My son is on the high school wrestling team, and I swear he’s developing an eating disorder with the pressure to hit a lower weight class. He says he’s fine, but I think he can’t tell anymore if he is hungry or not. How is that possible in a growing 15-year-old?
James L., St. Louis
We’re glad you noticed. It’s common to overlook eating disorders in young men.
And young men who wrestle have a higher rate of eating disorders than the general male population. Overall, studies show around a quarter of adolescents and adults with anorexia or bulimia are male. A 2013 study of more than 1,300 adolescents found that about 1.2 percent of males have an eating disorder at age 14, and 2.6 percent at age 17.
What are called “subclinical eating disordered behaviors,” such as fasting to lose weight, purging and laxative abuse, are as common in males as females.
As for helping your son, he may not recognize that he’s short-changing himself on food and fuel. A new study out of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus found that anorexia and bulimia actually rewire the brain, so “I am hungry” messages are overruled! That’s why it’s important to give the topic as much light and air as possible.
Wrestling coaches should be aware of the increased risk and make sure team members don’t go for excessive weight-control measures. If your son’s coach does not do that, or disagrees with that approach, talk to the principal and school board about making it mandatory education for all team members.
School programs on health should include the risk of male, not just female, eating disorders. The National Eating Disorders Association suggests implementing an Eating Concerns Support Group at school to provide interested guys with a chance to learn about eating disorders and receive support.
If you think it has become an entrenched problem for your son, seek medical intervention from a trained practitioner or center. You can find local resources by googling “NEDA find treatment.”
My 13-year-old daughter says a boy in her class won’t leave her alone — he’s always texting and turning up where she is. I can’t figure out if it’s just awkward youthful affection or something menacing. Any suggestions on how she and/or I should handle it?
Francine H., Port Arthur
When hormones surge in teens, all kinds of weird behaviors appear, and they sometimes call for parental patience and guidance.
But — and we cannot say this strongly enough — that doesn’t mean you should shrug off bad behavior. The fact that your daughter has confided in you indicates that she feels something is a bit off with this boy’s behavior.
And tell her she’s not alone. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 14 percent of girls and 13 percent of boys in 6th to 9th grade say someone has pursued them in order to start or continue an unwanted relationship, usually through messages online, voicemail and by being followed.
So, here is what the experts recommend you do:
If there have been no threats or violence, help your daughter rehearse standing up to the stalker. Firmly and calmly, she must inform him that his behavior won’t be tolerated.
“You must stop calling, texting and following me. Stop bothering me, starting now. If you persist, I will report you to the school authorities and the police.”
Then walk away. No scenes, no drama. Just the clear, cold facts.
If there have been threats, or if after delivering the ultimatum an incident happens, inform the school and police, and request they talk with the child and his parents. Hopefully, you won’t need a restraining order, but don’t hesitate if you feel you do! Your daughter’s safety is priority No. 1. Getting the young man help is also important, but for you a very distant No. 2.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To submit questions, write to Drs. Oz and Roizen, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019-5238, or visit sharecare.com. Their column appears Monday.