Healthy looking teens may still have anorexia - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Healthy looking teens may still have anorexia

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - You've seen the images of what people typically look like who have anorexia, but a new study said the number of teens who have an eating disorder but look healthy has drastically increased in recent years.

"My youngest will come in and poke around the kitchen and say okay I see a vegetable, I see a protein, but what's our starch going to be,” said Emily Cook.

Cook tries to teach her 11 and 15-year-old daughters about a complete meal and healthy eating.

"We don't really specifically talk about eating disorders, it's much more of a broader sense as far as nutrition is concerned," said Cook.

According to researchers in Australia, some parents don't bring up the topic, because they don't realize it's an issue.

Typically, we associate low body mass index with eating disorders like anorexia.

But doctors say they've seen more and more teens that look to be a normal weight, but still have similar mental symptoms to anorexia; like depression, anxiety and a distorted self image.

Those kids are diagnosed with what doctors are calling "eating disorder not otherwise specified."

According to an Australian survey of 100 teens, those diagnosed with the eating disorder where they still appeared to be healthy, was 8 percent in 2005, and 47 percent in 2009.

Researchers say this type of eating disorder can be difficult to identify since a teen can still appear to be healthy.

They go on to say in a time when a society is trying to combat childhood obesity, it might appear at first that a little weight loss is good, but that's not always the case.

"Your beauty should be from your inside, it should be your personality, it should be your brains," said Cook.

Back in Heartland, Cook said she makes sure to promote health to her daughters: mind and body.

"In order to be a complete person you have to take care of your body, so your eating is important, your exercising is important and you can't be a happy healthy person without those things regardless of what you look like on the outside," said Cook.

Doctors say it's also important to remember that someone who has anorexia is like someone who has allergies. It's an illness. So similar to someone with allergies can't stop sneezing when they want to, someone with anorexia can't necessarily eat when they want to.

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