Does frequent self-weighing make adolescents and teens more vulnerable to body image disorders and yo-yo dieting? Researchers recently tried to answer that question in a 5-year longitudinal study called Project EAT, which observed more than 2,500 adolescents. Study participants were divided into two groups: those who were transitioning from early to middle adolescence (the younger cohort) and those who were transitioning from middle to late adolescence (the older cohort).

In the 5-year period, the researchers found that the older cohort of females and both cohorts of males did not gain or lose weight as a result of frequent self-weighing. However, in the younger cohort of females, weight did increase after frequent self-weighing. In both
cohorts of women, frequent self-weighing also predicted a higher prevalence of disordered eating behaviors, such as binge eating; however, neither cohort of males was affected
in this manner.

Study authors concluded that “frequent
self-weighing was not associated with weight change, with the exception of predicting weight changes in younger females. In females, but not males, self-weighing predicted a higher frequency of binge eating and unhealthy weight-control behavior.” The
findings appeared in the December 2006 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The lesson here: Teach kids and adolescents to focus less on what the scale says and more on feeling healthy, moving regularly and eating healthful foods.