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Obese Girls Are More Sexual?!

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Psychotherapist Meredith Abend: Now there's another reason for moms to worry about their daughters' weight -- and this could be the most shocking.

Obese girl

We are all aware that the obesity rate is rising alarmingly in this country. We recognize the serious health dangers of carrying excessive weight -- but a new study from researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina has uncovered a significant risk not widely known: Young, obese girls have a far greater likelihood of having sex earlier in life, having unprotected sex and having sex with multiple partners. While it seems clear that the more obese that young girls are, the higher the risk, the study also suggests that even slightly overweight girls will engage in sex earlier -- and without using condoms or other forms of protection. 

These statistics are enough to make any mother panic. But while it's far from clear how to stop a young woman from engaging in sex, mothers can do many things to counteract the risks:

1. Talk to your kids about sex and sexuality as early as possible. Puberty used to be something we linked to the teen years -- but now there are young girls showing puberty-related signs as early as 7 years old. All girls, heavy or not, need to be prepared for the physical and emotional changes they may experience during puberty. It is crucial to talk it through and to answer your child's questions in a casual, nonjudgmental, age-appropriate manner. Many studies support the position that kids whose parents talk to them about sex are less prone to have multiple partners or partake in sexually risky behaviors. Preparing them for these social, physical, psychological and emotional changes ahead of time is essential.

2. Give your kids clear boundaries and guidelines. Children desperately desire limits, and if parents do not provide them, their anxiety levels will increase and they will wonder who is in charge. When anxiety is internalized, it can bring about emotional eating and body-image issues. The idea that food is comfort and provides immediate gratification is very dangerous. Try not to use food as a soother or as a reward. While it's tempting to say, "You've had a hard day; let's get some ice cream," over time, these messages may easily lead to food-related problems.

3. Create an esteem-boosting team for your child. Support your child's expression of his or her feelings and needs, and make your home one wherein all body shapes are accepted. Tell your child in specific terms that you value him/her. When kids feel different, they feel lonely. If a parent is present and accepting, it can help.

4. Childhood obesity is difficult to beat, but with a lot of support and a realistic game plan, it can happen. Instead of focusing on the pounds lost, focus on fun family athletic activities and come together to create healthy meals and snacks. Make the weight loss/healthier lifestyle a family pursuit, and ensure that the child who is struggling feels supported and part of your team. In terms of which foods to eat, registered dietitian Robin Berlin advises that you "avoid labeling any foods as 'taboo,' and encourage good food choices by creating a healthy home environment. Rather than focusing on what not to eat, focus on all the delicious, healthy foods they can have. Eat together as a family as much as possible, and try to not eat on the go."

next: Why Can't We Moms All Just Get Along?
13 comments so far | Post a comment now
annonymous June 2, 2010, 5:15 AM

GROSS!! Parent’s are to blame. Is this wall E’s world?

Jaclyn June 2, 2010, 8:24 AM

I can see this, it probably boosts self esteem to get the attention. Plus, if they developed earlier that than peers.

michelle June 2, 2010, 10:27 AM

Yet another brainless panic-mongering “article.” Hello, people, once again, correlation does not equal causation. The same socieconomic factors that make lower-middle-class and working-class girls more likely to be overweight are the same factors causing them to have sex earlier.

Arisma June 3, 2010, 4:32 AM

Thank you, Michelle. Momlogic has been dropping the ball with the fear mongering lately.

Joan June 15, 2010, 1:57 PM

Well, the title may have been fear mongering, but we read it. I found the advice reasonable and helpful. Thanks!

Sara June 25, 2010, 7:00 PM

This is possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I am a recent high school graduate and when the girls at my school all started becoming sexually active, it didn’t matter if they were skinny, husky, short, tall, black, white… teenagers will have sex whether no matter what they look like. and it’s not their parents’s faults at all. even if a child has the best parents in the world, they will still want thier independence and feel the need to rebel at some point. and just because this “study” found some sketchy coorelation between obese girls and sexual activity, doesn’t mean anything. maybe, just maybe, more girls are obese then not and more girls are having sex then not. but that doesn’t mean that they two go hand in hand.

Anonymous October 7, 2010, 3:50 PM

Post hoc ergo propter hoc, anyone?

Don’t assume that childhood obesity equates to premature promiscuity. Childhood obesity leads to self-esteem issues; But what doesn’t nowadays? Its stated in your “article”: “the study also suggests that even slightly overweight girls will engage in sex earlier” This is more than ridiculous.

Veola Jacobo January 29, 2011, 6:26 AM

It’s the same with shedding pounds simply be truthful with yourself and if you end up ready you’ll know it. Then discover and stick to a plan that fits you and can do it with a much increased chance of success.

Tulsa Lawyer February 6, 2011, 3:22 PM

Rather than focusing on what not to eat, focus on all the delicious, healthy foods they can have. Eat together as a family as much as possible, and try to not eat on the go.
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Flashpler011 February 7, 2011, 6:23 PM

Still there is room for greater development and I would recommend more emphasis on research and of course it will bring a better situation. Thanks for sharing a nice read. Cheers
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