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Two-Thirds of 13-Year-Olds Are Afraid of Gaining Weight

Two-thirds of 13-year-olds are afraid of gaining weight
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

According to a UK study of more than 7,000 13-year-old girls, two-thirds were found to have a genuine fear of gaining weight; and one in three were significantly unhappy with both their weight and shape.

Even more telling: The girls were twice as likely to fear gaining weight or becoming overweight than boys were.

The unsettling results come from research conducted by the University of College London, London School of Hygiene, and Tropical Medicine, and has definitely opened some eyes. Speaking to The Huffington Post, Nadia Macali—psychiatrist and senior lecturer at the University College London's Institute of Child Health—said she found the stats pretty alarming. In particular, she was "quite surprised" by how early those feelings of body loathing and weight consciousness set in for girls.

Also troubling were the high levels of thoughts in boys that were consistent with those who suffer from eating disorders. While they may have been less likely to fear gaining weight than girls, they sure have a lot of opinions on their current state—one in five said they don't like their body shape or their weight.

Teens of both genders also admitted to taking actual steps to lose weight in recent months, by fasting, skipping meals or literally throwing food in the garbage. Also noteworthy: Some 5 percent admitted to bingeing or overeating.

And while you might be inclined to think these stats only reflect UK life, and not the status quo in the U.S., you'd be wrong. The results actually match up pretty well to many body image studies conducted stateside over the years. It's estimated that more than half of U.S. teen girls and one-third of boys engage in unhealthy, eating-disorder-like behaviors.

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