There are healthy ways to lose weight, and there are ways that are dangerous. Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, fall into the second category. The vast majority of people affected by these eating disorders are adolescent and young adult women. Males and older women can also develop eating disorders, but young women are often the most influenced by idealistic—and generally unachievable—standards of beauty. In a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of the high school girls surveyed thought they were overweight. That compares to 15% of the boys who answered the same way.
According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 1% of adolescent girls develop anorexia nervosa, and another 2% to 3% develop bulimia nervosa. As girls approach adulthood, the numbers increase. Studies indicate that by the time they reach college, somewhere between 4.5 to 18 percent of women have a history of bulimia. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that about 9,000 people admitted to hospitals were diagnosed with bulimia in 1994 and about 8,000 were diagnosed with anorexia. Males account for from 5% to 10% of bulimia and anorexia cases. While people of all races develop the disorders, the vast majority of those diagnosed are white.