Eating Disorders Of The Young

In a new Early Show monthly series with Family Circle magazine, "The Family Circle" takes a close look at adolescents and eating disorders.

If you have a teenage daughter, there's a good chance she's concerned about body image -- even teens as young as 13 and 14 years old. While eating disorders are commonly seen as a women's disease, there is one boy for every four girls with anorexia.

College student Thomas Naughton has been battling his eating disorder for the last eight years. To feel like he is in control of his body, Naughton runs, literally, for his life.

The 21-year-old Naughton, a recovering anorexic, says running is how he controls his eating.

"I hate that I feel that I have to run," he says. "Because this is not over for me."

At 13 years old, Naughton was close to 200 pounds and the butt of school jokes. So, he secretly ate much less and exercised much more. By age 16, Naughton was 6-foot 2-inches tall and only 120 pounds.

"For someone who had been told that they didn't matter, you know, by my classmates, I mattered," says Naughton.

Hospitalized and once near death, Naughton's illness brought fear and confusion to one family member in particular.

"I really thought I could stop it by commanding him to stop," says Patricia, Thomas Naughton's mother. "It's an awful feeling of helplessness because you don't know what to do."

Thomas Naughton says there is a misconception that anorexia is a woman's disease.

The Early Show didn't see him eat, but food is very much a part of Naughton's life.

At his job, Naughton works as, of all things, a food server.

"It's easier for an anorexic to serve someone else because they're like, 'Well, as long as someone else is eating, it's okay,'" he says. "But, I won't have to eat."

Naughton says he fights anorexia everyday.

"I probably hate every single step that I take while running," he says. "But to not have to be in those hospitals and not have to have my parents worrying all the time. And not have to wear this anorexic badge on my sleeve is a real relief."

Four years ago, teenager Kristin Watt, was fighting back from her eating disorder when her health took a sudden turn for the worse. Kristin was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. She died of bulimia at the age of 14.

Stephanie Watt and Mike Watt, Kristin's parents, are scheduled to discuss the problem of eating disorders among young people.

Nancy Hughes Clark, the Deputy Editor of Family Circle magazine, also stopped by The Early Show to share some tips to help fight bulimia and anorexia.

To learn more about eating disorders, contact these organizations:

  • National Eating Disorders Association: NEDA is dedicated to
    providing support for families and advocating for research and education.
  • Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders: The ANRED Web
    site offers the latest information on eating disorders and treatments.
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders:
    ANAD is the oldest educational and self-help organization in the country.
  • Harvard Eating Disorder Center: HEDC is an academic research center that promotes study, education and public discourse about eating disorders.
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