Girls living on just one meal a day
TEENAGE girls are routinely missing two meals a day because they believe they need to lose weight, a major survey of children’s lifestyles has revealed.
Twenty-six per cent of 14 and 15-year-olds often don’t eat breakfast, 22 per cent skip lunch and 10 per cent regularly go without either, the study found.
A majority of teenage girls - and 40 per cent of ten and 11-year-olds - believed they needed to slim but few were actually overweight.
Asked about their breakfast on the day of the poll, 26 per cent of girls aged 14 and 15 admitted eating nothing.
Twenty per cent of 12 and 13-year-old girls had skipped it while 7 per cent of ten and 11-year-olds had also gone without.
Twenty-two per cent of older girls and 14 per cent of 12 and 13-year-olds had skipped lunch. One in ten of the older girls had eaten neither breakfast nor lunch.
But only around 10 per cent of 14 and 15-year- old girls in the study were overweight or obese.
‘Most of those wanting to lose weight are within the limits of “healthy” weight, and some are already underweight,’ the report said.
Figures dating back to 1991 showed an ‘increasing trend of desire for weight loss’, it added.
Fifty-eight per cent of 14 and 15 year old girls wanted to lose weight as did 52 per cent of 12 and 13 year-olds. One per cent of the older girls - around 3,000 - were using laxatives.
Growing numbers of youngsters at primary school are also worried about their size and appearance, the research found.
Mary George, spokesman for beat, the eating disorders charity, warned: ‘It is very unwise to skip meals in this way, especially at an age where the body is still developing and requires food for energy.
‘Taken to extremes this behaviour could possibly lead the way towards an eating disorder which can destroy lives. A healthy diet and sensible exercise is vital.’
She added: ‘We’re all subjected daily to portrayals of unrealistic body images and these can be particularly influential on young and vulnerable young people.’
Despite a tendency to skip meals, pupils’ diets are becoming healthier, the research suggests.
Consumption of chips and crisps has declined sharply over the past 20 years, although only around one in five teenagers is consuming the Government’s recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Drug-taking among schoolchildren has returned to the record levels last seen a decade and a half ago, the survey found.
Eighteen per cent of boys aged 14 and 15 and 17 per cent of girls said they had tried cannabis. Three per cent of boys and 2 per cent of girls of the same age said they had tried cocaine.
The findings undermine Government claims that drug use is at a ‘historic low’.
Earlier studies showed a drop in drug experimentation’ among 14 and 15-year- old pupils between 1996 and 1999.
But the report said: ‘From 1999 onwards we have seen a recovery to about the same levels as the peak in 1995/6.’