Adolescents who feel dissatisfied with their bodies are at higher risk for future binge eating, smoking, poor eating, and decreased physical activity, according to new research from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
A study published in the August 2006 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health found lower levels of body satisfaction among teenagers can predict the use of unhealthy weight control behaviors, which can lead to weight gain and poorer overall health.
Teenage girls who weren't satisfied with their bodies were more likely to binge eat, participate in less physical activity, eat less fruits and vegetables, take diet pills, and induce vomiting five years later. Adolescent boys with low body satisfaction were also more prone to these unhealthy habits and more likely to start smoking in the future. In contrast, teenagers with a positive body image were more likely to take care of themselves through healthy eating and exercise.
"This study shows that teens who have negative feelings about their bodies don't turn to healthy weight management," said Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., lead author and professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. "Instead, they use weight control behaviors that put them at a higher risk for obesity and poor health down the road. With this in mind, interventions with teens should strive to boost self-confidence so they will want to take care of themselves the right way."
Researchers conducted a longitudinal study of over 2,000 adolescents to examine changes in eating patterns and weight status after five years. Subjects completed two Project EAT: Eating Among Teens surveys one in 1999 and one in 2004 - to determine if those who reported low body satisfaction are at an increased risk for obesity and eating disorders.