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Paediatr Child Health. 2008 Feb;13(2):105-10.

'I want to lose weight': Early risk for disordered eating?

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  • 1Eating Disorder Clinic, Maritime Psychiatry, IWK Health Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Abstract

The present study examined the risk of disordered eating and its relation to attempts to lose weight by surveying a Maritime Canadian sample of 247 girls and boys in grades 6, 7 and 8. Current attempts to lose weight were highest in grade 8 girls (41% of girls and 9% of boys) compared with grade 6 (14% of girls and 24% of boys) and grade 7 (21% of girls and 13% of boys) children. Of those trying to lose weight, 71.4% were in the average range for weight and height, 12.2% were overweight and 16.3% were obese. The Children's version of the Eating Attitudes Test (ChEAT) was used to assess eating attitudes and behaviours, and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale was used as a measure of self-esteem. The results showed that 8.5% of the children fell in the high-risk group for disordered eating (ChEAT score 20 or higher). Those in the high-risk group were significantly more likely to fear being overweight (90%), to have tried to lose weight in the past (81%), to be currently trying to lose weight (76%), and to have engaged in binge eating (38%) and self-induced vomiting (24%). The best predictor of membership in the high-risk group for girls was current attempts at weight loss and having lower self-esteem. Only two boys fell in the high-risk group. Body mass index and current weight category (underweight, average, overweight and obese) could not explain the differences between the low- and high-risk groups. Knowing that a child is trying to lose weight can aid in identifying youth at risk for disordered eating, and can provide an opportunity for preventive education.

KEYWORDS:

Adolescence; Dieting; Eating disorders; Obesity; Prevention; Risk

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