Is it any surprise that girls who feel unpopular put on more weight over a two-year period than girls who see themselves as being higher on the popularity ladder? And what is healthier: being heavier and unpopular, or being popular and thinner?
In a study recently publicized through the Associated Press via the San Francisco Chronicle, young women (with an average age of 15) told researchers their height, weight, and where they saw themselves on the social ladder. Two years later, the girls were asked again for their weight. Girls who had previously labeled themselves as unpopular had more “excess” weight than the girls who saw themselves as being higher on the social ladder.
But the questions that I keep coming back to are 1) who is actually happier? and 2) who is actually healthier?
First of all, I would like to be able to say that there are more important indicators of young women’s happiness than their popularity. A girls’ perceived popularity in junior high does affect their self-esteem, which may therefore impact their health decisions. However, some girls are lucky enough to realize that it’s the quality of their friendships, the support of their family, and their life experiences that matter rather than the number of friendships. And in that case, these young women may well be much happier than the more “popular”Â girls. I would love to see this study accompanied by a survey of how the girls rate their happiness.
And secondly, weight is not the only factor in our health! Every body is made differently and thus every body deals with health, food, and exercise in different ways.
All of that being said, in order for women to be healthy, we have to look at more than just their food intake and exercise. Improving every girl’s self-esteem is integral to improving their health. The study is important in that it brings self-esteem into the weight debate, something that is sorely missing. However, this is just the beginning. We need to look at other factors when considering a person’s health than their food and exercise patterns. What does it matter if we’re overweight, happy, and healthy?
— H. B.