CUTE and chubby, or svelte and skinny? Young people seem to be more and more concerned about how they look and how other people see them. And it's changing the way they eat with potentially horrific effects. While some people are still unable to resist a succulent dinner of meat, cholesterol and extra kilograms, some beauty-conscious girls are willing to sacrifice the joy of eating and their health for a slim figure. 'They just want to be thin and they control their diet, trying to get desirable effects. In fact, some are not fat at all,' said Dr Edmund Li Tsze-shing, a senior lecturer in nutrition at the University of Hong Kong. It cost one teenager her life just last month. The girl was suffering from bulimia and had so damaged her health that she collapsed in Wan Chai while out walking and later died. Dr Li said young people should understand what a balanced diet was and control their weight and health through moderation rather than extremes. A lot of youngsters believed they had weight problems because of the messages they receive through the media and they subconsciously refused to eat. For instance, said Dr Li, a lot of girls who are afraid of putting on weight avoid drinking milk. Yet it is an important source of the calcium they need for healthy bones. He advised youngsters not to follow trends but learn about healthy living and so give themselves a healthy body. 'A subconscious preconception of maintaining a thin figure will affect the proper development of their health and body,' he said. At the other end of the scale there are many young people around the territory who are genuinely suffering from weight problems and obesity. Dr Sophie Leung Suk-fong, senior lecturer in paediatrics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said 21 per cent of boys aged 11 and 11 per cent of girls aged eight suffered from obesity. The cholesterol level of children in Hong Kong was the second highest in the world. 'Parents want to make their children taller and stronger by overfeeding them with what they perceive as nutritious food - meat,' she said. 'But that is wrong. Hong Kong people are in general shorter than Westerners.' Children got fat because they ate too much meat, too few vegetables and took little exercise, she added. The choice of food was a key factor in obesity. The main culprits were things like sausages and chicken wings, deep-fried dishes and sugary foods. And she suggested instead a balanced diet with more cereals, vegetables and fruit. 'Young people are neglecting the variety of vegetables and its significance. There are over 100 kinds of vegetables they can eat,' said Dr Leung, adding that the problem of obesity reached its peak during puberty. 'It is always the period when primary students concentrate on their prodigious amount of homework and neglect sports and exercises that the problem becomes most serious,' she said. She said psychological imbalances were another factor at this stage. 'Children are vulnerable to emotional problems. We have seen cases where children over-indulge in eating because of feelings of loneliness and stress. Their parents are always busy working and try to satisfy the children with pocket money rather than by being there with them.' Children may, therefore, tend to grab cakes, ice-cream and other snacks to compensate for stress. Dr Leung also advised young people not to label their friends fat or obese because of the psychological damage it might cause.