PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Eating Disorders: Stephen's Problem

Mike totally looks up to his older brother Stephen. Stephen is in high school and the star varsity wrestler. Mike goes to every match to cheer his brother on from the bleachers. Sometimes, Stephen even invites him to go out to eat with the rest of the team after a big match. Mike notices that Stephen eats A LOT at these meals. One time he even saw him scarf a whole pizza all by himself! When Mike asks him about it, Stephen explains that because there are weight requirements for his team, he has to starve himself for a few days before each match and exercise like crazy to sweat out the calories. By the time the match is over, he's ready for a serious pig-out. He says that lots of his teammates do it too, and it's no big deal. They're all very serious athletes and they push themselves to do whatever they need to for the team.

Mike respects his brother's dedication, but he also worries that this behavior is not as normal as Stephen is making it sound. He remembers reading about three college wrestlers who died from kidney failure and heart problems because they were trying to lose too much weight too quickly. Mike's heard of eating disorders before, but he's confused. Aren't eating disorders for girls? His brother is a strong, popular athlete. Could he actually have a problem?

Mike is right to be worried about his brother. Even though eating disorders are traditionally associated with girls, the truth is that these illnesses affect girls and boys. About 10% (that's 1 in 10) of all eating disorder cases are male. Athletes like Stephen are at a greater risk because their sport requires them to be a certain weight. Stephen's cycle of starvation, over-exercise, and bingeing are putting a strain on his body that could have deadly results.

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