Sunday, September 21, 2014

Food focus: Eating disorders need extra attention in junior high

April 28, 2010 |

Enterprise staff writer

Childhood obesity is frequently cited as a major health risk to the nationÕs youth, but experts reminded Davis parents recently of the dangers on the other end of the spectrum: eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

According to one local expert in the field, between 1 and 5 percent of youths suffer from eating disorders.

ÒAnd they are literally starving themselves to death,Ó said Tony Paulson, executive director of the Sacramento-based Summit Eating Disorders Outreach Program.

Paulson was one of several speakers last month at a parent education program at Emerson Junior High School. Hosted by the Emerson PTA, the program focused on developing healthy body images and eating habits.

Of concern to a number of parents present was how to walk the line between the two: encouraging their children to eat well and maintain a healthy body weight without cultivating unhealthy body images and eating disorders.

Michaela Bucchianeri, an eating disorders intern at UC Davis, urged parents to focus less on size and more on health.

ÒItÕs just about finding new ways to talk about our bodies,Ó she said. ÒItÕs less about form and more about function.Ó

In addition to focusing more on health than appearance, Bucchianeri urged parents to watch their language, particularly when it comes to what she calls Òfat talk.Ó

Fat talk, she said, ranges from negative comments like, ÒI feel so fat,Ó to seemingly positive ones that still over-emphasize the importance of size, like ÒYou look great; did you lose weight?Ó

ÒFat talk can masquerade as a compliment,Ó she noted.

ÒThe more people engage in this type of talk, the more likely they are to develop an eating disorder,Ó Bucchianeri added.

And the consequences of eating disorders can be deadly, the experts said. According to Paulson, up to 20 percent of those suffering from anorexia nervosa Ñ in which they literally starve themselves Ñ will die from the disorder. Equally serious is bulimia nervosa, characterized by frequent binge eating and forced vomiting, Paulson said.

The good news, he noted, is that new scientific research shows the brains of people with eating disorders are significantly different from the rest of the population, suggesting a biological basis, which can help lead to better treatment.

Eating disorders are generally very difficult to treat, Paulson said.

ÒThere is a very low motivation for recovery,Ó he explained. ÒThe patient likes the eating disorder because it helps her.Ó

According to Paulson, junior high school is a common age of onset for eating disorders. Kids have left the safe, secure environment of their elementary school classroom and, in a way, childhood itself.

ÒYour bodyÕs not changing much in elementary school, and life is safe and secure,Ó he said. ÒThen in the blink of an eye, you go to junior high. Relationships are more complicated, bodies are changing, life feels out of control. Many girls think, ÔIf I can just control my body, I can get my life back in order.Õ Ó

Many girls begin dieting in seventh and eighth grade, he said, and get positive feedback.

ÒThey lose a little weight and get a lot of compliments,Ó he said, which in some, can send them down the wrong path.

ÒThe good news is, parents are the answer,Ó he said.

Bucchianeri agreed.

Use teachable moments, she said, like when fat talk is on TV or other media. Focus less on your own size and that of those around you, and watch what you say.

ÒExplore your own susceptibility to fat talk,Ó she said.

And pay attention to what others are saying to your kids, said Renee Dryfoos, founder of the Yolo County Eating Disorders Network.

With eating disorders, she said, there is often a single moment that starts the cycle in motion, an unintended Ñ or intended Ñ comment that pushes a child over the line.

ÒSometimes the tipping point is a comment from a doctor or a coach about the childÕs size,Ó she said.

Stay in touch with your kids, she said, keep the flow of communication open so youÕll be more likely to know whatÕs going on.

She also urged parents to talk to kids about the importance of moderation and learning to pay attention to their bodiesÕ signals.

ÒThis is where we can guide them to listen to their body more; to really check out if they are really hungry, or maybe just bored,Ó she said.

Ñ Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at (530) 747-8051 or Comment on this story at



Anne Ternus-Bellamy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Elementary school counselors: necessary, but poorly funded

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Bet Haverim hosts High Holy Day services

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

    Teams assess damage as wildfire burns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Driver arrested for DUI after Saturday morning crash

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Help raise funds for juvenile diabetes cure

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Jewelry, art for sale at Senior Center

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Davis Community Meals needs cooks

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    UC campus chancellors granted hefty pay raises

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    Send kids to camp!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Da Vinci awarded $38,000 for restorative justice program

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    Hawk Hill trip planned Sept. 30

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Outdoor yoga marathon celebrates community

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Wise words

    By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A12



    Awareness is key to this fight

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Where is this going?

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A6

    We’re living in the Golden State of emergency

    By Debra DeAngelo | From Page: A6

    Options for protection come with flu season

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

    Are we there yet? Not enough hours in the day to goof off

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A6Comments are off for this post

    Paso Fino — it’s not worth it

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Archer will get my vote

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    It’s time for Davis Scouts to stand up for what is right

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    Mike Keefe cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    Building something at schools’ HQ

    By Our View | From Page: A10

    Don’t sell city greenbelt

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Paso Fino project is flawed

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Speak out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    Maybe David can beat Goliath again

    By Lynne Nittler | From Page: A11 | Gallery



    DHS gets on its Morse to beat Edison

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    JV Blue Devils drop low-scoring affair

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B2

    Wire briefs: Giants rally falls short in San Diego

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    Four local swimmers qualify for Olympic Trials

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    Republic FC’s fairy tale season continues

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    ‘We’re a way better team’ than record, says UCD’s Shaffer

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B4 | Gallery

    UCD roundup: Aggie men pound Pomona-Pitzer in the pool

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B4

    Davis 15-year-old making a splash in European F4 series

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery





    ‘Ladies Foursome’ adds shows

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3



    UCD grad’s startup earns kudos at TechCrunch event

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    Styles on target for November debut

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A7

    MBI hires VP of marketing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Rob White: What is an ‘innovation center’?

    By Rob White | From Page: A9

    Taylor Morrison unveils new Woodland community next weekend

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery



    Carol L. Walsh

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4



    Comics: Sunday, September 21, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8