Health Fears as One in Three Girls Incorrectly Thinks Theyre Overweight - ; Size: Distorted Body Image Is Common

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Byline: Lucie van den Berg

ONE in three 15-year-old girls in Ireland wrongly believe that they aretoo fat, new figures from the World Health Organisation reveal.

Distorted body images are not just restricted to young girls with 15 per centof boys in the same age group mistakenly thinking they are overweight.

These startling figures show that youngsters are being exposed to societalpressures to be the dangerously slim size zero at an extremely vulnerable age.

The latest report on health inequalities in young people shows that between 19and 20 per cent of 11-year-olds think they are overweight or obese according tothe Body Mass Index.

The problem increases as children get older with 35 per cent of girls andalmost a quarter of boys viewing their body as too big by the time they hit 13.

At just 15, 45 per cent of girls and 22 per cent of boys claim they are toofat.

In reality, only ten per cent of girls aged 15 and 15 per cent of boys in thisage group are actually considered obese.

The WHO authors found that feeling too fat was more apparent among girls livingin northern and western Europe.

The report said: Being slim is greatly valued in society, especially forfemales, and the stigmatisation of overweight and obesity appears to beincreasing.

Eating disorder support group BodyWhys said it was important for young peopleto understand negative body images.

A spokesman said: The teenage years are a time of major change, both physicallyand emotionally, which can lead to feelings of self-consciousness and canimpact on a young persons self-esteem, which in turn can impact on body image.

Young people in particular may be influenced by images in the media and inadvertising which present an unrealistic ideal of physical appearance, whichcan lead to a pressure to conform to that unrealistic ideal.

But there are some positive health indicators among Irish children in thereport of more than 200,000 pupils.

Irish children are the second most active youngsters out of the 41 countriessurveyed.

Almost 80 per cent of 11 year olds eat breakfast every day, but this drops offas children get older with just over half of 15-year-old girls and 70 per centof boys eating breakfast. …