Healthy body image protects against weight gain in teens

21 May 2021

A two-year study of 1225 Norwegians in early adolescence found that positive ‘self-rated health’ and self-esteem protected them against weight gain.

The study, published in BMC Public Health, also found that girls generally had lower body confidence than boys.

The researchers found that teenagers’ body and weight concerns impaired self-rated health and self-esteem. The impact on the latter was particularly strong among girls. Paradoxically, the intention of becoming thinner was associated with an increase in body mass index (BMI), while the intention of becoming ‘fatter’ predicted a decrease in BMI.

Positive self-rated health and self-esteem were both associated with a leaner body after two years, and self-rated health was also associated with a beneficial BMI change over the two years.

Lead author Professor Eivind Meland said: ‘We conclude that health promotive efforts in adolescence should be based on self- and body acceptance.’

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