Yet another recent study failed to show improvement in diet, physical activity, or weight status in teenaged girls. I, for one, can’t say I’m surprised. This study randomly assigned girls to the intervention group, or a control group. Girls in the intervention group were offered nutrition and physical activity sessions throughout the school day, at lunch hour, and given homework assignments pertaining to these topics. Girls in the control group were given no special nutrition or physical activity sessions.
As well meaning as these types of studies are, they are not addressing the root cause of obesity. Studies like this place the onus on the individual. If you were a teenaged girl (or even in your current situation) would you want to spend your lunch hour learning about nutrition? Or do physical activity “homework”? Why was no difference seen between the two groups? One reason is that, as one researcher put it, “we need to make the programs more appealing and exciting and present information in a way that is meaningful to adolescent girls”. Obviously, if the individual can’t see the incentive for making changes then they’re not going to make those changes. Even when they can see the incentive they often still fail to make changes. That brings me to the second, and more important reason why studies like this one often fail. All of these girls are in the same environment. As long as the environment is obesogenic then it’s extremely unlikely that you will see any meaningful long-term change in weight. We need to make more of an effort to change the environment in which people live so that healthy eating becomes the easy choice and physical activity is supported and encouraged.