October 29, 2002
7:46 AM   Subscribe

Which is more scary: that this girl is 20 stone at the age of 11 or that the reporter thinks her friends are an ideal weight at 1/4 of her weight? Take her to 5 stone and a BMI of 11 would put her well below the anorexia threshold BMI of 16.

But would her friends accept they could have a problem? Probably not. What causes Anorexia? Strep? Genetics? Models? Something else?
posted by twine42 (29 comments total)
Are all her friends also 5' 7" at 11 years old? Somehow I doubt it.
posted by saintsguy at 7:52 AM on October 29, 2002

Also, bad form. The reporter's wording is Gemma, who is 5ft 7in, wears size 30 clothes and is four times the weight of girls in her class. Where did you get the bit about "ideal weight" from? Oh. I see. You made it up to create a false dichotomy, on which most of the remainder of your post is based.

One can recognize the medical necessity of reducing weight for someone like Gemma, while not promoting anorexia.

For Americans: 1 stone is 14 pounds, so this 11-year-old weighs 280.
posted by dhartung at 8:00 AM on October 29, 2002

true, it's assuming that the other girls as the same height as her. But my point (badly made) was how this is read by the girls in question.

When you are a kid, your height isn't important when someone is ripping you to shreads for being heavy or fat.
posted by twine42 at 8:06 AM on October 29, 2002

Someone's mother I knew from secondary school just died from stomach stapling procedures. Being overweight is not healthy, and should never be condoned by plus magazines or plus fashion. It is simply unhealthy. "What about the promotion of cigarettes by James Dean?" the crowd jeers. Stomach stapling, however, is not the fucking answer. Why is it so hard to eat healthy and exercise?
posted by four panels at 8:09 AM on October 29, 2002

[oh, and as an aside, the average height of a 11 year old girl is 57 inches. That's a BMI of 15. Still too low for their own good...]
posted by twine42 at 8:11 AM on October 29, 2002

You're quoting from the Sun. A newspaper whose idea of a "normal" woman is a peroxide blonde, 18 and with 32DD breasts.
posted by ralawrence at 8:16 AM on October 29, 2002

This girl is not just fat, she is dangerously overweight. Anorexia is certainly a danger to health, but so also is obesity, and failing to warn people of the dangers for the sake of being politically correct does not help anyone.

By the way, I do not think the article encourages eating disorders in any way. In fact, I think it takes a good attitude towards exercise as a healthy means of losing weight, rather than dieting.

The weight of her classmates is irrelevant in this particular discussion and the only reason they were mentioned by the article was to provide a contrast to emphasise Gemma's problem.
posted by saintsguy at 8:18 AM on October 29, 2002

Keep in mind that the BMI is different for people under 20, see here, for an eleven year old a BMI over 21 is considered overweight and a BMI of 16 would be thin but not unusual.
posted by bobo123 at 8:27 AM on October 29, 2002

oh, and as an aside, the average height of a 11 year old girl is 57 inches. That's a BMI of 15. Still too low for their own good...

Although I'm not a doctor, I'd say a BMI of 15 (3.5 points too low) is far healthier than a BMI of 43.8 (18.8 points too high).

I also refuse to believe that her definition of a "normal diet" is the same as mine. One other paper quoted a doctor saying that in the absence of any medical condition, it is physically impossible to attain that weight without severe over-eating.
posted by ralawrence at 8:28 AM on October 29, 2002

Um . . . how many pounds are in a stone?
posted by aladfar at 8:42 AM on October 29, 2002

The links in the second paragraph make interesting reading. Broadly speaking (not as a doctor either), it seems there are several possible causes for anorexia.

Whilst the articles and studies linked to partly discredit the "pressure of western media" theory, I still find it hard to believe that it does not have some effect either on the frequency or severity of cases.

aladfar: 14
posted by saintsguy at 8:45 AM on October 29, 2002

how many pounds are in a stone?

