Bulimia isn’t a new illness that no one has ever heard of before. Katie Couric recently admitted to suffering from it in college. When a well-known television personality like the former “Today” co-host admits to something that is usually rarely talked about, it sheds a light on those average, everyday citizens that may also be experiencing an eating disorder like bulimia. Unfortunately, just having the word ‘bulimia’ in a headline next to Katie Couric’s name is not enough to help those dealing with the sickness.
Teens from all walks of life can suffer from eating disorders. Bulimia can plague wealthy and poor teens, it reaches into the homes of teens who play sports, those who work hard at academics or those who feel as if they don’t belong in any particular social group. Young adults often keep their eating habits a secret from those around them; family, friends, teachers and others are often clueless to the pain and stress the bulimic is suffering.
Here is some young adult literature that deals with the serious issue of bulimia. The Examiner hasn’t read these books, but suggests them as a way of understanding what a bulimic and those around them deal with everyday. These books are recommended for older teen readers, as the situations and language are not as appropriate for younger readers.
“Purge” by Sarah Darer Littman (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2010) Janie eats and then sticks her fingers down her throat. And she hates throwing up, but she doesn’t know why she does it. Maybe spending time at Golden Slopes among the Barfers and the Starvers will help her find out.
“Love Sick” by Jake Coburn (Speak, 2007) When Ted loses his basketball scholarship because he has an accident while driving drunk, he decides it’s time to deal with his alcoholism. Just when he has resigned himself to not attending college, a wealthy benefactor offers to pay Ted’s tuition in exchange for a favor. The man wants Ted to spy on and report on the man’s daughter, Erica. Erica is a bulimic and her father will go to any lengths to protect her.
“India” by Victoria Christopher Murray (Gallery Books, 2008) The Divas are a group of friends who are on their way to the top. They have just made it to the state level in a gospel music competition and they know they have what it takes. All of them except, India. She thinks the others just included her because she is their friend; she knows she is too fat to be on stage with the rest of the girls. How she deals with those feelings isn’t going to be the cure she thinks it is.
“Reasons to Be Happy” by Katrina Kittle (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2011) Katrina is in eighth grade and feels completely average compared to her actor parents and documentary-making aunt. As a way of dealing with her issues of inadequacy, she binges and purges. Not until she travels to Ghana with her aunt and learns she isn’t the only family member who has had an eating disorder, does she begin to find ways of dealing with her bulimia.
“Nothing” by Robin Friedman (Flux, 2008) No matter what Parker does, it isn’t good enough for his father; there are plenty of things he does wrong, according to his dad. Getting a C on a quiz, dating a non-Jewish girl, or dropping an extracurricular activity so he has more time to study with hopes of getting into Harvard, Yale or Princeton are all reasons for his dad to read him the riot act. Everyone is so busy pushing Parker to succeed that no one sees he has a serious problem. Only his younger sister Danielle seems to notice that Parker isn’t the older brother he used to be. Breath mints aren’t going to hide his problem for much longer.
While the San Francisco Children’s Fiction Examiner suggests the following books about bulimia for teen readers, she also knows reading the fictional story of someone else with an eating disorder is not the real help families living with bulimia need. It could be the catalyst, however, to start a dialogue about healthy eating habits and positive ways of dealing with stress and other difficult situations. Knowing that even celebrities like Katie Couric and Demi Lovato have suffered from an eating disorder can make admitting it to a parent or friend a bit easier.
To find help with eating disorders, contact your personal health care provider, a school counselor or a trusted spiritual leader.
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