Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Marilyn Gardner, Cecilia Watkins, Danita Kelley


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Degree Program

Department of Public Health

Degree Type

Master of Science


The United States has experienced a continuous increase in the prevalence of childhood overweight. In Kentucky, more than 30% of high school students are above a healthy weight, ranking first as the state with the highest prevalence of overweight. As nutritional behaviors contribute to this problem there are certain determinants, such as body image, of nutritional behaviors and weight management. It has been identified that perceptions of weight are a better predictor than actual weight to estimate practice of weight-control activities in adolescents. The purpose of this thesis research was to determine if nutritional practices among adolescents vary based on actual weight status versus perceived weight status, and if this differs by gender.

A modified version of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was administered in a single point of time to a census of students attending an ethnically diverse public high school in South Central Kentucky, yielding 823 useable surveys.

Students’ actual weight status, derived from self-reported data, revealed that more than 40% of respondents were at or above the 85th percentile-for-age. Close to half (46%) of respondents underestimated their weight status; the great majority of respondents (83.7%) did not consume the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables. One-way analysis of variance revealed no significant differences for nutritional behaviors by actual BMI status, but significant differences were found for nutritional behaviors by perceived weight status, by accuracy of weight status perception, and by gender. Female students consumed significantly more green salad while male respondents consumed significantly more fruit juice, milk and sweetened beverages. Female students had significant differences in nutritional habits by perceived and accuracy of weight status but male students had only significant differences in nutritional habits by actual weight status.


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Medicine and Health Sciences | Nutrition | Public Health | Public Health Education and Promotion