Half of teen girls think they're fat

Nov. 15, 2001 at 2:51 PM
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ANN ARBOR, Mich., Nov. 15 (UPI) -- A University of Michigan survey indicates half of teenage girls think they're overweight.

Only 14 percent of participants said they were happy with their body size and shape.

The survey, released Thursday, was conducted by U-M's SmartGirl.org Web site.

Fifty-eight percent of the 737 girls and eight boys between 11 and 19 who responded said they thought they should lose weight.

"We know that obsession with weight loss and dissatisfaction with body image are common among American women, both college-age and older, but it's very sad to see those same trends show up in this survey," said Alison Brzenchek, a health education coordinator for the University Health Service and a specialist in eating disorders.

"These young girls, many of whom aren't even women yet, are already going down the same road, buying into the same diet mentality, as their elders."

Sixty-three percent of respondents said they diet, with 43 percent saying they diet for themselves, 16 because of exposure to media images, 5 percent because of the influence of friends and 4 percent because of family influence. Twenty-four percent said they have purchased diet pills.

Only 1 percent admitted engaging in binging and purging but nearly half said they knew someone with an eating disorder.

Asked what they think causes girls to develop eating disorders, 30 percent blamed family and peers; 30 percent, pressure from media images; 23 percent, poor self-image, and 6 percent, psychological problems or the need for control.

Brzenchek said the responses were similar to those given by college-age women though the older women put media first and pressure -- usually from men -- second.

Tiffany Marra, who manages the Web site, said only 30 percent of respondents felt models reflect unrealistic body types and 70 percent said they were realistic.

"The results show that this group is more likely to be unhappy with their own bodies," she said.

Brzenchek said schools need to help young women focus on something other than weight.

"We need to get young people to think about food in terms of its nutritional value, not in terms of calories and weight loss," she said.

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