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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Starving for affection

Eating disorders endanger youngsters who try to measure their worth by media models

Bethany Johnson reminds herself daily that her body is a temple and God wants her to care for it. That helps her eat a balanced diet and exercise. But Johnson didn't always see or treat her body that way. The 32-year-old used to starve herself.

"A lot of it had to do with my self-esteem," says Johnson, a lifelong Lutheran and daughter of a pastor. "I thought I had to be thin to be attractive, and thin wasn't thin enough."

Johnson is one of millions of people in the United States who develop eating disorders each year. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 90 percent are young women. The institute reports that 1 percent of adolescent girls develop anorexia, which includes self-starvation; and another 2 to 3 percent develop bulimia, where eating is followed by vomiting or other purging methods. Due to starvation, cardiac arrest or suicide, one in 10 eating disorder cases ends in death.


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