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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Your column about teen fitness caught my attention. I am a high school sophomore who is involved in sports activities such as swimming, track/cross country and kickboxing. I have been struggling with anorexia and bulimia since my freshman year. It's a serious problem that society needs to address.

My purpose in writing is to thank you and Terrie, the woman whose letter you printed. It meant the world to me, and I'm sure it did to hundreds of other teens. Just knowing someone cared brought tears to my eyes.

If I could offer advice to teens suffering from this disease, it would be this: GET HELP. You are living in a dark, cold world that you shouldn't have to be in. If you can't talk to your parents, then reach out to someone else -- a teacher or school counselor. They're there to help.

Also, don't give up. When things seem at their worst, they can only get better. It helps to remember that there really are people who care and that you're not alone.

After coming to terms with my problem, I went to my mother, who put me into counseling right away. I was also taken to a nutritionist to learn about how to eat healthy. Only then did my recovery begin.

Thank you, Abby. Your column will be displayed in my room for a long time. It's given me strength to get through this. -- NEW JERSEY TEEN ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY

DEAR N.J. TEEN: I'm pleased you're recovering. Your letter is sure to raise awareness among other teen-agers. That's important, because our culture -- with help from the media -- tends to glamorize extreme thinness. It's a dangerous goal.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, one-third of all girls in grades 9 through 12 think that they are overweight, and 60 percent of them say they are trying to lose weight. Nearly half of all teen-age girls skip a meal to control their weight -- and between 3.6 percent and 12.9 percent of young women suffer from one of the three main eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia or binge-eating. Of all psychiatric disorders, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate -- 10 percent.

Starving is not a proper or effective way to lose weight. Teens who fail to get enough vitamins and minerals in their diet are setting themselves up for osteoporosis in their later years. The most effective way to practice sensible weight control is to talk to your physician or a registered dietitian about what constitutes a healthy, balanced diet; to realize that weight is not put on overnight and it's not lost overnight; and to establish a routine that includes moderate physical activity.

CONFIDENTIAL TO "MAD AT HIS MOM IN PITTSBURGH": "The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." (Submitted by David Broome)

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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