49 thoughts on “Headline correction

  1. 182 vs 4,264 – that’s 4%. They just found out that fat teens consider themselves less popular than their peers. Wow, what an astonishing finding.

  2. I found your blog last week, clicking on a WordPress link. Thank you. Your words ring so true for me…I will keep coming back for the encouragement not to hate my body shape. You are great!

  3. I wonder how a self-respecting journalist writes this, not to mention how a self-respecting editor publishes it….let alone how the hell such a lame study could get funding. Unreal.

    It is kind of startling in its findings, though. I mean, I knew being unpopular meant I’d have to go to prom with Ducky….but I had no idea there were “broader” (hahaha they made a fat joke) “health consequences,” too!! I better move to the right side of the tracks, so I can date a rich boy and save myself from Teh Fat!!!

  4. K – absolutely! There are so many holes in this “study” I don’t even know where to begin. They acknowledge in the article that they don’t know anything about the girls’ growth or weight gain prior to the study, and further that the height and weight information was reported by the girls rather than measured. Well, seeing as the most unpopular girls are those who differ from the physical norm, it’s quite likely that that 4% were already on the larger side (and thus would gain more), or perhaps were unusually small – perhaps they hadn’t gained puberty yet, so they had much growing left to do in that 2 year period. Further, women with a poor body image – as the less-popular girls likely have – tend to overestimate their weight (just look at that exercise they have the women do on that “How to Look Good Naked” show). Don’t they think it’s likely that the unpopular girls could have overestimated their weight and/or underestimated their height?

    This is a classic example of what Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon refers to as “Science for Choads”. Fluff trying to pass itself off as “teh scienz”.

  5. kira, they do say that they controlled for initial BMI, but the rest of your points are spot on — especially the one about being unpopular in the first place because they hadn’t yet gone through puberty. Hadn’t thought of that. 15 is late but not that late.

    Don’t they think it’s likely that the unpopular girls could have overestimated their weight and/or underestimated their height?

    Or, perhaps even more likely, that the popular girls would underreport their weight. I think the “reputation to uphold” phenomenon is fully in play here.

  6. I like how they assume that all weight gained was extra weight. HELLOO it’s called GROWING it turns out children do this from time to time.

    Plus they just arbitrarily aggregated the popularity scale the girls were using. If only 4% report themselves in the bottom half shouldn’t you also examine the deviations within the top half if more than 95% of the respondants are in that half.

    I bet they did, and I bet the results just weren’t compelling, so they moved on. I hate that there are people who do “research” who are just SO dishonest and desperate to publish harmful bullshit. I mean, I’m a statistician, I occasionally publish bullshit because my boss tells me to. But it’s not going to actually hurt anyone, and this might.

    grrrrrrrrrr………Statistician SMASH!!!!

  7. Am I the only gaping in disbelief at the use of words here? EXCESS pounds? Referring to 6 gained pounds in two years around the age of fifteen?

    excess

    1 a: the state or an instance of surpassing usual, proper, or specified limits : superfluity b: the amount or degree by which one thing or quantity exceeds another

    2: undue or immoderate indulgence : intemperance; also : an act or instance of intemperance

    When I was 15 I was maybe halfway through puberty. I didn’t realize I was supposed to have maintained that figure. Oh, but of course any pounds gained are excess pounds. Or maybe the usual or proper limit for weight is the weight you were when you started highschool. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but just based on that, this is the most fucked up thing I’ve read in a while.

  8. Wow. Another group of professional adults doing the worst possible thing to be “helpful.” Seriously, do these people not remember being in middle/high school?

    I want to go to the prom with Ducky! But I don’t want to make my own dress.

  9. I saw that article on CNN… I though they’d buried the lede when I read that the study was based on asking roughly 2000 teenaged girls the following question:

    on a scale of one to ten, with ten being most popular and most respected, where do you rate yourself?

    1500 of the girls rated themselves a five or below.

