A new study shows that a growing number of teens are using this extreme measure to lose weight
With Instagram fitness gurus and models on the rise, discussions about positive body image have been happening more than ever.
The American Academy of Pediatrics shared their findings of an ongoing body image study, and the results are alarming. In the study, the pediatricians assessed the use of laxatives for weight loss (as well as the use of muscle-building products) by adolescents.
According to The New York Times, the data gathered came from more than 13,000 American children, all recruited in the study when they were 9-14 years old. By the ages of 23-25, 10.5 percent of the women reported using laxatives in the past year to lose weight, and the practice increased over adolescence. As for the men in the study, there was reported use of muscle-building products to bulk up.
Northeastern University’s Rachel Rodgers, associate professor of applied psychology and a counseling psychology researcher who studies body image and eating concerns, spoke with The New York Times about the research findings:
“The link is the perception that they [laxatives and muscle-building products] are going to alter your weight, shape, appearance. The representations of ideal appearance in society are very restrictive and very unrealistic both for men and for women. They portray bodies that are unattainable by healthy means.”
And it’s not just laxative pills that are a concern. Because of the “shame” and “guilt” associated with laxative abuse, other products with the same effect have been popping up on the market. For example, those tiny tea cleanses and herbal pills that your fitness inspirations promote all over social media?
Well, they may not be labeled as “laxatives,” but most of them contain an alarming amount of laxative properties. Heavy laxative use can negatively affect your bowels, and cause you to have a dangerous drop in electrolytes.
And as for those muscle-building products – including steroids and creatine – it’s important to know the health risks, too. Dr. Jerel Calzo, a lead in the body image study, and developmental psychologist who is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, says that the lack of body regulation is a concerning result with muscle-building product use. The products can even contain banned substances or analogues of banned substances.
Although a lot of teasing behavior can be seen as “harmless kid stuff,” we have to start taking it a little more seriously. Having an open dialogue with young people about the importance of having a healthy body image is definitely helpful, but leading by example can be even better.