Interpersonal Therapy Shows Promise for Preventing Obesity in Girls

Pressure to stay thin while growing up has been significant for many years, as the fashion and beauty industries project images of notably thin women and other media portrayals of beauty suggest that a wraith-like appearance is most desirable. But as waistlines across the country have been steadily increasing, the pressure to keep weight away is doubtless becoming even greater as girls are warned by parents and doctors about the health issues associated with obesity. Taking a mental health-based approach may be a more positive way to teach girls about healthy eating habits, a study recently produced by the National Institutes of Health suggests.

Though the study worked with a group of less than 40 participants, girls were split among those who received interpersonal therapy sessions and those who were given basic health educational courses. While all of the participants showed positive results in terms of weight loss, those who had been involved in the interpersonal therapy groups exhibited a higher success rate. During these therapy sessions, which were held over the course of a year while eating habits were recorded, the girls were encouraged to examine their relationships and how various social and other influences had an effect on their desire to eat.

As mental health concerns and fluctuations in weight are sometimes closely linked, this type of therapy may hold substantial promise for young people struggling to understand health and self-image in a media-driven environment. Through establishing a positive exploration and understanding of the self as well as providing support for potential binge eating and other undesirable behaviors, interpersonal therapy for obesity prevention may improve the lives of adolescent girls both inside and out.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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

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  • elizabeth


    December 27th, 2009 at 2:04 AM

    Pre-tten and teenage kids need all the advice and guidance they can get and it is no surprise that those who got ample of it with a scientific approach benefitted to a greater degree.

  • Damien


    December 27th, 2009 at 2:25 AM

    Peope under depression tend to have bad eating habits and this needs to be taken care of as a part of the health plans at schools.

  • Meg


    December 27th, 2009 at 6:16 AM

    It is never just about the food- these girls are trying to mask their real feelings and they are doing this by gorging themselves on unhealthy food options. I am not sure that I understand where this need to cover comes from but then I look at it rationally and realize that my own need for a smoke every now and then is the same thing. It is just that the damage that I am doing is on in the inside and these girls wear those on the outside for all to see.

  • fiona


    December 28th, 2009 at 2:07 AM

    well, it is true that guiding someone through a path is far better than just directing them, and it is the same here. Just giving a plan is not enough, especially for young adults. It is important to guide them through it, helping them and keeping their focus on the plan.

  • Charlotte


    December 28th, 2009 at 12:01 PM

    Until girls see for real that the images on screen and in the magazines are not what life is all baout then we are going to continue to have these problems with overeating, obesity, and other food disorders. Therapy is not enough when society itself is not willing to recognize that these images are causing our young girls a world of problems- there needs to be a major change in how we all think about body image in order to make the most difference.

  • Emmanuel


    December 29th, 2009 at 2:13 AM

    Pre-teens and teens are exposed to a lot of media now and they think that perfection is the way ahead and see all the great looking models and other people on TV and the internet and are not content with anything less than that. While maintaining your physical appearance is a good thing, kids tend to go overboard in this regard.

  • Maggie


    December 29th, 2009 at 7:23 AM

    When grown women get comfortable in their own skin that is when we will see the difference in how young girls feel too.

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