American teenagers who incorrectly perceive their weight are more likely to have unhealthy eating habits and be less active overall. Teenagers who accurately perceive their weight are more likely to make healthy choices and not take part in risky diets.
The study analyzed data from over 12,000 American teens, 32% of which were obese or overweight.
Teens who incorrectly believed they were overweight were less likely to drink fruit juice or milk, eat fruits, or have breakfast on a regular basis.
Teens who were actually overweight or believed they were overweight were least likely to get 60 minutes of physical activity a day, five days a week, the researchers noted.
This misperception of weight strongly correlated with adult obesity later in life. “Early childhood interventions to promote appropriate weight-related perception and weight management could have a lasting impact on chronic disease burden, in addition to preventing unhealthy diet and physical inactivity in youth,” he suggested.
Weight perception has also been linked to eating disorders, which are a leading cause of morbidity in American teens. Schools are now encouraged to provide education on eating disorders, weight misperception and providr examples of healthy behavior.
Researchers also believe that developing a regular exercise routine early can help a child maintain health habits into adulthood.
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