Inadequate weight loss carries risk of eating disorder

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A survey with 1,167 adolescents in the city of São Paulo found that 12.2% had risk behaviors for eating disorders and 31.9% had some type of unhealthy practice for weight control. Restrictive diet practices increased the chance of having risk behaviors for eating disorders 17.26 times in males and 12.82 in females. The study was carried out at the Faculty of Public Health (FSP) of the University of São Paulo – USP.

Nutritionist Greisse Viero da Silva Leal, author of the work, recommends that parents and adolescents know how to recognize early on the attitudes that can trigger eating disorders in the search for their prevention.Adolescents, with a mean age of 16 years (from 14 to 19 years old), high school students from 12 Technical Schools of Centro Paula Souza, in the city of São Paulo, were evaluated. “Young people were selected by drawing lots for one classroom from each year of high school at each school,” says Greisse.

“For data collection, the Adolescent Eating Attitudes Questionnaire (QAAA) was used, adapted from the questionnaire used in the EAT Project in Minnesota (United States) in 2002, coordinated by the American researcher Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, which assesses eating attitudes and determinants in adolescents, plus four questions on risk behaviors for eating disorders, developed by Australian researcher Phlippa Hay, in 1998, and adapted by Julia Elba de Souza Ferreira and Glória Valéria da Veiga, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). ) in 2008, and the Stunkard Silhouette Scale (1983)”.

The research was supervised by Professor Sonia Tucunduva Philippi, from the Nutrition Department at FSP and is part of a doctoral thesis defended on March 15th.

Among the adolescents who presented risk behavior for eating disorders, 72.5% are female. “These behaviors are characterized by binge eating (10.3%), practice of a restrictive diet (8.7%), use of diuretics with the objective of losing weight (1.4%), use of laxatives with the objective of losing weight ( 0.3%) and self-induced vomiting with the aim of losing weight (0.3%)”, says the nutritionist.

Of the young people who had some unhealthy practice for weight control, 66.8% are female. “These practices are eating very little food in order to lose weight (20.4%); skipping meals with the aim of losing weight (20.6%); use meal and food substitutes to lose weight (7.4%); use drugs to lose weight (2.1%) and smoke more cigarettes in order to lose weight (1.6%)”.

Body image

According to the study, reading diet magazines to lose weight increased the chance of presenting unhealthy practices for weight control by 2.87 times, while being satisfied with body image decreased this chance, that is, body satisfaction was protective factor. “What is observed is that more and more magazines aimed at the female audience present diets to lose weight and bring very thin bodies as beauty ideals, teenagers may feel dissatisfied with their bodies when compared to those of magazine models and seek unhealthy methods of losing weight,” says Greisse.

Among male adolescents, what most influenced unhealthy practices for weight control was maternal encouragement to practice diets to lose weight and the media (television, TV artists and models), increasing the desire to change body appearance. . The risks of restrictive diets in adolescence are related to the fact that such diets are hypocaloric, that is, they do not meet nutritional needs and can compromise proper growth and development.

“In addition, related to eating disorders, restrictive diets cause physical and emotional deprivation that can trigger frustration, anger, that is, the person feels frustrated for not being able to eat certain types of food, which, at some point, can lead to to food compulsion and this, in turn, to the feeling of guilt and fear of gaining weight, which can trigger compensatory purgative behaviors (self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives and diuretics), “says the nutritionist.