Background Adolescents at risk for overweight, who would benefit from long-term lifestyle changes, may resist weight management counseling if they consider their weight to be healthy or are not concerned about their weight. The purpose of this study was to examine the self-perceptions and concerns of adolescents related to their weight and weight management.
Methods We surveyed 100 adolescent health-fair participants, 14-19 years old, in an urban minority community. This sample was primarily African American (95%) and female (74%). Participants completed a one-page survey consisting of questions about height, weight, family history of obesity-related conditions, self-description of their weight, and methods to manage their weight.
Results Calculated from self-reported heights and weights, 40% of the adolescents had a body mass index (BMI) $ 85thpercentile for age, gender, and height, though only 27% of the population described themselves as overweight. Diabetes (58%) and hypertension (62%) were the most prevalent conditions reported by family history. The most popular methods for weight management were increasing physical activity (58%) and eating more fruits and vegetables (55%). Although 58% of the youth considered themselves to have a healthy weight, the 70% of the sample were trying to do something about their weight. Adolescents in the overweight category (BMI $ 85th percentile), as compared to those in the normal weight category, were more likely to report a family history of high cholesterol (p = .029), described themselves as overweight (p = .001), described their weight as unhealthy (p = .034), were concerned about their weight (p = .015), were trying to do something about their weight (p = .0001), and used eating less sweets as a method of weight control (p = .01).
Conclusions Our findings suggest that overweight and normal weight youth are concerned about their weight and using weight management strategies, although those at risk for overweight do not perceive themselves to have this risk. Health care professionals can educate youth about their personal health risks related to overweight, encourage already existing healthful weight management methods, and point adolescents toward other healthy lifestyle changes in counseling adolescents regarding weight management practices.
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