It is well known that America has the highest rate of obesity in the World and this is now beginning to even affect children. In Philadelphia's high schools roughly 14% of their students are deemed overweight and now Clare Lenhart, a public health doctoral candidate, has led some research that shows that the majority of these teens do actually want to lose weight want to lose weight but their actions are often causing more harm than good.
An analysis of findings was produced which organised data from just under 44,000 teens into different types of health-related behaviours such as the amount of recent physical activity they had carried out, how much fizzy drinks they were consuming, time spent per day playing computer games and how much they smoked. It showed that although around 75% of the teens claimed to be trying to lose weight that this group was also more likely to be smoking. On top of this, it was found that females trying to lose weight were a lot more likely to be doing 60 minutes of physical exercise per day but that they were also more likely to be drinking fizzy drinks high in sugar and calories. The males were a lot more likely to be playing 3 hours of computer games every day and therefore had much less physical activity.
Clare Lenhart said, "From a health education standpoint, finding out that three-quarters of students who are obese want to lose weight is exactly what we want, but the behaviour they're engaging in is puzzling; it's counterproductive to what they're trying to do."
Lenhart can't be sure if the teens are actually aware of how their behaviour cancels out any attempts at losing weight but believes that one of the main problems is simply lack of information and education on the matter and said, "for example, among the girls who are exercising, they may not realize that one soda could undo that 30-minute walk they just took."
She believes that health care workers should have more input and give more help and advice to the teens and thinks that with such a high percentage of the teens actually wanting to lose weight it is possible to achieve this with the right education. On the matter, she said, "If a child is going to their paediatrician, and he asks them if they're losing weight, an appropriate follow up question might be, 'How are you doing that? It could help guide those teens to more productive weight loss activities."