Highlights of the September Journal of the American Dietetic Association

Dieting Practices among High School Students

A survey of 10th-grade students finds that 60 percent have made conscious efforts to lose weight. In response to the question "Have you ever tried to lose weight?" 36.5 percent of the boys said yes, compared with 73.6 percent of the girls.

The study, conducted by researchers at California State University Los Angeles, surveyed 146 students at a multiethnic, urban public high school ranging in age from 13 and 15. Of those who had tried various diets, 15 percent said they had attempted dieting by age 11; 84 percent had done so by age 14. Among girls who had tried dieting, 85 percent did so by age 13.

The researchers found more than 40 percent of the students who had tried dieting said they "consciously eat less" than they want to control their weight. Large majorities (74 percent of boys, 62 percent of girls) said they try to eat or purchase foods that are low in fat. Other common dieting practices include limiting portion sizes and counting calories.

"Approximately 44 percent of the students who have a dieting history reported using meal skipping to control their weight. However, research does not support meal skipping to be effective for weight loss," the researchers write.

"To many teens, looks are everything," said registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Cynthia Sass. "As their bodies develop, it's normal for high-schoolers to focus on their body image. But many teens have unrealistic notions about their own weight many more teens believe they are overweight than actually are. Unless a doctor advises it, the teen years are not a time for a weight-loss diet.

"Parents, teachers, health professionals and other adult role models can help adolescents and teens with their weight issues. The best approach is positive no nagging, forbidden foods or criticism. Understanding, love and support go a long way in helping teens and children cope with weight issues," Sas

Contact: Kelly Liebbe
American Dietetic Association

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