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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.


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.


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

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