Depends how heavy the stone is.
posted by four panels at 8:46 AM on October 29, 2002

Her parents are also obese but her sister is stick thin. How does that work? Bloody genes.
posted by Summer at 9:43 AM on October 29, 2002

Bloody genes.

That or she ate her sister's food.
posted by gyc at 9:51 AM on October 29, 2002

I was a fully grown 5'8" girl when I was 12. I can relate to the girl in this story. Although I did not have a weight problem like this, I was considered "big."

Hormones have a significant effect on body weight. Recently, I began to take birth control pills. I lost about 10 pounds since I began taking them. Many women report the opposite affect. Bodies are different. Graves Disease is hyperthyroidism, too much of the thyroid hormone makes it difficult to keep weight on and it's sufferers are frequently hyper active (even as adults). Hypo thyroidism, or an insufficiency of the hormones, causes the opposite problem, with weight frequently ballooning out of control. Both of these diseases most often affect women.

In short, there are many reasons for this girl to be having weight problems. She probably should eat less and move more. But she is tall (and therefore larger overall) for her age group, is going through puberty, and may well have a hormone imbalance.

And, oh yeah, western white society has a very sick notion of what a healthy look is for women.
posted by Red58 at 10:08 AM on October 29, 2002

BMI is a bad way to determine if one is obese or not. I'm 5'7" and 200lbs. My BMI is 31.3.

I'm probably more fit than a lot of people I know. My walking heart rate is 50bpm. I don't look anywhere near 200lbs. I do exercise regularly. (I don't have a car, so I bike everywhere, and I ride hard.) I eat fairly well. It's just that most of my weight is muscle, not fat, which skews the results.

I'd much rather see people start comparing body fat percentages than BMI numbers, but since BMI is so easy to calculate, I doubt that'll happen anytime soon.
posted by fore at 10:44 AM on October 29, 2002

gemma complains of boys beating her up when at her size if she had just a little gumption she could beat the crap out of them instead. (yes, given the appropriate circumstances, i heartily condone a good fist fight) if i were her mother i'd send her off to a martial arts class asap, on top of sensibly restricting her fat intake - which may be less of a problem than is superficially apparent. i'd also look into her relationships with friends, family and authority figures since weight gain (or loss) is often a sign that some form of abuse may be occurring...

there are many reasons for this girl to be having weight problems.

...one reason that's rarely brought up is that of sexual abuse. children who live in a sexually charged household (living with a parent or sibling who prostitutes or is really indiscriminate - sibling or self being sexually abused) often gain weight as a form of barrier protection or as a way to muffle their feelings.
posted by t r a c y at 10:58 AM on October 29, 2002

As of 1996:

Anorexia occurs in 1 out of 100 girls between the ages of 12 and 25.

Bulimia - 1 in 7 in the same group.

Other stats:

An estimated 10 per cent of female college students suffer from a clinical or sub-clinical (borderline) eating disorder, of which over half suffer from bulimia nervosa.
An estimated 1 in 100 American women binges and purges to lose weight.

I'm just saying Let's not forget about bulimia, which is more common than we might think.

All eating disorders are equally scary.
posted by Modem Ovary at 11:47 AM on October 29, 2002

its an addiction.... through and through..... whether its eating..... anorexia.... bulimia.....

it becomes an obsession..... I'll bet alot of these people... (esp. folks with anorexia and/or bulimia) have at least mild OCD...
posted by LoopSouth at 12:22 PM on October 29, 2002

LoopSouth - I met one neuroscientist who was though eating disorders might be more cognitively complex than OCD. He wondered if anorexics / bulimics might suffer from body misperceptions in the same way someone with a phantom limb might. (Phantom limb syndrome - a person who has lost a body part feels some sensation like pain or pressure or an itch in the location of the missing limb).

Anyway, this guy thought that maybe anorexics / bulimics really did see themselves differently than other people when they looked in the mirror, and perhaps even their movements felt like they carried "phantom weight".
posted by synapse at 12:55 PM on October 29, 2002

Synapse - All I know is.... I do have OCD....

and its that feeling that you can never relax unless you take care of your obsessions.... whatever they may be...

