Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Weight loss won't necessarily help teen girls' self-esteem

Date:
March 22, 2012
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
Obese white teenage girls who lose weight may benefit physically, but the weight change does not guarantee they are going to feel better about themselves, according to a new study.

Obese white teenage girls who lose weight may benefit physically, but the weight change does not guarantee they are going to feel better about themselves, according to a Purdue University study.

"We found that obese black and white teenage girls who transitioned out of obesity continued to see themselves as fat, despite changes in their relative body mass," said Sarah A. Mustillo, an associate professor of sociology who studies obesity in childhood and adolescence. "Further, obese white girls had lower self-esteem than their normal-weight peers and their self-esteem remained flat even as they transitioned out of obesity."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 17 percent of American children ages 2-19 are obese.

"If the current national movement to end childhood obesity is successful, we can anticipate many young people moving from obese into the normal weight range, which will result in better physical health," Mustillo said. "I wanted to know if the same thing would happen for psychological health. Girls often struggle with self-esteem anyway during adolescence and, therefore, it is troubling to find that the negative effects of larger body size can outlive the obesity itself."

The study, based on data from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study, is in the current issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. The health and weight of more than 2,000 black and white girls was followed for 10 years starting at ages 9 to 10 as part of the national study. For this study, the girls were separated into one of three groups -- normal weight, transitioned out of obesity and chronically obese -- based on their body mass trends during the 10-year period.

There was a difference in self-esteem levels between races. Self-esteem for black girls transitioning from the obese to the normal range did rebound; however, both races continued to have negative body perceptions.

"The self-esteem for black girls was lower overall to begin with, but for those who moved into the normal weight range, self-esteem increased more than it did for any other group of girls," Mustillo said. "We would like to look at this at more closely to understand how subcultural norms influence this process.

"We did not show that self-esteem stayed flat because girls continued to see themselves as heavy, but just that they happened at the same time," she said. "Even so, providing mental health assistance during the weight loss process could be a benefit. Understanding and addressing body image, identity and self-esteem issues could ultimately help keep the weight off. Why keep dieting and exercising if you are still going to see yourself as fat?"

More research is needed to understand why girls feel this way, but Mustillo, who focuses on the trajectories of obesity in adolescence, said the feeling of lesser self-worth might be difficult to shake because society is full of negative stereotypes and messages about obesity.

"Studies show that children internalize stereotypes and negative perceptions of obese people before they ever become obese themselves, so when they do enter that stigmatized state, it affects their sense of self-worth," she said. "Then, whether they are gaining or losing weight, the negative message they have internalized and feelings of worthless may stick with them."

Another aspect of this study to consider is that the data set used is from the 1980s and '90s, and doesn't reflect today's higher obesity rates.

"Obesity is more common today than it was 10 to 20 years ago, so perhaps it is becoming less stigmatized," she said. "Or, will the increase of anti-obesity campaigns counteract any greater acceptance?"

Mustillo is continuing to study this issue by identifying the specific vulnerable periods in adolescence when the stigma of obesity affects young people's mental health more. Her work is supported by Purdue's Department of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts. Her co-authors are Kimber L. Hendrix, a Purdue doctoral student in sociology, and Markus H. Shaffer, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Purdue University. The original article was written by Amy Patterson Neubert. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. A. Mustillo, K. L. Hendrix, M. H. Schafer. Trajectories of Body Mass and Self-Concept in Black and White Girls: The Lingering Effects of Stigma. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 2012; 53 (1): 2 DOI: 10.1177/0022146511419205

Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "Weight loss won't necessarily help teen girls' self-esteem." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120322113521.htm>.
Purdue University. (2012, March 22). Weight loss won't necessarily help teen girls' self-esteem. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120322113521.htm
Purdue University. "Weight loss won't necessarily help teen girls' self-esteem." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120322113521.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Aimed at reducing sexual assaults on college campuses, California has adopted a new law changing the standard of consent for sexual activity. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Researchers looked at 1,500 blood samples and determined people who developed pancreatic cancer had more branched chain amino acids. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins