Social Standing, Familial Relationshps Affect Weight Of Teenage Girls

Illustration for article titled Social Standing, Familial Relationshps Affect Weight Of Teenage Girls

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."

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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.

Study: Girls' Self-Image May Affect Future Weight [AP via CNN]
Disordered Eating Less Common Among Teen Girls Who Regularly Eat Family Meals [EurekAlert]

DISCUSSION

mehblahpfft
MehBlahPfft

@LipService: ... is this my sister? Ha! Seriously, you hit the nail right on the head. I actually see this happening right now with my mom and sister. Food is comfort and love, my mom sees my sister's rejection of food (or, in fact, any modification to diet) to be a rejection of love and of her own ability to love her children effectively. I think this is cultural.

This is excacerbated by my mom's own body issues growing up. My grandparents were the two most beautiful people on earth and, growing up trying to assimilate to the thin, Hollywood, American ideal, they put a lot of pressure on their (already beautiful) children to STAY beautiful. (My grandfather would actually make comments like "You know, you don't have to FINISH the ice cream." up until I lost a lot of weight a couple years ago.) Couple that with their continued propensity to feed their kids ad nasum as a cultural display of love and you've got a scene READY for body image and disfunction. Both their girls had eating disorders.

So, for me, growing up, my mom saw this, and went WAY far on the other end of the spectrum. My mom was actually (in this and many other ways) COMPLETELY amazing in that she always made us kids feel beautiful and loved and, from the time I was a LITTLE girl would assure me that Hollywood models "didn't look that way without make up or airbrushing" and "starved themselves to be thin and it's not healthy."

So, yeah, the issue definitely wasn't body, it was food... which of course, directly RESULT in body shape in most cases so once you move beyond the safe enclave of home is where the fun begins...