It basically says how the prominence of the fight against obesity in the media is putting younger girls at risk for disordered thinking and eating. I always thought of this prominence as a good thing, a way to nail some healthy ideas into overweight/obese peoples' heads. But at the same time, I don't want 12 year old, healthy weight girls to feel they have to diet... Anyone else feel that some of these subjects should be censored from them for this reason?
Anti-obesity talk may have unintended effect on dieting girls: psychologist
Last Updated Mon, 10 May 2004 21:30:36 EDT
TORONTO - The pervasive anti-obesity message may be partly to blame for young girls' obsession with weight and body image, according to new research on the prevalence of dieting among Canadian girls.
Researchers surveyed 2,279 girls in southern Ontario between the ages of 10 and 14. In Tuesday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, they reported girls as young as 10 are dieting to lose weight:
Dr. Gail McVey
* 29.3 per cent of those surveyed said they were trying to lose weight.
* 10.5 per cent gave answers that indicated they were at risk of an eating disorder.
* About 78.4 per cent of the girls fell within the recommended weight range for their height and age, with 14.4 per cent falling below.
* INDEPTH: Obesity
Just over seven per cent of the girls in the study were overweight or obese. The national average suggests 35 to 40 per cent of kids are considered overweight, according to the Canadian Pediatric Society.
Previous studies into body image and unhealthy dieting tended to focus on girls over the age of 15.
Study author Gail McVey said she is concerned about the potential effect of well-meaning anti-obesity messages as well as media images of thin stars and models.
"If they hear messages about 'be careful about childhood obesity, you'd better lower your food intake or your fat intake' then is that not going to make children preoccupied with their weight and shape?" said McVey, a psychologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
At an elementary school in Halifax, one group of friends has learned about the risks of extreme dieting.
"One of my friends, they were talking about going on a diet," said 12-year-old Bryanna Madden. "I told them, if they went too extreme, they could die."
McVey said the word "diet" shouldn't even come up for children, who she thinks are under more pressure to attain an ideal body shape today than in previous generations.
"I'm not certain that losing weight is the number 1 recommendation," said McVey. "Especially for children because they are growing and it's important for them to follow normal growth patterns."
As chief of pediatrics at North York General Hospital, Dr. Glenn Berall has seen childhood obesity rates skyrocket. Berall agreed eating disorders are a concern, but said obesity will have a greater health impact in the long run, such as an increased risk for heart disease.
"If you have a situation with medical risk factors, you can't just ignore that," said Berall. "The message is you need to be become healthier in your eating and your activity."
Both professionals agreed healthy living is the sensible approach for childhood obesity.