Kids Battle Eating Disorders Ever-Younger

By Chrisanne Grise 07/03/12

An astonishing 80% of 10-year-old girls have already dieted at least once, reveals new research.

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Parents may want to consider throwing out the bathroom scale, because the number of children suffering from unhealthy body image and eating disorders seems to be increasing. Approximately 80% of all 10-year-old girls have dieted at least once, says shocking new data released by the Keep It Real Campaign, an alliance of groups looking to improve body image issues in young adults. The "Eating Disorders Today—Not Just a Girl Thing" study also found that 53% of 13-year-old girls have issues with how their bodies look, compared to 78% of 17-year-old girls. Between 40 to 60% of children ages 6 to 12 are worried about their weight, and 70% would like to lose some pounds. “It’s bad out there, it’s brutal, it’s hard…[and] we’re seeing it younger and younger,” says Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eat Disorders Association (NEDA). “I’ve seen a girl as young as eight years old on a feeding tube. It’s a serious problem.” In the US, as many as 10 million women and one million men are struggling with an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia—and millions more are struggling with a binge eating disorder, claims research by NEDA. “It starts in the home. Magazines are lying around family’s houses…and at newsstands and check-out counters,” says Amy Zucchero, campaign director for Miss Representation. “You can’t go to the grocery store without seeing an altered picture of a woman.” In order to combat these statistics, the Keep It Real Campaign is asking beauty magazines to include at least one unretouched photo in their issues each month. But most importantly, parents should be involved with their children. "Parents encourage healthy relationships with food, and make eating together a time of sharing, not a time of talking about grams or calories," says Grefe. "We come in different shapes and sizes."

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices,,, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.