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Essay on Eating Disorder - Why Did American Teenagers Stop Eating?

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Why Did American Teenagers Stop Eating?


Why have American teenagers stopped eating healthy? The American people have not stopped dressing, playing sports, working, or traveling, so why did they stop eating healthy? Is it because American teenagers today have grown up with junk food that they do not know how to eat healthy? Maybe it is because Americans are so involved with many other activities that they cannot find the time to eat a decent meal. Whatever the specific reason may be, American teenagers have stopped eating healthy and something needs to be done. This paper examines the reasons as to why American teenagers have stopped eating healthy, but first it explains some reasons as to why teenagers eat so unhealthy.


It is not enough to simply say that American teenagers have unhealthy eating habits. Although the eating habits vary from teenager to teenager, that is to say some eat too much while others eat too little, the general reasons as to why this fact is true needs to be examined and should be understood by everyone. Teenagers are unhealthy eaters because they eat to free themselves from boredom, they go out to eat to have a fun at night, and they eat because food is always available to them one way or the other. Some teenagers do not eat enough and when they do eat they eat junk food because it tastes better than "healthy" food. Truly, teenagers are not healthy eaters.


Few people besides nutritionists and dietitians are aware of the reasons as to why the American people have such horrible eating habits. One reason as to why teenagers are unhealthy eaters is that eating provides something for them to do when they are bored. Eating while doing homework helps keep teenagers focused and awake so that they can get their homework done in a timely manner. Keeping their mouth occupied with food will stop them from talking to others around them. People who like what they are eating will most likely keep on eating and hold off on a conversation. If teenagers just watched television while doing homework, they would most likely watch the television screen rather than do their homework.

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American Teenagers         Eating Disorder         Stop         Eating Habits         American People         Junk Food         Eaters        

Eating, unlike television, does not provide a physical attraction to stop the person from doing his/her homework and stare at the food. In addition, because teenagers eat while doing homework they will often eat something that is good. Because most teenagers could care less about nutrition, they will not eat vegetables or fruit. Instead, they will eat snacks like Doritos, fruit roll-ups, and popcorn while doing homework.


Another reason as to why teenagers are unhealthy eaters is that dining is a past time activity. When going out for the night, there are millions of restaurants to eat at, which provide something to do other than hanging out at someone's house or going to a movie. Eating at a restaurant also lets teenagers get out of their cars and sit down at a social place where they can enjoy themselves more. The fact that most teenagers do not like to spend large sums of money leads them to fast food restaurants, which are not the healthiest places to eat. Places such as Denny's, Dairy Queen, and Taco Bell provide good food at cheap prices along with an environment where teenagers can be teenagers. Teenagers still attend fancy places and expensive restaurants every once in a while just to have some fun, but most of the time they pick places where they can have fun for a cheap price.


Whether teenagers are watching television, working on homework, or even just sitting around with nothing to do, many can be seen constantly eating. More often than not they are chewing on a candy bar, drinking a carbonated beverage, or eating some other kind of snack. This is due to the fact that there is always food available; meaning that they can go to a candy store, they can buy snacks from a snack machine, and they can go to a concession stand. In addition, teenagers are always thinking about food because they are constantly watching television or reading magazines. There are numerous advertisements for food that lead teenagers to think about food. For example, McDonalds and Burger King must have at least 15-20 advertisements per day trying to persuade people to buy their food. Teenagers who watch a ton of television, and most do, will start to think about food. Maybe they end up taking a drive to the fast food restaurant or maybe they just go into their kitchen and grab a snack all because of one food advertisement. One way or the other they were led to eat something.


Not all teenagers eat whenever they are bored or need something fun to do. In fact, some teenagers rarely eat. Teenagers today are so concerned with the way that they look so they are constantly finding things wrong with their body. Part of the reason is that there is so much pressure in today's society for people to maintain a certain figure. Anorexia and bulimia are eating disorders in which the person views himself/herself as fat. People with eating disorders believe that the only way they will have a "better body" is if they do not eat as much. Teenagers who have eating disorders do not eat very much and if there were something that they would eat, it would have to be something that they like. Again, most teenagers will choose junk food over healthy food as their snack for the day considering that it just tastes better.


