OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the association between frequent reading of magazine articles about dieting/weight loss and weight-control behaviors and psychological outcomes 5 years later in a sample of adolescents.
PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS. Data are from Project EAT (Eating Among Teens), a 5-year longitudinal study of eating, activity, weight, and related variables in 2516 middle and high school students. In 1999 (time 1), participants completed surveys and had their height and weight measured. In 2004 (time 2), participants were resurveyed.
RESULTS. For female adolescents, the frequency of healthy, unhealthy, and extreme weight-control behaviors increased with increasing magazine reading after adjusting for time 1 weight-control behaviors, weight importance, BMI, and demographic covariates. The odds of engaging in unhealthy weight-control behaviors (such as fasting, skipping meals, and smoking more cigarettes) were twice as high for the most frequent readers compared with those who did not read magazine articles about dieting and weight loss. The odds of using extreme weight-control behaviors (such as vomiting or using laxatives) were 3 times higher in the highest frequency readers compared with those who did not read such magazines. There were no significant associations for either weight-control behaviors or psychological outcomes for male adolescents.
CONCLUSIONS. Frequent reading of magazine articles about dieting/weight loss strongly predicted unhealthy weight-control behaviors in adolescent girls, but not boys, 5 years later. Findings from this study, in conjunction with findings from previous studies, suggest a need for interventions aimed at reducing exposure to, and the importance placed on, media messages regarding dieting and weight loss.