Weight Control Behaviors May Precipitate Obesity

The number of obese adolescents has doubled from 30 years ago. A recent study has found that weight-control behaviors may actually contribute more to weight problems compared to other behaviors. (See: April issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association).

The study, conducted by psychologist Eric Stice, PhD., of the University of Texas at Austin and co-authors, found that the 496 adolescents (aged 11-15) who were into radical weight loss methods, were depressed and had obese parents were more likely to be obese. Whereas, high fat diets, binge eating and not getting enough exercise are not the perfect recipe for obesity that we think.

Weight loss behaviors that promote weight gain

Weight-loss behaviors such as vomiting and taking laxatives cause weight gain rather than weight loss. These practices can cause the once metabolic efficiency to rise or to change the homeostatic process. Irregular and binge eating can also cause weight gain because when an adolescent girl does not get her regular nutrients supply, it changes a her physiological response and disrupt her normal appetite pattern.

Depressive symptoms that contribute to weight gain

Depressive symptoms in adolescent girls also contribute to weight gain. The study found that, apart from indulging in foods to comfort or distract themselves, the lack of serotonin causes these young girls to eat excessive portions of carb-rich foods to keep their serotonin level in check.

Obese parents

How a young girl sees her parents’ weight is also a factor in her weight gain. In the study, the participants who reported having an obese parent were more than four times likely to become obese themselves than those who did not report having obese parents. This is true not just for biological parents but for non-biological parents as well, supporting the idea that (predicting) obesity may be a combination of "nature" and "nurture".

Though other weight-control behaviors such as eating large amount of high-fat foods, binge eating and lack of exercise did not predict the possibility of obesity (as well the three aforementioned factors did), the researchers think it is because the participants tend to report these behaviors inaccurately and that these behaviors are also causes of weight problems in adolescents.