    I may be leaving out a zero, but the proportions are correct. It seems like the ide athat 75% of young women feel they can’t measure up to social standards of beauty and poise would be more of a problem than the obesity that allegedly stems from it. But that would mean we’d have to question the very fabric of our society, and that’s hard.

  10. As shinobi just said–I’m one too–

    grrrrrrrrrr………Statistician SMASH!!!!

    Yeah. Asking teenage girls to self-report weight is such a good research premise. Even if they decided to be completely honest about what their scales read, who the hell knows whether they were using the same scales with the same battery level at the beginning and end of the two-year period. Or for that matter, what time of day they weighed themselves, what they were wearing when they did so, etc. I think we know that all those things can make a difference of at least several pounds!

    And they claimed they controlled for puberty, but I’m pretty sure that most 15-year-olds aren’t completely finished developing at that age, even if they appear to be fairly far along. For example, I was an early bloomer, but my own personal rack of doom did not reach its full potential until I was 20.

    Bad researcher; no cookie.

  11. Gawd, this is idiotic. Like someone else said, it’s called going through puberty. How the hell can you control for puberty? It does all kinds of fucked up things to your body.

    I remember over the course of 6th grade, I went from being one of the shortest in my grade to taller than several of my friends because I grew almost 7 inches. I also grew tits and was suddenly hot. Then in the next two years, everyone caught up (except with the tits), and I gained like thirty pounds. And guess what? I was still pretty popular the whole damn time.

    But noo! Now I know that I must encourage any future daughters I have to feel popular, ’cause if they don’t, they’ll become fatties. And if they’re fatties, then you know what happens…

  12. “Both groups, on average, fell within ranges considered normal. But a gain of two BMI units over two years is more than the typical weight gain for adolescent girls, the researchers said.”

    This article says more about how BMI is bullshit for adults than about what unpopular girls weigh.

  13. Been reading this blog for a while, but this is my first comment. I found this blog while searching google for psychopharmacology information. Anyway, glad I found it!

    I read the article at the Arch Pediatrics and I couldn’t find that they’d screened any of the participants for any known health disorders that they may or may not have been taking medication(s) for, mental health disorders that they may or may not have been taking medication(s) for, etc.

    If they did screen for those things and I merely over-looked them, then I apologize. If not, then I think that it would cast a major cloud on the study. Particularly in light that many medications for AD(H)D may have the effect of suppressing the appetite and potentially effecting growth. Although I don’t know for a fact if that second statement is completely proven or not.

    I also doubt they bothered asking in the questionnaire if any of the respondents began taking any medications during that two years. Because it’s not like any medications out there would actually *CAUSE* weight gain! **coughSEROQUELcoughZYPREXAcough** (Damn, there’s too many to list! You get the point, right?)

    Not to mention conditions that may cause weight problems. Not one doctor gave me a simple TSH test until I was 20 years old. I started having symptoms at twelve. Autoimmune disorders run in my family. When a doctor finally ran a TSH test my level was 189. The doctor had me come back TWICE to have it done two more times because he couldn’t believe it. The “normal” values for TSH were between .5-5, this was back in 1994. I was the same height/weight at the time of my dx as I was from the time I was twelve, 5’7″ 150 lbs. It varied a bit, but not much.

    So, I wonder just how much of a disservice they are doing for the health of America’s young girls with this study? Were they even thinking of the consequences? Everyone just assumes youth = health. Which isn’t always the case.

    I’m not a scientist, doctor and I didn’t go to uni. I’m not even overweight. I’m underweight which sucks cause I’d really like my boobs to come back, please? But it’s either boobs or seizures.

  14. Wow, this practically made me short coffee out my nose. Eat your heart out, The Onion. (Wow, is that like three puns in one sentence? My apologies. Also, don’t eat raw onion. Please.)

