Extreme Teen Dieting Behaviors Carry Into Adulthood

Teens with eating and food issues, such as binge eating and anorexia, may be at higher risk of carrying these behaviors into adulthood, according to a new study. “The findings from the current study argue for early and ongoing efforts aimed at the prevention, early identification, and treatment of disordered eating behaviors in young people,” said Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., MPH, RD, professor at the School of Public Health, University of Minnesota and lead author of the study. The researchers looked at the dieting habits of over 2,000 men and women, ranging in age from 13 to 16, for a period of ten years. The participants were all in their middle to early twenties at the conclusion of the study.

At the end of the study, nearly half of the women and one quarter of the men reported that they had dieted within the past twelve months. Although there were variances in consistency of dieting, there was one common result in both men and women. Extreme dieting behaviors rose dramatically as the participants aged. The number of females using extreme weight control behaviors rose 12% as they aged, while the number of men increased by more than eight percent.

The study shows that extreme dieting and eating issues are not necessarily a temporary condition of adolescence. “Within clinical practices, dietitians and other health care providers should be asking about the use of these behaviors prior to adolescence, throughout adolescence, and into young adulthood,” said the researchers. “Given the growing concern about obesity, it is important to let young people know that dieting and disordered eating behaviors can be counterproductive to weight management. Young people concerned about their weight should be provided with support for healthful eating and physical activity behaviors that can be implemented on a long-term basis, and should be steered away from the use of unhealthy weight control practices.”

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Glad-iAtor


    June 28th, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    Hmm,I always thought this is a part of adolescence and goes away during the adult years in a person.But I think this finding has more to it than is obvious.What it could also mean is that all the stupid things we pick up in those years continue to travel with us even later on.I’m talking of things like stress,Aggression,obsession,drug abuse etcetera.

  • Pam


    June 28th, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    Sure is sad to think that kids this young are picking up these habits that they are then destined to carry into adulthood with them. Makes you wonder what images they are picking up on at such an early age to make them think that this is the road that they need to take in life.

  • Jamie


    June 29th, 2011 at 3:23 AM

    I think parents should try to find a certain balance between the two extreme cases because there are also children who are allowed to eat everything they wish and then they carry the habit of overeating into adulthood as well.

  • Eric.F


    June 29th, 2011 at 4:00 AM

    Controlling may be too mch but monitoring could yield better results when it comes to handling your young adults…I’ve been through all of this young person things not too long ago but now that I have my own child I know how a parent would feel…

  • Eugenia


    June 29th, 2011 at 4:41 AM

    I started dieting as a very young girl due in large part because I was always hearing from my mum what a fat cow I was, even as a young girl. You have to be so careful about the things that we say to our girls because I am a case in point of how words can completely bring down your self esteem and how this can then follow you all through life. It is horrible to think of the ways that I have beat myself up over the years because of the mean and cruel actions of someone else. Do you want this to happen to your child?

  • Lori Yates

    Lori Yates

    June 29th, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    Habits are hard to break and that also applies to eating disorders as well. A 13 year old can just as easily have an eating disorder that a 33 year old can have. The thing they have in common is that both of them should know better. We need to have better ways of catching this when they are young, not twenty years later!

  • benita


    June 30th, 2011 at 4:49 AM

    Do you think that this is more prevalent in one culture more than others? Have there been any studies that would prove or even imply this? It seems that certain cultures are mroe fixated on weight than others.

  • Y. Edmonds

    Y. Edmonds

    July 1st, 2011 at 9:13 PM

    You never grow out of any disorder. If it’s not detected and treated, it doesn’t go away, it gets worse because nobody is there to keep an eye on it. Nobody can successfully treat a disorder by themselves. You are not an expert, you are not a psychologist, you are not a chemist either.

    You’re a human being and you have flaws.

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