Study: Girls’ Self Image May Affect Future Weight

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“Where a teenage girl finds herself on the social ladder during her school years” can determine her weight gain proximity in the future. Over 4000 girls, average age of fifteen, were studied over a two year period. Where they saw themselves ranked among their peers was a determinate factor in weight gain. Although all teenage girls in the study naturally gained some weight over a period of years, girls that thought themselves to be less popular among their peers were 69% more likely to increase their body mass index by 2 units (11 excessive/ unnecessary pounds). Conversely, girls who found themselves to rank higher in popularity also gained weight, but only about 6 ½ pounds.

One limitation to the study was that data collected by the researchers was from ‘self-reports” of changes in height and weight, rather than reporting to a physician for documentation. Before collecting data for the study, the researchers took in to account the participant’s weight, BMI, diet, household income, race/ethnicity, and whether or not they had reached puberty.

All the teenagers were asked the same questions; for instance, “Where would you place yourself on the ladder?” The ladder represented a social scale from 1-10, 10 being the highest and associated with the most respect from peers and 1 being the lowest. 4, 264 girls ranked themslves 5 or higher on the ladder, while 182 said they were 4 or below on the ladder.

The study reflected that teenage girls are sensitive and easily affected by their social environments, possibly affecting physical health and or mental health. Adina Lemeshow, who began the study as a Harvard School of Public Health graduate student, stated, “How girls feel about themselves should be part of all obesity- prevention strategies.” Clea McNeely of John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health called the study strong and stated, “Subjective social status is not just an uncomfortable experience you grow out of, but can have important health consequences.” McNeely went on to state that adults are still the most influential role models in the lives of teenage girls.

I believe, as women, it is our job to be examples throughout the lives of these young girls. Respect is not outdated; it is time tested and key to fostering relationships that will increase trust and affect change.

Click here to read an article from CNN that discusses the study

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