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Over the years, the number of teens who worry about dieting are increasing. Social media played a huge factor. Fitness and weight-loss regimens and products are heavily marketed. Numerous public health campaigns that aim to combat obesity are also at play.
With the influx of propaganda about losing weight and dieting, teenagers’ mental health is at risk of deteriorating. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics shows that teenagers born between 2000-2002, often called Generation Z, show more inclination to worrying about their weight and diet as compared
Three Population Groups Across Different Years
The study involves multiple data sets taken over the years. It gathered data from 22,503 young adolescents who are divided across three population cohorts in the UK. The first group includes those who were born in 1970, the second is for 1991-1992, and the third is 2000-2002.
The participants were around 14-16 during 1986, 2005, and 2016 and took part in studies that revolve around behaviors and perception on weight loss.
The study participants were asked multiple questions and filled out surveys to assess their behaviors and perception of weight loss and dieting. As compared to the data taken from the first two groups, the Gen Z teens showed a higher number of negative weight perception.
Diet and Weight Loss Misconceptions Affect Mental Health
Many believe they are overweight and more teens born in this population group tried diets and exercise to lose weight. In terms of dieting and exercising for weight loss, participants in 2016 showed 44% and 60% while those from 1986 are only at 38% and 7%.
According to UCL Psychiatry’s Dr. Francesca Solmi, lead author of the study, “Our findings show how the way we talk about weight, health, and appearance can have profound impacts on young people’s mental health, and efforts to tackle rising obesity rates may have unintended consequences.”
Dr. Solmi explained that unintended harm may be caused by certain factors. Such include the media portrayal of being thin, the booming industry of fitness, and the rise of social media.
The weight stigma pressures anyone to lose weight. This can be linked to body dissatisfaction. Even the public health campaigns on calorie restriction and exercise do more harm than good, especially for Gen Z teenagers. The majority of the campaigns nowadays mainly focus on weight loss as a means to fight obesity.
Multiple studies prove that dieting alone is ineffective when trying to achieve a long-term effect on weight loss. Obesity does not rely only on diet and exercise, as socio-economic factors are also involved. The pressure to lose weight can lead to body dissatisfaction and eating disorders.
Mental Health Is as Important as Physical Health
Having misconceptions about the effects of diet and exercise doesn’t only affect physical health. It also takes a toll on mental health. Regardless of BMI, the results of the study show that some negative behaviors and perceptions are related to weight loss and dieting.
What needs to be done is to promote ways of achieving good mental health alongside physical health. By promoting the right mindset and veering away from massive weight loss propaganda, anyone can be on the road to a healthy lifestyle.