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The incidence of dieting amongst adolescent girls: a question of interpretation?

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It is the intention of this study establish the extent of dieting practices amongst adolescent girls and identify their perceptions with regard to ‘dieting’ and ‘healthy eating’.Methods

A total of 140 girls, aged 12–13 years, were recruited from two schools. A self-reported questionnaire, which determined the incidence of dieting and sought to identify the girls’ perceptions of ‘dieting’ and ‘healthy eating’, was used to collect data.Results

Out of the total group, 33.6% reported that they had dieted at some time and 15.8% were presently dieting. The most popular definition of dieting amongst the dieters was ‘eating less/cutting down’; however, the second most popular answer was ‘eating healthy food’ which was the most popular answer amongst the non-dieters. The most popular definition of healthy eating was ‘increasing fruit/veg/salads’, which is similar to how many girls perceived dieting, i.e. eating healthy food (fruit/veg/salads).Conclusion

Establishing the actual incidence of dieting amongst adolescent girls is not a clear-cut issue as it can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the perceptions of the individual. The results of this study showed that in many cases ‘dieting’ and ‘healthy eating’ were perceived in a similar light, concluding that the dietary intake of dieters may be similar to that of non-dieters with both groups being at risk from any related health problems.
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Keywords: adolescent girls; dieting; healthy eating

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-04-01

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