Health risks of the `perfect body type’

The media often sends the wrong message to young teenagers when it comes to the “perfect body type”.

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Many young people today feel they are only “acceptable” if they are thin and attractive. Most young girls are hung up on the idea that boys will only go for the thin and attractive girls.

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“The lengths these girls will go to are scary. Bulimia and anorexia used to be regarded as a `girl disease’ but it has progressed so far that even boys are being diagnosed as anorexic,” says Colleen Johnson, a counselling and educational physcologist.

According to Johnson, most anorexics feel out of control. “They feel the only thing they can control is their eating and they feel good about what they are doing. Some of them also feel that food is the enemy. This is different to bulimics who feel that food is their friend and after binge-eating, food becomes the enemy so they purge,” said Johnson.

She also said that anorexics are easier to identify than bulimics. With bulimia the person’s weight fluctuates so it appears to be normal but with anorexia the person loses weight dramatically.

“Anorexics are often people-pleasers, perfectionists, very high achievers and have a desire to be perfect,” said Johnson. “They also suffer from low self-esteem, parental conflicts and poor self image and are often emotionally immature,” she added.

Bulimics are often depressed people, suffering from anxiety and phobias. They are also often anti-social.

Warning signs

  • Binge-eating then starving themselves.
  • Excusing themselves from the dinner table and then going straight to the bathroom.
  • Making excuses to miss meals.
  • Most bulimics develop a metallic smell to their breath.
  • Skin breaks out.
  • Menstrual cycles may skip a few months or stop completely.
  • Erratic moods.
  • They become deceitful and secretive.
  • Facial hair growth.
  • Constant fixation on weight.
  • Use of laxatives or diet tablets.
  • Over exercising.

Most health problems caused by anorexia and bulimia can be reversed if they are caught early. If they are prolonged the damage may be irreversible.

Health risks

  • Weakening and deterioration of muscles.
  • Heart and kidney failure.
  • Damage to the oesophagus.
  • Teeth may begin to rot.
  • Gums bleed.
  • If they use laxatives, it causes their potassium levels to drop which can lead to a heart attack.
  • The body stops functioning without the laxatives and doctors may be forced to remove the colon.

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