Teenagers today have been surrounded by junk food all of their lives so it is really the only type of food that they have ever known. People who lived one hundred years ago did not grow up with junk food so they are used to eating healthy food. Because of the advertisements shown on television, the many fast food restaurants to attend, and the fact that teenagers can obtain food whenever they are hungry, teenagers are not healthy eaters. Junk food can be found anywhere. One can go to the grocery store and see soda, fruit roll-ups, and chips. At the gas station one can find a variety of candy bars while at a concession stand one can obtain popcorn and licorice ropes. Junk food is constantly around teenagers in America. There are not many places in this world where one can find just healthy food.


What do sports, jobs, and clubs have in common? These are the activities that control the lives of most American people especially teenagers, which leave them with very little time to eat a decent meal. The American people are always on the run that all they eat is a granola bar or a pop tart when they are off to work or school in the morning. In the afternoon maybe they eat some nachos or pizza which will allow them to be up and moving in a short period of time. For dinner, before they have to rush off to soccer practice or to a club meeting, maybe they will grab something from the nearest fast food place. Because teenagers never have the time to sit down and eat a decent meal, they are always eating unhealthy foods. People today always seem to find the time to get dressed in the morning or write their English paper before class, but they cannot seem to find the time to eat a healthy meal for once.


What made getting dressed in the morning, exercising, and writing an English paper more important than eating a healthy meal? The answer is that people today are so obsessed with being successful that they will do what ever it takes to reach their goal. People will never give up dressing because they know that they need to look nice in order to be considered business like and that they cannot just simply walk around nude. Writing that English paper will make them one step closer to reach that goal of becoming successful in the real world and exercising keeps people in shape so that they will look good when they put on their business suit. The fact that everyone is so obsessed with being successful and that eating does not help the American people become successful, eating healthy is on the bottom of the priority list. The American people need to stop worrying about becoming so successful and need to start worrying about their eating habits.


For many people, a diet based on junk food is a way of life.  Whilst they are aware of the repercussions for their health, they often feel that they are incapable of changing their way of eating.

These people usually know what types of food they should be putting into their bodies, however, they are powerless to make these changes, relying instead on a constant fix of fat and sugar to get them through the day.  As with alcohol, or stronger drugs, addiction to junk food can be an incredibly dangerous situation for our health.

Is Junk Food Addiction Real?

Whilst some may claim that a tendency to eat junk food does not classify as an addiction, there is mounting scientific evidence suggesting that this is not the case.  A recent study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience showed the effects of sweet and fatty food addiction in an animal model.

In this study, rats were given sausage and sweets, as well as normal rat food for forty days.  The ‘junk food’ was then taken away, and it was observed that the rats had no interest in returning to normal rat food, and in fact refused to eat it for an average of two weeks, despite no other food being available.

Another 2010 study, which involved scanning the brains of overweight women whilst they sipped a milkshake, found that when the same experiment was repeated six weeks later, there was reduced activity in the part of the brain that registers reward in those participants who had gained weight.  A similar response to this is seen in chronic drug use and addiction.

A French study in rats also suggested that junk food has similar effects to drugs.  Rats were found to prefer a hit of water sweetened with saccharine or sugar, to a hit of cocaine.  Although further studies are required as to the true effect of addiction to junk food in human beings, it is possible that similar effects will be found.

Why is Junk Food Addictive?

Sugar, fat and other ingredients commonly found in junk food can cause us to become addicted to these foods.  Eating a lot of sugar and fat causes the release of dopamine in the body, which is a chemical that makes us feels good.  Consequently, we want to have this feeling more often and turn to sweet foods to get it.

