Every fifth 11-year-old girl and boy in Iceland thinks they are too fat, or 20 percent, while only ten and 15 percent, respectively, are in fact overweight, according to a recent World Heath Organization (WHO) on the mental condition of teenagers in 37 countries.
Among 13-year-olds, 35 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys say they are too fat. According to the international body mass index (BMI), 12 percent of Icelandic girls are overweight and 16 percent of boys, 24 Stundir reports.
When they turn 15, 38 percent of girls feel they are too fat and 22 percent of boys. According to the BMI, 12 percent of 15-year-old girls and 22 percent of boys are too heavy.
“About 12 percent of 15-year-old Icelandic girls are too fat, which is similar to other countries,” said Professor Thóroddur Bjarnason at the University of Akureyri, who conducted the study in Iceland.
Fifteen-year-old Icelandic boys are, however, among the heaviest—they rank fifth in the comparative study. “Icelandic boys gain weight when they grow older but girls don’t. Still more girls than boys think they are fatter than they really are,” Bjarnason said.
Swedish psychologist Kristina Elfhag told Svenska Dagbladet that part of the explanation why girls worry so much about their weight is the relation between mothers and daughters. Mothers complain about their weight and girls copy their behavior.
Elfhag said mothers often eat candy for comfort while dieting. Learning such behavior is not healthy for children who are not supposed to be thinking about calories.
Demand about a certain look is also a factor in how much girls think about their weight in Elfhag’s opinion. “Now children are supposed to look like adults, wear tight clothing and trousers that don’t go up to the waist. This brings much attention to the body.”