    Also, I see this came from a larger study and the numbers were just taken (out of context, it seems) to prove a micro-point in the whole study. A National Institutes of Health-funded study, no less. Just goes to show how much we need to demand government-funded studies be publicly available, not hidden behind a journal’s copyright law. There’s a post on pending legislation on this issue that was originally contained in Congress’ omnibus spending bill over at Our Bodies Our Blog – I put it in my website link.

  15. So…kids whose bodies are changing shape every half-hour because they’re growing so damn fast are gaining weight? OH NOEZ HALP FIRE and so forth.

    That said, I sure as hell starved myself in high school because I thought my hips were too big, with the result that I actually managed to put on fat for the first time in my short, gonna-freeze-in-the-wilderness life.

    Completely off-topic, 2 of 2 doctors and 1 of 1 physical therapists agree that my mystery angst is fibromyalgia, and that I’ve actually had it for at least ten years. I’m still achy, but I’m no longer suffering from Treehorn Syndrome or rocking the concentration-camp-survivor look. Yay!

    billsmycat: I miss my boobs too. :(

  16. Completely off-topic, 2 of 2 doctors and 1 of 1 physical therapists agree that my mystery angst is fibromyalgia,

    Okay, so, “Yay!” doesn’t seem like an appropriate response to that, but yay for the diagnosis and weight gain! Boo for having fibro, of course. If you’re not already reading Lindsay’s blog, you should start.

  17. Exactly. Won’t somebody please think of the cheerleaders?!

    My favorite part is that the article recommends that schools intervene to help with girls’ self-esteem. It wasn’t a big deal that the social hierarchy in middle/high school has made life suck for a lot of kids, but Future Fat Chicks is a public health crisis that demands intervention now!

  18. Wow, I’m really surprised it’s fibro… I hadn’t heard about rapid weight loss as a symptom. I don’t know much about the state of fibro treatment right now — I know there’s not one agreed-upon approach, but I hope there’s lots they can do for you.

    It must be such a relief to have a diagnosis, even if it’s a tough one.

  19. Future Fat Girls = Unhappy Dudes Posting on My Fat Spouse. What abouth the men?! Isn’t anyone thinking about the men?!

  20. “Future Fat Girls = Unhappy Dudes Posting on My Fat Spouse. What abouth the men?! Isn’t anyone thinking about the men?!”

    dont be silly, the men wont marry the fat girls in the first place. Really, the crisis is that the women wont be attractive enough to have sex and replenish the population, causing an imbalance of the old and the working force, spiralling the country into some major economic problems because people arent having enough babies.

    dont you know this is what its all about? they just want to make sure no one has the unpleasant task of fucking a fat chick for the sake of the nation.

  21. What I actually thought was the only valid point in the whole thing was that “perhaps we need to focus on self-esteem.”

    REALLY? ZOMG NOWAI.

    The thing is, the self-esteem coaching needs to not be about teh fatz, but more about how to actually learn to like yourself regardless of whether you perceive your ass as too large or too small.

    And I agree, letting teenage girls report their own height and weight = fail. I think the bullshit numbers I heard from people in junior high and high school did a lot to make me disbelieve my doctor when she told me that 170 was a perfectly healthy weight for someone 5’8″ or 5’9″.

  22. Teenage girls reporting their own height and weight is certainly a major design flaw.

    I certainly remember those conversations: -You like that band/guy/haircut? (giggles) – No! (blushing)

    I was the basket-case one, one of the Breakfast Club collectible set of handy Hughesian stereotypes, but I had friends who were more popular and, uh, glossy. I was therefore one that friends would “confess” to, since I was guaranteed not to blink. The confessions didn’t make sense, half the time. You’re confessing to liking Culture Club? Well, they wouldn’t be Top 10 if there weren’t lots like you…
    Anyway.
    Socialization often requires camouflage.

  23. Or the fact that more-popular girls are almost certainly more likely to smoke? And smoking = unnaturally low body weight?

