everything about my own perception,” Bartholomew said.

In an attempt to combat the increasing trend of body image concerns and health issues amongst today’s teens, Silao says that a shift in focus is necessary.

“There should be more emphasis on the importance of eating healthy, staying active, and less on the number on the scale,” Silao said.

Staff writer Faizah Saadmim contributed to this report.