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Teen Body Shape and Weight

Teenage Anxiety About Body Shape

When it comes to body weight and shape, teenagers are one of the most vulnerable groups. Studies show that many teens have a overpowering desire to look shapely and lean, but comparatively little knowledge of nutrition or health, and how these factors relate to weight and shape. As a result, they frequently resort to useless and/or harmful methods of weight reduction, methods that can significantly impact upon their health and weight in adulthood. But teens are not the only group that has worries about weight and shape. Here are some facts and research information across the different age groups.

Body Growth and Development During Teenage Years

During a 6-8 year period, from ages 12-18 years, adolescent girls experience dramatic changes in height, weight, bone composition and body fat distribution. Storage and deposition of fat occurs at a far greater rate in girls than in boys. In fact, boys usually lose body fat late in adolescence whereas girls store it as a natural part of their development. Each adolescent or teen experiences these changes at different rates, and it is only at the end of the growth spurt that a teenage girl can see how all these changes have altered her overall body shape.

Pre-Teen Concerns About Weight and Shape

Reports indicate that children as young as 5 years old are becoming concerned, even obsessed, with their weight and shape. Indeed, eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors are appearing in pre-teens and teens at an increasing rate. According to US estimates from The National Institute of Mental Health, between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of girls and women (i.e. 5-10 million people) and 1 million boys and men suffer from eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or other associated dietary conditions. Estimates suggest that as many as 15 percent of young women adopt unhealthy attitudes and eating patterns.

Dieting in Pre-Adolescent Girls

Dieting is becoming common behavior among pre-adolescent girls as young as 10 years of age, according to a study by the University of Minnesota. Using data from a survey of 234 Girl Scout troop members who were approximately 10 years old, the survey found that nearly 30 percent of the girls reported trying to lose weight.

Dissatisfaction With Body Weight and Shape Among Teenagers

In a sample of schoolgirls aged 15 years, of 420 subjects, 59 percent reported that they wanted to look leaner and 68 percent had previously tried to lose weight. This dissatisfaction with weight was not limited to overweight girls. Normal weight and even underweight girls also expressed a desire to be thinner and reported using unhealthy weight control methods including random avoidance of staple foods, fasting, smoking and purging, in their pursuit of the ‘perfect’ female figure.

How Many Post-Teens Are Happy With Their Shape?

According to recent research from the UK, a mere 1 percent of young UK women (aged 18-22) were “completely happy” with the shape of their body, while 10 percent admitted to taking drugs to try to achieve their ideal weight.

How Adults Perceive Their Weight and Body Shape

Research into body image by Kellogg’s Corporation reveals that women typically base their perception of their body shape on models and Hollywood stars, rather than on ordinary women. But according to research, models and film stars are 15-23 percent lower in weight and 5-6 inches taller than the ‘average’ American woman who is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 138 pounds. No wonder an estimated 95 percent of women have complaints about their weight and shape.

How to Improve Your Body Image

You may not be able to change your frame-size or body shape. You may even have difficulty dieting. But you CAN change your body image. For example:

  • Stop comparing yourself with models or film stars.
  • Stop focusing on the body areas you don’t like – look at ALL your body.
  • Get active – both physically and mentally. Busy, occupied people have less time to worry about body image and shape than those with time on their hands.
  • Appreciate the things you have, rather than focusing on the things you don’t have.
  • When trying to lose weight, have realistic weight-loss expectations and avoid diet products that promise “instant solutions”. There are no instant weight loss solutions this side of Venus.
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