Sugary foods also generally cause a large spike in blood glucose levels, which drops rapidly, leaving us hungry and craving more sugar.  Lack of sugar in the diet of a person who normally consumes a lot has also been associated with opiate like withdrawal effects in the body.

Apart from this physiological effect of junk food, there is also the fact that it tastes good.  Fast food companies spend a lot of money developing the tastiest products they can and the result is we like to eat them.  Flavours, salt and MSG all contribute to the palatability of these foods and as we become accustomed to these ingredients, we may need more and more.

What You Can Do To Break the Addiction

Breaking any addiction is difficult, and a junk food addiction is no different.  Whilst there may be ways to make the break easier, when it comes down to it, will power and a desire to make positive changes are the key factors to a healthier diet.

Take a realistic look at your eating habits

As with any addition, identifying and admitting that there is a problem is the first step to breaking the addiction.

It may be useful to keep a food dairy, writing down all the food you eat throughout the day.  This can give you a good overall picture of what you are eating throughout the day, and can often be surprising when the quantity of unhealthy food going into our bodies is written on a sheet of paper in front of us.

A diary has the added benefit of being a record showing when we are eating junk food.  This can help to identify why we are making unhealthy choices and what is influencing our behaviour.

Identify when and why you are eating junk food

A food dairy can help with this.  Our eating habits are often controlled by outside factors such as work and life commitments, stress, the need to relax, lack of time, or cravings.  By identifying when you are turning to junk food, it is possible to see which lifestyle factors are influencing your eating choices and try to modify them.

For example, if you are constantly eating a bar of chocolate at three in the afternoon, this may be due to boredom, hunger, stress or a variety of other reasons.  To counteract this, it may be useful to make sure you have a healthier snack option available to you at this time, eat a more filling lunch or take a break and find another way to distract yourself at this time.

Remove junk food from the house or your workplace

If the food is not there to tempt you, you are less likely to eat it.  Avoid buying unhealthy junk food snacks and replace these with healthier options.

If you do find yourself reaching for a snack, you will then only have healthy options.  Sometimes, having to go to the shop to indulge your junk food habits is enough to deter you, and if you do go, you know you really want it.

Get support from family and friends

Sometimes having someone to support you can make a huge difference in breaking an addiction.  If your own voice telling you to make a healthier choice is not enough, perhaps that of a loved one will be.

It can also help to break your addiction with someone who is going through the same thing, as this can help to motivate you and encourage healthy competition.  By getting the support of family members, it is also easier to achieve a house free from junk food temptations, as other living with you understand why you cannot have unhealthy food in the house at this time.

Find healthy alternatives

Rather than simply denying yourself a junk food treat, try to replace it with a healthier option to satisfy your craving.  If you are craving sweet foods, turn to fresh fruit or a small amount of dried fruit.

If it’s salty snacks you want, try a handful of nuts.  It may also help to experiment with healthy recipes and cooking, for example: if you really feel like a burger, make your own with lean mince, a wholegrain bun and plenty of salad.  Often the homemade, healthier version of traditional fast food can taste just as good, if not better than the take out version.

Do not use junk food as a reward

Using food as a reward can be a key in developing a junk food addiction.  Many children learn from a young age to associate junk food ‘treats’ with good behaviour and success, and this can easily last into adult hood.

Find different ways to reward yourself for achievements that do not involve food, such as a new outfit, a long hot bath or a new book to read.

Get organized

Eating a lot of junk food can sometimes be a result of lack of time, and a little organization and planning ahead can stop a quick fast food trip on the run.  Spend some time pre-cooking healthy meals, stocking the freezer and packing lunch to avoid be caught without a healthy option.

Include lean protein and wholegrain carbohydrates at each meal

Low blood sugar levels can lead to cravings for sugary, fatty foods.  To keep your blood sugar levels stable for longer base your meals on low fat protein, wholegrain and low GI carbohydrates.

References used in this article