Weight loss attempts and attitudes toward body size, eating, and physical activity in American Indian children: relationship to weight status and gender

Obes Res. 2001 Jun;9(6):356-63. doi: 10.1038/oby.2001.46.


Objective: This study examined dieting, weight perceptions, and self-efficacy to eat healthy foods and engage in physical activity and their relationships to weight status and gender among American Indian elementary schoolchildren.

Research methods and procedures: Data for this study were collected as part of the baseline examination for the Pathways study. Participants were 1441 second- through third-grade American Indian children in 41 schools representing seven tribes in Arizona, New Mexico, and South Dakota who filled out a questionnaire and had heights and weights taken.

Results: Forty-two percent of the children were overweight or obese. No differences were found between overweight/obese and normal weight children for healthy food intentions or self-efficacy. Heavier children (especially those with body mass index > 95th percentile) were more likely to have tried to lose weight or were currently trying to lose weight. No gender differences were found. Normal weight children chose a slightly heavier body size as most healthy compared with overweight/obese children.

Discussion: The results indicate that children are concerned about their weight and that weight modification efforts are common among overweight American Indian children. School, community, and family-based programs are needed to help young people adopt lifelong healthful eating and physical activity practices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arizona
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Body Constitution
  • Body Height
  • Body Image*
  • Body Weight / ethnology
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Child
  • Eating
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American* / psychology
  • Male
  • New Mexico
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Perception
  • Self Efficacy*
  • South Dakota
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Weight Loss