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Eight million Americans battle an eating disorder. One in 200 women struggles with anorexia nervosa; three in 100 battle bulimia, and 75 per cent of all women struggle with a general eating disorder of some sort or another.

An eating disorder is an individual’s response to negative body image, stemming from low self-esteem. It is an expression of helplessness, a longing for control, a need to be seen and heard, and a frustration with feeling ugly or misunderstood. And, in addition to these soul-scrapes, it is catalyzed by a society that confuses image with value.

In recent nationwide surveys, young women indicated they were more afraid of being overweight than they were of cancer, nuclear war or losing their parents. Fifty per cent of North American girls between the ages of 11 and 13 believe they are overweight, and 80 per cent diets consistently.

This starvation-fad can be traced, in part, to an invasion of the family unit by media’s overpowering voice. The average adolescent watches one to four hours of television a day, and one in every three commercials conveys a message about what is “attractive.” Each year, the average teen or preteen is subjected to more than 5,260 “attractiveness messages,” according to North America’s National Eating Disorders Association. These messages convince vulnerable, hurting minds that the path to success and happiness is through one’s appearance. And, skinny is beauty.

Eating disorders are a way for quiet people to fight back; for sensitive spirits to overcome bruised hearts; for the shy to exert power; for the abused to forget their abuser. By manipulating something as simple as food, not only is one distracted from life’s pain; one is finally in control, when so much of life is uncontrollable. And one feels invincible: Nothing will come between me and my mission. Nothing will hurt me, ever again.

Treatment statistics are equally unnerving. Only one in 10 persons with an eating disorder ever receives any form of treatment; about 80 per cent of those do not get the quality or quantity of care they require to fully recover, and the cost is prohibitive.  In the United States, one month at an in-patient treatment facility can cost upwards of $30, 000, and it is estimated a recovering anorexic will need a minimum of three to six months of care.  If out-patient treatment is appropriate, the accumulated costs can run up to $100, 000, or more.  (See the South Carolina Department of Mental Health website for more information:

  • Chasing Silhouettes is intended for families seeking to redefine body image in a world that confuses appearance with value;
  • It is written for families and caregivers dealing with eating disordered loved ones, and for parents desiring to inspire positive body image and self-worth in their children;
  • It is based on a true story;
  • It includes advice from Christian professionals specializing in eating disorders;
  • Chasing Silhouettes doesn’t offer a magical solution; instead, it is a faith-based guide providing prayer, advice, insight and empathy;
  • Chasing Silhouettes addresses all stages of the illness, from inception to recovery; it also goes beyond, describing how one might walk in recovery;
  • The book is separated into four, easy-to-understand sections: Recognizing—how to know when your loved one has an eating disorder; Rendered Helpless—how to respond in the midst of the eating disorder; Recovery—what to do when your loved one decides to get better; and Renewal—how to help a loved one walk in healing;
  • This book examines the correlation between generational influence, family of origin, media-based culture and eating disorders
  • Ultimately, Chasing Silhouettes is intended to help families redefine body image, to reveal the thought-process of a hurting young person, to shed light on difficult subject-matter, and to center families on the father-heart of God.


Children’s eating disorders jump in U.S.

Nov. 29, 2010

Eating disorders are sending more U.S. children to hospital and pediatricians should be on the lookout for patients suspected of having a problem, according to a new report.

Among children younger than 12 with eating disorders, hospitalizations jumped 119 per cent between 1999 and 2006, says the clinical report in Monday’s edition of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

It is estimated 0.5 per cent of adolescent girls in the United States have anorexia nervosa (self-starvation), and one to two per cent meet criteria for bulimia nervosa (bingeing and purging), the report said.

Since eating disorders can affect any organ system, pediatricians should monitor patients for medical or nutritional problems, and ensure treatment such as medical care, mental-health treatment and nutritional intervention, the report’s authors recommended.

“Pediatricians are encouraged to advocate for legislation and policies that ensure appropriate services for patients with eating disorders, including medical care, nutritional intervention, mental-health treatment and care co-ordination,” conclude report author Dr. David Rosen of the University of Michigan and his co-authors.

There is an increasing recognition of eating disorders in males, who make up 10 per cent of all cases. The disorders are increasingly seen in children.

A 2001 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that of 1,739 Ontario schoolgirls aged 12 to 18:

  • Twenty-seven per cent said they engaged in bingeing or purging.
  • Twenty-three per cent said they were dieting.
  • Eight per cent reported self-induced vomiting.

Doctors can help prevent eating disorders by stressing proper nutrition and exercise to avoid an unhealthy focus on weight and dieting, the report’s authors said in outlining diagnostic criteria for disordered eating.

Stunted kids

The anti-obesity campaign has unintentionally created a rise in the number of children with eating disorders, often with serious consequences, said Dr. Leora Pinhas, psychiatric director of the eating disorder clinic at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

“We’re seeing kids who are stunted, we’re seeing kids who haven’t grown in two years,” said Pinhas. “They’re in Grade 2 [and] they’re still the same height they were in kindergarten. And if it’s affecting their height, it’s affecting everything inside their body, including their brain.”

Six years ago, doctors told Tina Mansfield-Moffatt of Hamilton that her nine-year-old daughter Jessica needed to lose weight. Mansfield-Moffatt put Jessica on a diet, and unknowingly, on a path to another illness: anorexia.

Jessica started to make herself sick when she was 13. A month ago, she was admitted to a treatment facility in Utah, weighing only 89 pounds.

“She’s 15 years old, in a hospital bed with a feeding tube,” Mansfield-Moffatt said. “She looked at me and she was crying. She’s like, ‘Mom, I am so scared. I don’t want to die.’”

Mansfield-Moffatt now hopes that the program Jessica is in will help her recover from the illness. About three per cent of women will be affected by an eating disorder during their lifetime, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Since 1987, hospitalizations for eating disorders in general hospitals have increased by 34 per cent among young women under age 15 and by 29 per cent among 15- to 24-year-olds, the agency said.
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