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Diet Problems & Girls

According to a report published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, parents who restricted the diets of young girls increased the likelihood that the girls would eat forbidden foods and then feel bad about having indulged.

Restricting girls’ access to foods may not only increase girls’ desire to obtain and consume those foods, but may set them up for negative self-evaluation as they find their behavior at odds with parental expectations,” write Drs. Jennifer Orlet Fisher and Leann Lipps Birch.

The investigators first asked parents of nearly 200 girls who ranged from about 5 years old to almost 7 whether they restricted their daughters’ access to popcorn, pretzels, nuts, cookies, ice cream and potato chips.

They then allowed the girls to snack on the foods, beginning the snack period immediately after lunch so girls would not feel hungry.

After 10 minutes of snacking, the researchers asked the girls to evaluate their eating. Half of the group said they ate too much and nearly as many said they felt bad about it. About one-third said they would feel bad if their parents found out about what they had eaten.

Girls whose parents were the most restrictive with food were more likely to eat the forbidden snacks and feel bad about it. Their feelings about eating were not determined by the amount of food consumed, but rather, by their perceptions that these foods were off-limits.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2001

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