Studies have shown that adolescence is a period which healthy or unhealthy eating habits develop. A cross sectional study I read showed how physical measurements and body perception related to eating habits, dieting to lose weight and skipping breakfast. The strongest risk factor to dieting was the perception of being overweight (Van Vliet et. al., 2016). Another key determinant was BMI in boys (Van Vliet et. al., 2016). Findings from a NHANES sample indicate that from 2013 – 2016, 37% of adolescents tried to lose weight. Boys made up 30.1% of that statistic (McDow et. al., 2019). Some ways in which adolescents tried to lose weight were skipping meals which made up 16% of the total adolescents polled (McDow et. al.,, 2019). According to GAIN health or the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, “The overall findings are worrying. Across the globe, adolescents do not eat enough fruits and vegetables and consume too much soda and fast food. The specific dietary challenges vary somewhat by region, income and type of food system, requiring specific attention by subgroup.
Unhealthy diets among adolescents, along with low physical activity, are contributing to the coexistence of undernutrition, overweight or obesity and noncommunicable diseases, which can harm adolescents now and in later life as well as the next generation” (gainhealth.org/media/news/unhealthy-adolescent-diets-unicef-report-wake-call, 2019)
Key Data Points: NHANES STUDY http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db340.htm
- The percentage of adolescents who tried to lose weight in the NHANES study between 2013-2016 increased by year
- There was no significant difference in percentages of boys and girls who tried to lose weight who were considered obese.
- Almost ½ of adolescent girls and 1/3 of adolescent boys are trying to lose weight according to the same study
- Among adolescents who tried to lose weight, most common methods were exercising and drinking a lot of water however 16% skipped meals to lose weight.
- According to GAIN, findings are worrying because “across the globe, adolescents do not eat enough fruits and vegetables and consume too much fast food and soda.”
The challenge of changing adolescent behavior should not be underestimated. It is a time in most people’s lives where the flow is against their better judgement. The issue with obesity and teenage weight insecurity is real. We are struggling to help them love their bodies and fill themselves with the healthiest foods in the face of poor self-esteem and a lot of fast-food options. We have learned that self-efficacy is critical in change. Feeling empowered and good about oneself and one’s decisions is critical for this age group. My workshops over zoom and motivational counseling will help them put the pieces together and build a plan that they can believe in and have social support for their journey toward a healthier way of life.
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