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Body Image in Pre-Adolescent Girls
Body Weight Preoccupation in Prepubertal Girls, Diet Habits
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Body Image in Pre-Adolescent Girls

Body Image Study Summary
Dieting is common behavior for girls as young as 10 years of age, according to a weight loss study by the University of Minnesota that suggest efforts to prevent eating disorders should not overlook pre-adolescents. Weight preoccupation in prepubertal girls is a concern because dieting at this age can impact growth and may increase risk for fatigue, irritability, low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders.

Body Image Study Method
Using data from a survey of Girl Scouts researchers measured the incidence of dieting in 234 Girl Scout troop members who were approximately 10 years old. The weight loss survey also queried girls about their exposure to various magazines and their awareness of the influence of the media. To gauge their internalization of sociocultural ideals, the Girls Scouts were asked if they agree with statements such as, "Pictures of thin girls and women make me wish I was thin."

Body Image Study Results
Nearly 30 percent of the girls reported trying to lose weight, the researchers found. Most of the dieters reported using healthy methods to lose weight, such as increasing their levels of exercise and decreasing their consumption of high-fat foods, but a small number of study participants (12) said they took diet pills, purged or took laxatives to lose weight. Although it is of concern that one-third of 10- and 11-year-old girls are dieting, it was encouraging that most reported engaging in healthy behaviors.

Body Image Study - Body Shape
Asked to describe how they felt about various parts of their bodies, the study participants tended to express the most dissatisfaction with their stomach, thighs and body weight, and they were most satisfied with their height, face and body shape. In terms of their internalization of sociocultural ideals, over 25 percent of the girls agreed that: "Pictures of thin girls and women make me wish I were thin" and "I wish I looked like a magazine model" while far more of the Girls Scouts, nearly 60 percent, agreed that: "I do not want to look like models in magazines."

Body Image Study Conclusion
Research is needed on why early dieting happens and how sociocultural ideals become internalized, according to the weight loss study.

Source: The American Journal of Health Promotion - a bimonthly peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the field of health promotion.

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