My girlfriend has bulimia.... when she goes without throwing up for days.... she has the same sort of panic attack that I might have because of my OCD.....

its like she feels like she HAS to do it... and she isn't quite sure why.... but if she doesn't... she becomes anxious to the point of panic... I have given up trying to make her stop.... I know what panic attacks are like.... first hand... and seeing her go through that is much worse.... IMO...

But perhaps your right.... who knows? We certainly don't yet....
posted by LoopSouth at 1:10 PM on October 29, 2002

Anyway, this guy thought that maybe anorexics / bulimics really did see themselves differently than other people when they looked in the mirror, and perhaps even their movements felt like they carried "phantom weight".

In the ongoing debate of is-it-genetics-or-learned-behaviour, I'm more inclined towards the latter. Of course, that's just my point of view (self link). Debates on anorexia and bulimia always make me think of the clichè "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." After all, aesthetics are a very personal thing and can be shaped by one's experiences and influences. So I find myself very intrigued by Synapse's comment above - was there any studies done on this angle, or was it a theory he had yet to investigate further?
posted by romakimmy at 1:23 PM on October 29, 2002

And LoopSouth, your girlfriend needs to seek some help. It can be controlled. It's no stroll in the park, but it can be done. Especially if she has suport from you, friends, and family.
posted by romakimmy at 1:26 PM on October 29, 2002

First this did not happen overnight, the weight gain or eating disorder. So no easy solution other than hard work.

I feel twine42 was trying to show, don't cast a stone when you see a person with a weight disorder. You may be weighing in on the wrong problem.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:26 PM on October 29, 2002

romakimmy - The problem is.... I am the only one who know.... well... not after that post... but thats besides the point.

She trusts that I won't tell a soul...

To her... she doesn't need help... and she won't take it untill she thinks otherwise...

Just like rehab... if you don't want to recover, or you think there is nothing wrong... you won't ever get better... it won't do you any good...

you have to want it...

And its unfortunate that for alot of people, they have to hit the absolute bottom before they finally accept help... (for some this means almost killing themselves.....)

forcing help does no good... it just pushes the other person away...

I would rather my girlfriend be honest with me... then hide it from me...
posted by LoopSouth at 1:41 PM on October 29, 2002

Fair enough, LoopSouth. I understand that. It's already a good sign that she trusts you enough to tell you. It's a babystep in the right direction; sometimes the best support and help one can get is gentle encouragement and even just a reassuring, non-judgemental shoulder to lean on.
posted by romakimmy at 1:52 PM on October 29, 2002

romakimmy - I searched PubMed (biology related publication index) for a few years after hearing this guy's theory, and never found anything published. I don't know if that was because his proposed study didn't get funded, or if it simply didn't yield decisive results. But the brain is capable of so many amazing misperceptions about it's own body that the idea seems at least possible if not plausible.
posted by synapse at 2:00 PM on October 29, 2002

The people who blame the fashion industry(*) for causing anorexia are the liberal equivalents of the people who blame Judas Priest for causing teenage suicudes.

It's the people with a problem who need help, not society that needs changing.

(*) Blaming the _models_ themselves is a new one to me.
posted by godidog at 3:00 PM on October 29, 2002

Anyone who sees anorexia as a sweeping problem among young women is kidding themselves. It's seen overwhelmingly (but not exclusively, so don't get your panties in a bunch) among young women from well-to-do families.

I'm not suggesting for a second that this makes it any less tragic-- disturbed kids are disturbed kids and it's sad in any context. However, blaming an emphasis on thinness in magazines and on TV is too simplistic. I'll leave it at that because I don't want to be accused of trolling.

That said, an 11-year-old who goes 280 is in all probability a victim of bad parenting, plain and simple. There are probably instances where a child would become obese despite his/her parents' best efforts, but barring some sort of huge medical disorder (which I'm not discounting because there isn't enough information) the case in question seems extreme.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:36 PM on October 29, 2002

« Older War of the Worlds   |   What is Bagotronics? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments