Relations among Weight Control Behaviors and Eating Attitudes, Social Physique Anxiety, and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Turkish Adolescents

Article excerpt

During adolescence, most young people experiment with both healthful and risky behaviors. Health-risk behaviors such as smoking, using drugs, drinking alcohol, and excessive dieting can contribute to nutritional deficits in adolescents (Jenkins & Horner, 2005). Dieting is often viewed as a singular behavior, yet it can represent a wide range of behaviors. About half of U.S. high school students report restricting food intake as a means of controlling weight, and more than half report using exercise as a means of weight control (French et al., 1995; French & Jeffery, 1994). Dieting and weight-control perceptions, goals, and behaviors are common among both adults and adolescents (Nystrom et al., 2005). However, dieting among adolescents is so widespread, it has been termed an epidemic.

Inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to certain types of cancer and other diseases. It has been estimated that at least 35% of cancer deaths may be attributable to unhealthful diets. Findings from several studies have demonstrated a significant protective effect of fruit and vegetable intake against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Persons who consume one or fewer daily servings of fruit and vegetables have about twice the risk of cancer compared with those who consume four or more daily servings (Block, Patterson, & Subar, 1992; Willett, 1990.

These potentially adverse dietary practices are particularly important during the period of adolescence. It is during this developmental phase that negative dietary practices can become the foundation of later lifestyles (Beech et al., 1999). Unhealthful weight control practices, such as self-induced vomiting and use of diet pills and laxatives have also been reported (Kann, Kinchen, & Williams, 1999; French et al., 1995). The potential negative impact of weight control behaviors on physical and psychological health is significant. Several studies suggest that restrictive eating behaviors during adolescence may have a notable impact on immediate and long-term health outcomes, such as eating disorders and osteoporosis. Dieting may also be associated with lower nutrient intake of fruit or dairy products, low calorie intake, and higher levels of fatigue and binge eating (Story et al., 1998). Therefore, dieting in adolescents is commonly believed to be associated with negative health behaviors. For example, the media generally portray dieting among adolescent girls as an epidemic to be viewed with alarm (Story et al., 1998).

Furthermore, adolescents are at risk for developing chronic diseases because their diets are low in fruit and vegetables. Their dietary patterns, often reflected in breakfast skipping, fast food consumption, and weight satisfaction issues are barriers to adequate fruit and vegetable intake (Horacek et al., 2002). However, French et al. (1995) found that the majority of adolescent girls who dieted reported what would be considered healthful eating and exercise behavior changes in order to lose weight. Increasing exercise, eliminating snacking and sweets, eating less food, and eating foods with lower calories were strategies reported most frequently. A few studies have examined patterns of health-promoting behaviors, such as healthful eating and physical activity in dieting adolescents. Dieting was found to be associated with healthful behavioral changes, such as adopting lower fat consumption, consuming more fruit and vegetables, eliminating junk food, and increasing physical activity (Neumark-Sztainer et al., 1996; Pesa & Turner, 2001). Dieters identified by various dietary restraint scales report preferences similar to those of non-dieters for meat, vegetables, fruit, starches, sweets, bread, cake, or margarine, but they report a lower preference for consumption of fats and high-fat dairy products (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1989).

The purpose of this study is to determine the relationship of dieting, eating attitudes, social physique anxiety, and fruit and vegetable consumption among adolescents. …