Self-weighing and weight control behaviors among adolescents with a history of overweight

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Overweight teens who weigh themselves at least once a week are more likely to engage in other healthy weight control measures than teens who step on the scale less frequently, according to a new small study.

Self-weighing can be a successful tool for adults, but some concern exists that recommending the behavior could backfire with teens who struggle with obesity.

“The fear is that an excessive focus on weight from frequent self-weighing may place teens at greater risk for engaging in unhealthy weight control behaviors and for developing an eating disorder,” said Mary Alm, Ph.D., lead study author, with the University of Minnesota.

However, that was not the case for study participants.

The study, published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health , followed the behavior of 130 teens who were in the 85th percentile for body mass index (BMI) during the past two years. Of the teens, 43 percent weighed themselves frequently and 57 percent were infrequent self-weighers.

Frequent self-weighers had a lower average weight, 180.3 pounds, whereas the infrequent weighers averaged 187.6 pounds. Frequent weighers were more likely to have lost 10 pounds in the past two years. The study also suggests that frequent self-weighers tend to eat fewer calories, consume less fatty food and junk food, and are more likely to stick to a structured diet.

The study could not determine whether self-monitoring specifically caused weight loss behaviors or was simply part of an overall weight loss strategy.

“Our results suggest that self-weighing may be a beneficial tool, but more research is needed before recommending self-weighing to teens for weight control,” Alm said.

Jack Hollis, Ph.D., senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, said, “Self-monitoring of weight - as well as caloric intake, exercise and other behaviors - is a powerful tool for change, so there is good reason to expect that those who self-monitor will benefit, and that would include teens.”

Journal of Adolescent Health: Contact Tor Berg at (415) 502-1373 or or visit

Alm ME, et al. Self-weighing and weight control behaviors among adolescents with a history of overweight. J Adolesc Health online, 2008.


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