Thursday, January 04, 2007

Seventeen Magazine makes me want to Vomit!

Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I do find the magazine to be rather repulsive.

But the question that researchers have asked and that the media has reported on is does reading magazines like Seventeen make young women vomit, practice other disordered eating behaviours or negatively affect their body images?

A study conducted by Dr. Patricia van den Berg looked at over 2,500 teenage girls and boys in Minnesota and followed them for 5 years. They followed their body image attitudes, whether or not they fasted, skipped meals, smoked, binged or used laxatives to help control their weight, and the frequency with which they read dieting articles in the lay press. What they were looking to see was whether or not reading the shlock dieting articles in magazines like Seventeen led to an increase in any or all of these behaviours or attitudes.

The authors concluded that indeed, among teenage girls (not boys), more frequent reading of diet articles led to increased frequency of unhealthy eating behaviours and unhealthy body images.

BUT, and this is a very big but, the researchers did NOT control for weight gain over the 5 years of this study and it's affect on these young women.

Teenage years are hard to say the least. Given societal role models for teenage girls, gaining weight would almost certainly lead many teenagers to look for help. Where would they look for help? Well they'd probably look at what they might well already have at hand - magazines, and the diet/weight loss articles therein.

Frankly the omission of a control for weight or BMI at the end of the study is a staggering one. I think it is extremely likely that those girls who may have gained more weight during the five years of the study would in turn be the ones to be more likely to read diet articles, be more likely to engage in unhealthy eating behaviors and have more difficulties with their body images.

I don't doubt that the fascinating pieces like the one in the issue above entitled, "Is that my Butt?" can't help with a young woman's body image, but to blame the articles for triggering unhealthy eating behaviours and attitudes is not substantiated because weight gain was not taken into consideration during the study as a possible cause of trouble.

It's a matter of chicken and egg and in many cases I would venture, the weight comes first and may well inspire disordered eating even in the absence of reading dieting articles.

Heck, a large percentage of the adult population turns to unhealthy behaviours to lose weight and has poor body images, why should teenage girls be any different?