Study of the Day: Teens Want to Lose Weight but Don't Know How

New research suggests that obese adolescents want to shed pounds, but smoking, non-diet soda, and video games are getting in their way

main Sanzhar Murzin shutterstock_73939951.jpg

PROBLEM: The health risks associated with adolescent obesity is well documented. Little is known, however, about adolescents' diet strategies and day-to-day habits. In other words, do teens know how to lose weight?

METHODOLOGY: Research led by Temple University public health doctoral candidate Clare Lenhart analyzed the Philadelphia Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, which boasts nearly 44,000 adolescent respondents. The investigators organized the data into different types of health-related behaviors, including recent smoking, daily soda consumption, hours per day playing video games, and amount of weekly physical activity.

RESULTS: While about 75 percent of the surveyed obese teens reported trying to lose weight, this group was also more likely to report smoking. Girls who were trying to lose weight were more likely to report participating in more than an hour's worth of physical activity per day, but data showed that they were also prone to consume non-diet soda on a regular basis. Guys who wanted to lose weight tended to report spending no time engaging in physical activity but more than three hours a day playing video games.

CONCLUSION: Most obese teens say they want to lose weight, but their actions suggest otherwise.

IMPLICATION: Lenhart says teens may lack information on how to lose weight effectively and that a more intensive line of questioning from health care providers could help. She says in a statement: "If a child is going to their pediatrician, and the doctor asks if they're losing weight, an appropriate follow up question might be, 'How are you doing that?'"

SOURCE: The study, "Adolescent Weight Loss Intention and Choices of Health Behavior: Helping or Hurting Their Cause," will be presented later today in the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.

Image: Sanzhar Murzin/Shutterstock.

Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors at a world-class life sciences lab are trying to change the way people think about their health.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Health

Just In