How Many 5-Year-Old Girls are Dieting? The Answer May Surprise You.

In a study recently published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, 35% of 5-year-old girls reported dieting behaviors. That’s roughly 1/3 of girls in kindergarten.

Why are kindergarteners dieting?! And how do they even know what dieting is?!

People really believe they are doing the right thing by trying to teach kids to be healthy eaters and to prevent childhood obesity. The irony is that the methods that caring parents and teachers are using actually increase children’s risk of weight gain and eating disorders. Talk about the opposite of the desired effect.

What would actually make our kids healthy? Letting them continue to be the intuitive eaters they were born as. Stop interfering with their ability to self-regulate their eating. Adults certainly need to provide structure and balance to a child’s eating opportunities – and these are NOT synonymous with restricting the child’s food.

Ellyn Satter, an internationally recognized authority on eating and feeding, suggests that parents “emphasize providing, not depriving. Trying to get children to eat less or move more in the name of weight control backfires. It makes them preoccupied with food, inclined to move less when they get the chance, and prone to gain too much weight.” For more info visit

Source: Damiano et al. “Dietary Restraint of 5-Year-Old Girls: Associations with Internalization of the Thin Ideal and Maternal, Media and Peer Influences.”  International Journal of Eating Disorders. 48 (2015): 1166-1169.

By Katy Harvey, MS, RD, LD

Katy-Harvey (1)

Katy works as a Registered Dietitian at InSight Counseling in Overland Park, Kansas. She is passionate about helping others find peace with food. To read more from Katy, click here.