Eating disorders are sweeping this country and are rampant on junior high, high school, and college campuses. These disorders are often referred to as the Deadly Diet, but are often known by their more popular names: anorexia or bulimia. They affect more than 20% of females between the age of thirteen and forty. It is very rare for a young female not to know of someone with an eating disorder. Statistics show that at least one in five young women have a serious problem with eating and weight (Bruch, 25).
The Deadly Diet appears to be a mostly female problem. Eating disorders are most common in the middle to upper middle class families. Currently, the incidence is much lower in females from the "blue collar" families. The Deadly Diet can begin anywhere from the ages of ten to thirty. The peak age for the beginning of the Deadly Diet in females is eleven to fifteen; the peak for males is between fifteen and eighteen (Bauer, 89).
Most of the information on the Deadly Diet says that it is a problem of teenage girls, but as clinics have found, most of the people who come to get therapy are in their twenties and thirties. This may be because younger people are less likely to seek professional help. Most often it is the parent who brings the patient for help. Adults who have left home and had to deal with managing their lives usually tend to realize more clearly the need to seek help and make changes.
Everywhere one looks today, one will notice that our culture places a very high value on women being thin. Many will argue that today's fashion models have "filled out" compared to the times past; however the evidence of this is really hard to see. Our society admires men for what they accomplish and what they achieve. Women are usually evaluated by and accepted for how they look, regardless of what they do. A woman can be incredibly successful and still find that her beauty or lack of it will have more to do with her acceptance than what she is able to accomplish. "From the time they are tiny children, most females are taught that beauty is the supreme objective in life" (Claude-Pierre, p18). The peer pressure for girls in school to be skinny is often far greater than for boys to make a team. When it is spring, young girls begin thinking "How am I going to look in my bathing suit? I better take off a few more pounds."
Another reason that females are more prone to have this problem than males is that the personality characteristics underlying eating disorders are usually found in women. These characteristics are passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter.
The Deadly Diet almost always starts off quite innocently as a normal diet. As the person takes off weight, she is praised and congratulated for having so much willpower. When the weight is taken off (which is sometimes surprisingly quick), the person begins to think that maybe a few more pounds would be good insurance. Unfortunately, there is never enough "insurance." The pounds continue to slip away, and the person is caught in the unrelenting grip of the Deadly Diet.
From this point on, the Deadly Diet is very different from the average diet. The average dieter may spend time thinking of weight and food, but with the Deadly Diet these thoughts are obsessive. Some people believe that it would be better to be anorexic, so they wouldn't have to think about food or weight, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Deadly Dieter thinks constantly of food. It is the first thing she thinks about when she wakes up in the morning and the last thing she thinks about when she goes to bed at night. The time between is continually filled with thoughts about food, calories, and weight.
The major difference between the regular dieter and the Deadly Dieter has to do with the issue of control. It is not, as some professionals have stated, that the Deadly Dieter is too much in...