Is It Bad for Overweight Girls to Like Their Bodies?

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
November/December 2006 Volume 17, Number 6
©2006 Gürze Books

Based on anecdotal research, some investigators have suggested that some degree of body dissatisfaction might motivate overweight individuals to change unhealthy eating behaviors. That is, being unhappy about their shape or weight might lead to healthier eating behaviors. Patricia van den Berg, PhD, of the University of Minnesota, reported a very different result in her study of 187 overweight girls followed over 5 years. The girls were enrolled in Project EAT, a population-based study of eating and physical activity among a large, ethnically diverse group of teens. The primary outcome measure in this study was body mass index (BMI) at follow-up 5 years later. Dr. van den Berg reported that when the investigators re-interviewed the 187 girls 5 years later, body dissatisfaction was a significant positive predictor of the girls’ current BMI. Dr. van den Berg urged clinicians working with teens to avoid any techniques that stress body dissatisfaction as a means of increasing healthy eating and activity. Dr. van den Berg presented her findings at the recent International Conference on Eating Disorders in Barcelona, Spain.

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