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Size Doesn’t Matter October 2, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Human Body, Nutrition and Health, Obesity, Psychology and Behavior, Think About It.
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When it comes to teen issues with weight – heavy or thin – size doesn’t matter. At least, it doesn’t matter as much as you might think. Whether teens are overweight or not, they are struggling with unhealthy ideas and behaviors around their size. While it was once thought that skinnier teens were more likely to have these issues, it seems that weight issues are affecting a broader range of teens today.

Worrying Results

An interesting new study was led by Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, who is a professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The study can be seen in the Journal of Preventative Medicine; it looked at 2500 teens over the course of five years. What did the study show? It found that 44 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys were overweight, regular binge eaters or had utilized unhealthy measures to lose weight. These unhealthy tactics included laxative use, vomiting or taking diet pills.

Making It Worse

One really upsetting result that I read about in the study was that girls who were teased about their weight by a family member were twice as likely to be overweight five years later – toward the end of the study. They were also 41 percent more likely to engage in unhealthy weight loss strategies. Other stuff that put girls at risk for these behaviors around their weight included having a mother who dieted or reading magazine articles that advise on how to lose weight.

The Good Stuff

One study finding that I found really cool was that girls who ate meals with their families and did so regularly, were less likely to have weight issues. They also described the mealtimes as an overall positive and enjoyable experience.

What About The Boys?

Behaviors such as binge eating and dieting were less common among the boys, but there were still as many overweight boys as girls. When weight problems do occur, they tend to result from similar factors that influence the girls. Things like being teased about weight – especially by family members – really affected both boys and girls.

Family Teasing

One area that the study stressed was how family teasing has such a detrimental effect on self image for teens. I guess it’s maybe more hurtful when a family member does the teasing because your family is meant to love and support you as well as unconditionally accept you as a person. It’s not that the teasing itself had malicious intent. Neumark-Sztainer actually addressed this point, saying that family members:

just don’t realize how hurtful it is.

A better alternative is for parents and other family members to set a good example by engaging in healthy eating habits along with positive lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise. You might even have a sibling who looks up to you and can benefit from you showing them how to eat healthy. This means that instead of talking about weight loss, the best example is one that involves action! So get to it!

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