  24. I read this last night, and, like Kate, I was forming a 90-page rebuttal in my head.

    Aside from all of the self-reported weight and other validity issues, could it possibly be that naturally less-fat teenage girls are more popular because, of, I don’t know, fat hatred?
    And the “excess weight” thing bugged me, too.

    I’m not sure what the hypothesis was of this research — what were they expecting to find?

    Laura(keet) — Just goes to show how much we need to demand government-funded studies be publicly available, not hidden behind a journal’s copyright law.

    thanks for pointing out the need for journal articles based on government funded research to be available for free. This drives me insane — we are dependent on reporters who are often
    biased and undereducated to interpret findings for us and they can also be lazy, quoting study authors and not finding anyone to provide an alternative perspective.

    Conclusion: If you are a teenage girl who thinks she isn’t popular, that doesn’t lead you to not gain weight. So, everyone out there who is ostracizing teen girls to encourage them to lose weight? You can stop now.

    Oh, and I don’t think it’s DROPPING OUT of Girl Scouts that predicts your future fatness, it’s ever having been one at all (12 year Girl Scout, here).

  25. “I think the bullshit numbers I heard from people in junior high and high school did a lot to make me disbelieve my doctor when she told me that 170 was a perfectly healthy weight for someone 5′8″ or 5′9″.”

    Your doctor told you 170 is a perfectly healthy weight for someone 5’8″ or 5’9″? Wow… my doctor wants me to weigh no more than 150 (I’m 5’9″-5’10”). Maybe I need a new doctor.

    On topic! The “excess weight” thing is so ridiculous that I can’t quite believe they really mean “weight gained = excess.” Are you sure there isn’t some caveat somewhere saying, “Oh, we assumed baseline weight gain of 20 pounds”?

  26. Your doctor told you 170 is a perfectly healthy weight for someone 5′8″ or 5′9″? Wow… my doctor wants me to weigh no more than 150 (I’m 5′9″-5′10″). Maybe I need a new doctor.

    Maybe you do. Considering 5’9″ and 170 is just barely over the “overweight” line, according to BMI, and happens to be in the range that has all the best health outcomes, expecting you to be 20 lbs. less than that seems a little insane.

  27. Oh, and I don’t think it’s DROPPING OUT of Girl Scouts that predicts your future fatness, it’s ever having been one at all

    Heh, given how many fat Girl Guide leaders I know (almost all of them) you may be onto something there!

  28. “The “excess weight” thing is so ridiculous that I can’t quite believe they really mean “weight gained = excess.” Are you sure there isn’t some caveat somewhere saying, “Oh, we assumed baseline weight gain of 20 pounds”?”

    As I read it, they called it “excess weight” because it’s an increase of BMI, rather than gaining weight and height, keeping the same BMI. But yes, the choice of words is insane, and I hope the AP was just screwing up the study results.

  29. “As I read it, they called it “excess weight” because it’s an increase of BMI, rather than gaining weight and height, keeping the same BMI.”

    BMI increases normally through the teen years. The bog-standard BMI-for-age CDC charts can be found here. BMI dips to a low around age five or six, then increases progressively through age 20, with velocity peaking around puberty. 2 points is about what the population in general is currently statistically expected to gain between age 10 and age 17, but of course this is predicated on extremely accurate and consistent weighing and reporting, and does not apply AT ALL to individuals. Tiny differences in measurement/reporting can make a big difference in the BMI number on a page.

    Plus, it’s all bullshit, for all the other reasons mentioned above and elsewhere on this blog.

  30. Really, the crisis is that the women wont be attractive enough to have sex and replenish the population, causing an imbalance of the old and the working force, spiralling the country into some major economic problems because people arent having enough babies.

    Oh, come now, Apricotmuffins, we can easily propagate the species without heterofucking. Ever heard of turkey basters?

  31. marvellous point, meowser. Though i think if we had to resort to that, the world would be a lot less fun.

    good job decent ment exist and prefer some rumpy pumpy with WOMEN in general, and not just acceptably thin ones, eh?

