Section 5: Weight and Dietary Behaviors
BackgroundNational data show that obesity is increasing among adolescents. Obesity acquired during childhood often persists into adulthood, increasing the later risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease8. In addition, obesity can cause social and psychological stress to children and adolescents9.
Adolescent girls may develop eating disorders. An overemphasis on thinness may also be unhealthy.
To avoid problems of obesity and eating disorders, healthy eating habits should be encouraged among adolescents. Current dietary guidelines include increasing consumption of breads, grains and cereals; eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day and maintaining a healthy weight10.
Description of Weight
About one-third of middle school girls describe themselves as overweight. Girls are slightly more likely than boys to describe themselves as overweight and boys are more likely to describe themselves as underweight or of normal weight.
Trying to Lose Weight
Although 34.0% of girls describe themselves as overweight, 57.8% are trying to lose weight. The difference between perception of being overweight (22.5%) and trying to lose weight (31.4%) is not as dramatic among the boys.
Methods To Lose or Keep from Gaining Weight
The most common methods ever used by middle school students to lose or keep from gaining weight are exercise and dieting. About 12% of middle school girls have vomited or used laxatives for weight loss and about 15% have used diet pills.
Seventy-five percent of students report eating at least one serving of fruit and fruit juice on the previous day. About half report eating cooked vegetables on the previous day. Boys are more likely than girls to report eating hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and desserts (cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pie).