Young Girls Afraid To Gain Weight And Get Fat, Study Finds



A smart, health-conscious mom I know just drew the line: she’s going to stop reading “Grain Brain” — the compelling, controversial, potentially crazy-making new book that details the evils of carbs in general and grains in particular. She, and so many others, initially loved the book, which argues that carbs, even the whole grain variety, can “destroy” your brain and “cause demential, ADHA, anxiety” and more.

The problem, says this mom (beyond the what-can-I-possibly-pack-the-kids-for-lunch-with-no-grains dilemma), is that all the chatter about “bad foods” around her daughters might possibly increase their chances of developing an eating disorder.

This rang true to me as I came across this recent U.K. study on eating disorders in early adolescence.

Researchers from University College London Institute of Child Health and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that “six in 10 13-year-old girls, compared to four in 10 boys the same age, are afraid of gaining weight or getting fat.” And it got worse when the young teenage girls got a bit older, notes the report, published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The bottom line results, according to the study of more than 7,000 13-year-olds: “Extreme levels of fear of weight gain, avoidance of fattening foods, and distress about weight and shape were common among girls.”

Here’s more from the study, according to the news release:

•One in three girls (34%) and one in five boys (21%) were upset or distressed about weight and shape

•One in two girls (53%) and four in 10 boys (41%) avoided fatty foods

•A quarter of girls (26%) and one in seven boys (14.5%) had restricted their food intake (by fasting, skipping meals or throwing away food) in the previous three months

•Just over a quarter of girls (27%) and just under a quarter of boys (23%) had exercised to lose weight in the previous three months

•Girls and boys who were worried about their weight and shape and engaged in unhealthy weight-control strategies had 40% increased odds of being overweight and 90% higher odds of being obese at age 15

•Bingeing (excessive overeating with a feeling of losing control over what one is eating) affected girls (4.6%) and boys (5%) fairly equally and those who did binge had 50% increased odds of being overweight and had twofold increased odds of being obese at the age of 15

(And I suppose here’s the good news):

•Using laxatives and making oneself sick for weight loss was rare at this age in both girls (0.23%) and boys (0.16%)

Hello out there: Does anyone have any effective strategies to share? How do we help our daughters learn to make healthy food choices without making them crazy?

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  • Lesleya

    My younger sister is terrified of never acquiring “thigh gap”.

    • PCMacGuy49

      Gee, I had to go to Urban Dictionary to get the def for “thigh gap.” Is THIS the level of depravity we have sunk to? How about the intelligence gap? Oh, btw, my GQ gap is widening.

      • Lesleya

        Same here. When she first said it, I felt old, like I was out of the loop with the latest teen trend. But she’s 23, and she heard it from a 16-year-old girl. Personally, I agree – we should be more concerned about intelligence gap.

  • Luvinlife

    I’m a mother of 13 and 17yo girls. They are very aware of the obesity issue and I suppose I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Not eating fatty foods, skipping a meal to control caloric intake and excercise to work some off excess is bad?! I thought obesity was bad. Neither is overweight and neither obsesses, they are just aware of it and don’t want to be ‘fat’. They know eating junk all the time is bad, for their health and teeth. Maybe I’m a lazy mother, but I don’t push food on them, don’t have snacks waiting for them at prescribed intervals, never have. When they are hungry, they eat or wait for a meal. My oldest is in her 2nd year of schooling in So. America and has first hand exposure to the poor diets of Americans, her school there serves a full homemade healthy lunch every day that she loves, she wouldn’t touch her American HS lunch, but instead bought at the vending machines to avoid the terrible cafeteria choices. I don’t know…this article is misleading and backwards, IMO…more Americans should watch their weight, fat intake and be more active.