  32. of course, propogating the species for lesbians is unrelated to sex, so it doesnt matter either way ;)

  33. Dani, to echo Kate and FJ, so glad you have a diagnosis now! I mean, not that it makes things automatically easier, but the anxiety of not knowing will dissolve, and that’s huge. Thanks for keeping us up to date!

  34. FJ, turns out the rapid weight loss was the Topamax’s fault. We didn’t catch it at first because it didn’t start until several months in. Apparently Topamax prevents migraines in some people, but aggravates abdominal migraine in others – and anorexia (the symptom, not the nervous disorder) is a classic symptom of abdominal migraine. Which I have.

    Things got very clear when my GP asked me what I’d eaten in the past three days. I was floored to discover the answer was “fewer than 1200 calories total.” We stopped the Topamax and life got WAY better. (Also I can sleep again.)

  35. Oh my god… I knew Topamax caused anorexia, but it causes anorexia because it aggravates abdominal migraine?? Do you know people get prescribed Topamax off-label for weight loss? If it really “works” by aggravating abdominal migraine I’m doubly shocked. (Granted I had never heard of abdominal migraine before.)

    It’s so frustrating when a medication that’s supposed to make you feel better actually makes you feel worse, but I’m glad that making life way better was as easy as NOT taking a pill.

  36. “The “excess weight” thing is so ridiculous that I can’t quite believe they really mean “weight gained = excess.”

    Yeah, especially given that they said the unpopular girls still mostly fell into the “normal” range of BMI. Which, according to their own stupid charts, means the 11 pounds wasn’t excess weight, it was just weight. And that’s normal during adolescence. Even according to the most ridiculous weight standards, you’re not supposed to stop gaining weight until 25.

    Also, the difference between the average weight gain of the popular and unpopular girls was 4.5 pounds. A difference of 4.5 pounds over two years and this is supposed to be significant?

  37. Topamax is one of the anticonvulsants in my AED “cocktail”. My therapeutic dosage is 400 mg a day. (For reference) I’ve never heard of it causing abdominal migraine. However, from my experience it has dulled my appetite simply by making me forget to eat. Not only that but when I do eat many foods and drinks taste horrible.

    I’ve not had a soda since I began treatment with Topamax because it makes all carbonated beverages taste like complete crap! I never used to drink water, I did live on Mountain Dew though. So, that’s a good thing, it’s forced me to drink water now and give up the “Dew”. I can laugh about that.

    From what I understand, Topamax’s main method of action is on the temporal lobes of the brain. Which could be one of the reasons why it messes with the memory to such an extent. Again, I’m not a doctor, so take this all with a grain of salt.

    I also research any and all medications before I take them. I work closely with my neurologist, psychiatrist, endocrinologist, gp and pharmacist. I know what meds interact with other meds, have the potential to interact with my conditions, know what OTC meds will/or may interact with my prescription meds or conditions AND I have no problem calling my doctors on something if they suggest a medication that I think may interact. I know they are human beings, not gods.

    For what it’s worth, I’m totally against Topamax being used as a weight loss drug.

    Mainly because I don’t want one of four anticonvulsants that I can use to control my seizures to be YANKED off the shelf because some people sued because it screwed them up when they weren’t even supposed to be taking it. (It’s an anticonvulsant, not a miracle drug! Sue the doctor that prescribed it to you OFF-LABEL!)

    Secondly, it’s not the drug that’s bad. It’s when it’s used improperly or for the wrong purposes that it causes problems. What I mean by improperly, I mean at the wrong dosage (it is a very dosage specific medication) or for the wrong type of seizure.

    I can’t comment on it’s off-label use for migraine, since I’ve never had one. There is some information out there that some migraines may be a form of seizure activity. Which may be the reason why some anticonvulsants relieve some migraines and others don’t. I can’t answer that. (Again, not a doctor)

    Sorry that I went completely off-topic. A site that I use to research some of the medications that I’m on is http://www.crazymeds.us .

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