Objective: To examine dieting, eating and exercise behaviors, use of diet pills, and vomiting or use of laxatives to lose weight among younger adolescents.
Design: Analysis of data from a modified version of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey administered to middle school students in North Carolina in 1995.
Setting: Fifty-three randomly selected middle schools in North Carolina.
Subjects: Two thousand three hundred thirty-one students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.
Main outcome measures: Responses to questions regarding weight control practices, including vomiting or laxative use, dieting, exercise, or diet pill use.
Results: Of the students surveyed, 110 (9.7%) of the girls and 46 (4.0%) of the boys reported vomiting or using laxatives to lose weight. Among the girls, vomiting or laxative use was associated with feeling overweight, other weight loss practices, older age, being a poor student, smoking, eating more salads or vegetables, and eating more candy or other sweets (P< or =.01). A logistic regression model consisting of diet pill use, dieting to lose weight, lower academic achievement, and currently trying to lose weight correctly classified 92% of female students who had or had not vomited or used laxatives. Among boys, vomiting or laxative use was associated with feeling overweight, other weight loss practices, minority racial status, smoking, frequency of eating hamburgers or other high-fat meats, and frequency of eating french fries or potato chips (P< or =.01). A model consisting of diet pill use, minority race, dieting to lose weight, smoking, feeling overweight, and number of servings of hamburgers, hot dogs, or barbecue correctly classified 97% of the boys who had or had not vomited or used laxatives.
Conclusion: Younger adolescents trying to lose weight engage in a variety of problem dieting and weight loss behaviors that can compromise health and may be associated with eating disorders.