Teenage Girls Facing Nutrition Issues

Maggie Aldrich, Managing Editor

Malnutrition is a common result of eating disorders, something that is becoming increasingly prominent in teenage girls. According to The Massachusetts Eating Disorders Association, “40% of teenage females have eating disorders.” This is not only sets an impact on nutrition, but overall health.
“I think because there’s such an emphasis on how someone looks on the outside and the desire to sometimes want to control that can be kind of a part of the initial issue,” Leah Frazee, a nutritionist who’s been working with eating disorders for ten years explained.
Teenagers are one of the top groups to suffer from eating disorders, with influences such as media distorting their body image, but what many often skip over is the physiological aspects of the illness.
“I channeled all the anxiety and obsessiveness into trying to lose as much weight I could. I started to skip meals and make portions smaller. I counted calories and kept track of how many calories I burned per day,” junior Katie Cleary who recently conquered anorexia after struggling with it for years described.
“I think the factors that really contributed to my eating disorder were [my] obsessive-compulsive disorder; which manifested itself through an obsession with numbers, having total control, and the need to make everything appear perfect, and anxiety and depression.”
Depression and anxiety are seen even more commonly around teenagers and are often set a base for a lot of cases. About 30% of girls and 20% of boys–totaling 6.3 million teens–have had an anxiety disorder and in 2016, an estimated 2.2 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode with severe impairment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
“There’s already insecurity of ‘my bodies not good enough’ then you see the pressures you guys have, the pressure to be the best student, to take the honors classes, the AP classes, to get into the best college, you take these pressures which increase the anxiety,” Frazee said. “We see a lot of anorexia tends to be more of a perfectionistic personality so you throw all these things in the mix and I think that’s just what puts teens at a greater risk.”
When faced with the spectrum of these disorders teens often avoid or even skip out on meals necessary to maintaining proper health. This can lead to problems with concentration, energy levels, and exhaustion affecting overall performance in school.
A number of teens who don’t undergo eating disorders also struggle with meeting their nutritional needs. During the school year, waking up at an earlier time more than often results in not having enough time to grab a fully nutritious breakfast or lunch to prepare for the day. This ultimately leads to hunger throughout the day which can result in binging after school on carbs and fats to gather the fuel missed throughout the day in one sitting.
“It’s just the reality of what you guys deal with on the day to day basis so I do think teens do lack just the basic needs because of scheduling and the logistics of the day,” Frazee said.