Feeling ‘too fat’ rather than being ‘too fat’ increases unhealthy eating habits among adolescents - even in boys
Background: Adolescence is a period of gender-specific physical changes, during which eating habits develop. To better understand what factors determine unhealthy eating habits such as dieting to lose weight, skipping meals, and consumption of unhealthy foods, we studied how physical measurements and body perception relate to eating habits in boys and girls, before and during adolescence.
Methods: For this cross-sectional study, we obtained data from both written questionnaires and physical measurements of height, weight, and waist circumference (WC).
Results: Dieting to lose weight and skipping breakfast were more common among adolescents than among younger boys and girls (p<0.05). The strongest risk factor for dieting in both boys and girls was perception of overweight, which persisted after adjusting for age and for being overweight (p<0.01). Another independent risk factor for dieting behaviour was overweight, as defined by body mass index (BMI) among boys (p<0.01) and WC among girls (p<0.05). In both boys and girls, skipping breakfast was associated with both a more negative body perception and higher BMI (p<0.05). Skipping breakfast was also associated with age- and gender-specific unhealthy eating habits such as skipping other meals, lower consumption of fruits and vegetables, and higher consumption of sweets and sugary drinks (p<0.05).
Conclusion: Body perception among adolescents is an important factor relating to unhealthy eating habits, not only in girls, but even in boys. Focus on body perception and eating breakfast daily is crucial for the development of healthy food consumption behaviours during adolescence and tracking into adulthood.
Keywords: body image; overweight; adolescent behaviour; food habits; prevention
(Published: 16 February 2016)
Citation: Food & Nutrition Research 2016, 60: 29530 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v60.29530
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Authors retain copyright of their work, with first publication rights granted to SNF Swedish Nutrition Foundation.