A new study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and the department of family medicine and community health suggests high body satisfaction among overweight adolescents was not harmful in terms of weight control over a 10-year period. Furthermore, high body satisfaction among overweight girls was associated with less weight gain over time compared to girls with very low body satisfaction.
The findings published in the Journal of Adolescent Health utilized data from 496 participants of the School of Public Health’s Project EAT (Eating and Activity Among Teens), a large cohort health survey of adolescents and young adults. Over the course of this 10-year longitudinal survey, researchers examined change in body mass index (BMI) within a group of overweight adolescents. They then looked to see how change in BMI over this 10-year follow-up period differed based on the adolescent’s level of body satisfaction at baseline.
According to the study, overweight girls with the lowest body satisfaction at baseline had a nearly three-unit greater increase in BMI at follow-up, compared to overweight girls in the high body satisfaction group. This means, for example, that a young women with a BMI of 26 at baseline and high body satisfaction, was found to have, on average, a BMI of 29 at follow-up. On the other hand, a young woman with the same BMI (26) accompanied by very low body satisfaction at baseline was found to have, on average, a BMI of 32 at follow-up.
Researchers stress that it is crucial for parents of teenagers, as well as educators and clinicians working with overweight adolescent girls, to understand the importance of a positive body image for the overall physical and psycho-social health of young people.