Best Practices

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders include anorexia (anorexia nervosa: self-starvation and refusal to maintain minimal body weight), bulimia (bulimia nervosa: binge eating followed by purging), and binge eating disorder (compulsive overeating without purging).


The exact incidence of eating disorders in adolescents, both nationally and in Colorado, is difficult to determine because most data are from self-reported surveys with very different methods of sampling and assessment. Although anorexia, in particular, was previously seen mostly in white, middle- and upper-class adolescent and young adult females, the prevalence in the past two decades includes a diversity of ethnic and socioeconomic groups in both genders. Current combined estimates indicate that five to ten percent of U.S. adolescent females and two percent of adolescent males have some form of eating disorder.

Specific questions on dieting and weight maintenance, either through exercise, diminished caloric intake, fasting, purging through vomiting or laxatives, or diet pills/other chemical aids were recently added to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Colorado teens seem to be conscious about the links between overweight, nutrition and physical activity.

  • About half the students reported that, in the month preceding the survey, they performed physical activity to lose or maintain weight, and about one-third reported eating less food or fewer calories to lose weight.
  • About 10 percent of the students reported fasting and using chemical dieting aids.


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