Self-Weighing May Be a Hazardous Behavior Among Young Women

Researchers found an association between frequent self-weighing and psychological state, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Philadelphia, PA, November 9, 2015

Self-weighing can be a useful tool to help adults control their weight, but for adolescents and young adults this behavior may have negative psychological outcomes. Researchers from the University of Minnesota tracked the self-weighing behaviors of more than 1,900 young adults as part of Project EAT (Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults) and found increases in self-weighing to be significantly related to increases in weight concern and depression and decreases in body satisfaction and self-esteem among females.

“Females who strongly agreed they self-weighed reported engaging in extremely dangerous weight-control behaviors at a rate of 80%,” Carly R. Pacanowski, PhD, RD, lead author of the study, said. “Adolescent obesity is a public health concern, but body dissatisfaction and weight concerns are predictors of eating disorders. This makes it critical that obesity-prevention programs avoid exacerbating these predictors by understanding how behaviors such as self-weighing affect teens.”

Project EAT is a longitudinal cohort study that tracked 1,902 young adults (43% male, 57% female) over 10 years. Researchers used participants’ descriptions of the prevalence of their self-weighing from the study to examine associations between self-weighing and changes in weight status, psychological variables, and behavioral outcomes. Self-weighing, ideal weight, weight concern, body satisfaction, self-esteem, and depressive symptoms were ranked by participants using a Likert scale; adolescents also reported their engagement in unhealthy and extreme unhealthy behaviors. Researchers calculated BMI for the participants as well.

The researchers’ primary interest in this investigation was to understand how changes in self-weighing were related to changes in the other variables studied. Results indicated that females who reported increases in self-weighing over the 10-year period were expected to have increases in weight concern and depressive symptoms and decreases in body satisfaction and self-esteem. As such, self-weighing may not be an innocuous behavior and care should be taken when young adults report self-weighing.

“Clinicians should ask adolescent patients about self-weighing at office visits to determine any benefits or negative outcomes,” Pacanowski added. “Noting changes in this behavior over time can be helpful for investigating other, more concerning changes in well-being among young adults.”

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Notes for Editors
“Self-Weighing Throughout Adolescence and Young Adulthood: Implications for Well-Being,” by Carly R. Pacanowski, PhD, RD; Katie A. Loth, PhD, RD; Peter J. Hannan, MStat; Jennifer A. Linde, PhD; Dianne R. Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2015.08.008), Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 47/Issue 6 (November/December 2015), published by Elsevier. 

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Matt DePoint, University of Minnesota at mdepoint@umn.edu.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Carly R. Pacanowski, and information specifically for journalists are located at www.jneb.org/content/mediapodcast. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.

About The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public. www.jneb.org

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

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Media contact
Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
+1 732 238 3628
jnebmedia@elsevier.com