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Peer Pressure and Eating Disorders
By Bonnie Witler - Certified Nutritionist

Research reports that adolescents spend more time talking to their friends than any other activity and high school students spend twice as much time with their peers as with adults.
William Corsaro coined the phrase “peer culture” in response to this phenomenon.  “Peer Culture” is characterized by following a specific set of social rules and behaviors, a mutual understanding of accepted actions and norms, and a focus on themes that are repeated and that other members of the group recognize.
We know that the peer group can affect our children in so many ways.
One influence you may not have considered is with eating disorders.
Recent research has shown there is a correlation between “peer culture” and eating disorders. In fact two of the risk factors for eating disorders as suggested by a panel at the 2004 International Conference on Eating Disorders are "peers' diet and concern about appearance and teasing about weight, shape and appearance".

If the child or adolescent is in a “peer culture” where thinness, dieting, bingeing and/or purging are the norm it can trigger an eating disorder especially if other risk factors are present.
Other risk factors for eating disorders are:
·        Genetic predisposition
·        The mother diets and is overly concerned about appearance
·        High level of weight concerns before age 14
·        High level of perceived stress
·        Perfectionism
·        History of dieting
·        Low self esteem
·        Shy or anxious
·        Loss, tragedy or extreme change
An eating disorder is a serious, life threatening illness requiring professional help.

If you suspect a friend or loved one may have an eating disorder; express your concern and go with them for help. Seek a nutritionist or therapist who specializes in eating disorders.
Information, support and treatment referrals can be found on the website:




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