Two new studies have just been released which shed light on some social and cultural causes for teen eating patterns. The first shows that teenage girls who thought of themselves as unpopular gained more weight over two years than teens who considered themselves well-liked. According to the Associated Press, "Those who rated themselves low in popularity were 69 percent more likely than other girls to increase their body mass index by two units, the equivalent of gaining about 11 excess pounds." Girls who considered themselves in the upper echelon socially only gained 6.5 pounds. Clea McNeely of the Johns Hopkins school of public health tells the AP, "[This study] has broader implications beyond weight gain...subjective social status is not just an uncomfortable experience you grow out of, but can have important health consequences." Tina Fey noted this unfortunate phenomenon when she wrote in Mean Girls, quote : "I don't hate you 'cause you're fat, you're fat because I hate you."
A second study from the University of Minnesota suggests that girls who eat dinner with their families are less likely to develop eating disorders. A press release about the study says, "Among teen girls, those who ate five or more meals with their families each week in 1999 were significantly less likely to report using extreme measures (such as self-induced vomiting and diuretics) to control their weight in 2004, regardless of their sociodemographic characteristics, body mass index or family connectedness."
It goes to show that immediate social factors — your friends and family — are just as important in the developing body image as cultural factors like vaunted size-0 celebrities. So tell the teen in your life that you love them, and then go eat dinner.