10-Year-Old Boys Are Experimenting With Bulimia

Bulimia, an eating disorder which involves vomiting to induce weight loss is an incredibly distressing disease – which is why a new study from Taiwan, indicating that young children are succumbing to it, is so disturbing.  Strangely enough, boys seem to be more prone to experimentation with bulimia, even though the disease is usually associated with women.  Boys as young as 10 reported having forced themselves to vomit to lose weight, in surprisingly large numbers.

According to the study, which will be published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, “thirteen per cent of the 8,673 girls and 7,043 boys who took part in the research admitted they made themselves sick to lose weight. But the figures were much higher in younger children, with 16% of 10-12 year-olds and 15% of 13-15 year-olds vomiting. The figures fell to 8% in 16-18 year-olds.”

But a breakdown of the data reveals that 16% of boys, and 10% of girls, reported self-induced vomiting.  Obese and underweight children were both more likely to have forced vomiting than normal weight children.

According to the researchers, there were several lifestyle factors that were associated with bulimia in children and teens.  Many of the children ate fried foods, desserts or night-time snacks, and similarly high numbers used a computer screen for more than two hours a day.

The lead researcher, Dr Yiing Mei Liou, explained that he believed that boys were “likely to be ‘sedentary’ children who spent hours on the internet and ate junk food.”  It’s important to note, as Margaret Hartmann points out on Jezebel, that “these statistics may only indicate that the children had tried throwing up to lose weight, not that it had become a habit.”

But it’s also a larger problem, one which has been identified by other studies.  According to the Daily Mail, earlier surveys of British children under 13 revealed that “three quarters feared gaining weight, 67 percent were preoccupied with their weight, half with their body shape and 43 percent with excessive exercising.”

The study thus adds research about an important – and disturbing – trend which we need to pay attention to.  The researchers believe that early bulimia can lead to binge eating and anorexia later in life, and it’s crucial to realize that boys (and men) are just, if not more, vulnerable to these issues than girls (and women).  In our attempts to promote healthy eating and exercise among children, the challenge is to make sure that boys and girls don’t feel so ashamed of their bodies that they resort to self-induced vomiting.

Photo from Alan Cleaver's Flickr photostream.

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jane richmond
jane richmond4 years ago

This is what our weight obsessed society is doing. Let us strive for healthy weight not too skinny and not too fat. A happy median.

Magdalen B.
Magdalen B.4 years ago

It is worrying that so many articles have included the phrase, "according to the Daily Mail".

Randi L.
Randi Levin4 years ago

Lika, check out www.lovemorefeedless.com,

several of the article on that site offer the means for adjusting serving sizes according to the person's fist or palm size. There are also several fabulous kid friendly recipes available on the site.

Lika S.
Lika S.4 years ago

You know, my son is 11 and over weight, and I'm glad that we have a solid enough relationship that I don't have to worry about him doing that...

We talk to his doctor, and then also see a nutritionist, as well as adding more excersize to his daily routine. While it may be a slow process, it's the healthy way to do it. Right now, our biggest problem is portion size. But that's being worked on also, and we're making good headway.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

Absolutely horrid symptom of our time!

Carole F.
Carole f.4 years ago

parents, be careful about the words you use when trying to lose weight. young men are just as eager to please and present well to the opposite sex as young women. be diligent, be observant and be understanding to your child. this is a sad situation for all.

Carol Kemp
Carol Kemp4 years ago

Gentle and loving suggestion. If young boys don't eat, or make themselves throw up, they will be late developing. Parents would find healthy outdoor activities, that require energy and strength, help children think about fitness, what they eat and their general health. My sons went climbing, canoeing, swimming, sailing, orientering. They weren't thrown out and told to go, would not expect them to do anything I wouldn't do, I did it too - till they overtook me and did better. LOL! I still crew yatchs from time to time.

Parvez Z.
Parvez Zuberi4 years ago

It's very sad the parents should note the change in child behaver and get them medical help before we loose more young children

clara H.
Clara Hamill4 years ago

Wow I didn't know about this shouldn't schools or the parents teach them how to eat better?

Patrick H.
Patrick Ho4 years ago

this is really sad to know...