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Improving body satisfaction can help prevent eating disorders and obesity

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Overweight adolescent girls who feel better about their bodies are less likely to gain unhealthy weight or binge eat

May 8, 2012

Boston, Mass. – In a study that examined the relationship between body dissatisfaction, body mass index (BMI) and binge eating in overweight and obese adolescent girls, Kendrin R. Sonneville, ScD, RD, researcher at Boston Children’s Hospitaldiscovered that the less satisfied a girl is with her body, the more unhealthy weight she is likely to gain and the more likely she is to develop a pattern of binge eating.

The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity on May 8, looked at 1,559 overweight and obese girls over the span of 11 years, and observed individual body satisfaction, prevalence of binge eating and increased BMI annually from 1996-2001, and biennially from 2003-2007.

“Sometimes, disordered eating and obesity are thought of as different problems, but our findings show that they are intertwined,” says Sonneville. “Our results show that body satisfaction may be important in the prevention of both eating disorders and obesity.”

These findings confirm that body satisfaction decreases during adolescence: At the study’s start in 1996, 57 percent of the girls reported being somewhat satisfied with their bodies. In 2001, that number dropped to 47 percent. The study also found that binge eating is relatively common among overweight and obese adolescent girls. In 1996, 1.7 percent of the girls were binge eating weekly, and during the 11 years of follow up, an additional 9.5 percent of the group developed the behavior.

“Our study shows that overweight girls who like their bodies are less likely to gain unhealthy weight and provides a case for promoting body satisfaction across all body types.”

Contact:
Meghan Weber
Boston Children's Hospital
617-919-3110
meghan.weber@childrens.harvard.edu

Boston Children’s Hospital is home to the world’s largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since 1869. More than 1,100 scientists, including nine members of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 members of the Institute of Medicine and nine members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Boston Children’s research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Boston Children’s today is a 395 bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care grounded in the values of excellence in patient care and sensitivity to the complex needs and diversity of children and families. Boston Children’s also is the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. For more information about research and clinical innovation at Boston Children’s, visit: http://vectorblog.org.

The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
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