by Meghan M '11

Chubby Girls Sit Along

An overweight teenage girl sits with about two other people at a table in a far off corner in the cafeteria. It is obvious she is trying to lose weight due to the “Light N’ Fit” smoothie she holds in her hand. She doesn’t talk with the few people sitting with her, preferring to stare off into space. If you look closer, you will see that she actually isn’t daydreaming, but rather has her gaze fixed on a skinny girl with scores of people laughing and talking around her. She is just a few tables away. Why does the overweight girl feel as though crossing a desert would be easier than walking the few feet to join the skinny girl’s table?
Popular opinion reflects that overweight girls in junior high school and high school have difficulty fitting into the social dynamic that makes up their class. While this does occur on occasion, a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine takes a different angle on things. Performed by researchers at Harvard University, this study explores the idea that school popularity affects teen girl’s weight, rather than the other way around. The study took place over a course of two years, (from 1999 to 2001). At the start of the two year study, researchers recorded the body mass index of 5723 girls, ages 12-18, 4446 of which were used in the results of the study. They also asked the girls to rank where they saw themselves on the social scale in their school from 1-10, a question they phrased as, “At the top of the ladder are the people in your school with the most respect and the highest standing. At the bottom are people who no one respects and no one wants to hang around with. Where would you place yourself on the ladder?”
Two years later, the researchers found that all of the girls had gained weight, naturally, due to the fact that they had been growing. However, they noticed that girls who had ranked themselves 4 or under had gained more weight than was natural. They found that these girls had a 70% higher chance than the rest to gain weight, averaging out to about 11 pounds more than the rest of the girls. The researchers took account of several other factors that may have had an effect on the girl’s weight at the beginning of the study, such as diet, age a puberty, habits of television viewing, family income, the mothers body mass index, including countless other factors. Despite all of this, there was a continuous link between weight gain and the teens own perception of herself.
Said lead author Adina R. Lemeshow, “I think schools have a lot of influence. It’s about fostering secure and supportive social environments in which girls feel more accepted.”

By Mr. Lakhaney

TOK Teacher

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