You might not associate eating disorders with boys, yet according to a study of 16,000 Taiwanese kids, boys as young as 10 were "experimenting" with self-induced vomiting in an attempt to lose weight. Such bulimic tendencies were surprisingly more common in boys there than in girls, with younger children said to be even more likely than older children to regulate their weight this way.
Although researchers aren't sure why the behaviour is becoming prevalent in boys, awareness is the first important step in tackling it.
According to researchers, the boys who were bulimic also admitted to eating fried foods regularly (21%), had dessert every day (19%), ate late-night snacks (18%), and used computers for more than two hours a day (18%). Interestingly, both obese and underweight children were more inclined than those of a healthy weight to engage in bulimic behaviour.
Researchers have warned that self-induced vomiting is an "early sign that children could develop eating disorders and serious psychological problems, such as binge eating and anorexia".
They further maintain that such behaviour can be curbed by making sure that children get enough sleep, eat breakfast every day, eat less fried food and night-time snacks, and spend less time in front of a computer.
Similar studies in Australia and the United States have also indicated substantial increases in bulimia and anorexia in children, particularly in males. As obesity rates skyrocket, so do eating disorders.
In a six-year period starting in 2000, the American National Eating Disorder Association claimed the number of kids under the age of 12 who were hospitalized for eating disorders more than doubled.
It is crucial for us to keep our eyes and ears open, and not just assume our sons are exempt from this traditionally "female" problem.