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

mikebaird/flickr

mikebaird/flickr

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?

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.