Children use the same ploys as adults to justify eating junk food, research has shown.

According to the new study, the use of Compensatory Health Beliefs – justifying doing something unhealthy by saying you plan to make up for it later – by primary schoolchildren could be contributing to increasing obesity levels.

University of Derby doctorate student Atiya Kamal said it is widely accepted that adults use CHBs but she carried out a study to see if children have them too.

“Have you ever thought: ‘I can eat that chocolate cake because I am going to the gym later’?” the 28-year-old said.

“That is an example of a Compensatory Health Belief. These types of beliefs can damage efforts to maintain or lose weight if individuals then don’t actually get to the gym.

“It is widely accepted that many adults hold these types of beliefs, and I wanted to find out if children also have them, and if they might contribute to childhood obesity levels. “My research suggests this is indeed the case, and work must be done to address the issue and combat these beliefs among children.”

Ms Kamal said the influence of CHBs could be contributing to a rise in UK obesity levels despite initiatives to promote healthy eating and exercise. For her doctorate study Ms Kamal, supervised by University of Derby psychology lecturer Vicki Staples, interviewed around 100 five to 10-year-olds in primary school education about their diet and activities, and how they linked to CHBs.

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