Monday, November 29, 1999

False body-image may cause unsafe weight-loss behaviour

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Washington, June 18 (IANS) Normal weight and underweight teenaged girls who falsely believe they are overweight are at a high risk of unsafe weight-loss behaviour, says a new study.Childhood obesity is an important public health concern, but if the emphasis is only on children who are overweight, signs of body-image distress among normal weight kids could be overlooked, said Janet M. Liechty, professor of social work and of medicine, University of Illinois.If left unaddressed, those problems could eventually translate into unhealthy weight-loss behaviour, disordered eating and future weight problems.'Usually, teens and their parents only get weight-related feedback from the doctor when the child is overweight. But kids of any weight can struggle with body-image and poor body-image can negatively affect medical outcomes in ways we often don't recognise,' she said.According to Liechty, body-image distortion, instead of the more commonly used measure of body dissatisfaction, may be a better screening tool to help identify such non-overweight girls.'Body-image distortion is something we can begin to screen for to identify teens at risk for unsafe weight-loss behaviour,' she said, according to a University of Illinois release.'It appears to be a more discriminating indicator of distress than body dissatisfaction, but it's not something that's typically screened for by healthcare providers.'Liechty's research, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, examined the relationship between body-image distortion and three types of weight-loss behaviour - exercise, dieting, and extreme ways of losing weight such as laxatives, diet pills and purging.It was based on a sample of more than 5,000 non-overweight adolescent girls in the US.

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