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Body-image distortion predicts onset of unsafe weight-loss behaviors
Date:6/17/2010

ight adolescent girls in the U.S. whose body-mass index was less than the 85th percentile, Liechty compared the teens' actual, objective weight status with what they believed their weight status to be, and looked for discrepancies. If the teens perceived themselves to be overweight when they actually were not, the discrepancy was flagged as overestimation, or body-image distortion.

To examine how overestimation of weight status affected future weight-loss behaviors, Liechty employed logistic regression analysis to predict the onset of the three types of weight-loss behaviors one year later. She discovered that body-image distortion predicts the onset of dieting, and the onset of extreme and unsafe ways to lose weight.

"What this means is, a girl with a distorted body-image is at much greater risk for resorting to unsafe dieting and extreme weight-loss methods than a girl without body-image distortion, even if she doesn't need to lose weight," Liechty said.

This discovery highlights the importance of cultivating an accurate and positive body-image throughout the teenage years, and of being wary of dieting and extreme methods to lose weight among teens, which are somewhat of a trap, Liechty says.

"This study suggests that if otherwise healthy, non-overweight girls begin using a type of potentially unsafe weight-loss strategy, such as dieting or an extreme method, the odds that they will continue to use that method one year later increase from three to 11 times, " she said.

In other words, if a teen starts down a path of risky weight-loss practices, they're much more likely to continue using that method.

"It doesn't just fade away or stop all of a sudden," Liechty said. "That's why early detection of risk factors such as body-image distortion, and prevention of unnecessary dieting and unsafe weight-loss methods, is the key to pre-empting unhealthy behaviors. We need to educate girls and their parents that fad diets, quic
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Contact: Phil Ciciora
pciciora@illinois.edu
217-333-2177
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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