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J Adolesc Health Care. 1990 Jan;11(1):76-81.

You are what you eat--what you eat is what you are.

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  • 1Tufts University School of Medicine, New England Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.


Eating disorders among adolescents in the United States constitute the most frequent nutritional problems in this age group, and their prevalence appears to be increasing. A causal relationship of television viewing to obesity is strongly suggested for children and adolescents. Perhaps as much as 25% of the recent increase in obesity among adolescents may be attributable to increases in television viewing. Associations between television viewing and anorexia and bulimia are less explicit than they are for obesity. Nonetheless, because children and adolescents spend more time viewing television than they do in any activity other than sleep, the world shown on television may acquire a greater reality than the world that is experienced. The low frequency of obesity among televised characters, combined with the frequent food-related references that are contained in both commercials and programming, may promote unrealistic conclusions regarding eating and body weight. Television reflects a cultural contradiction by promoting food consumption and leanness. In this context, bulimia may be viewed as an adaptive response, because only bulimics can eat everything they wish and remain thin.

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