“Are you sure you want to eat that?”
For many teens, adolescence is a period marked by self-consciousness about body image, and it can be daunting for parents to find the right words to say when talking to teens about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This is especially true in cases where kids are struggling with their weight and eating habits.
Research shows that it is common practice for parents to encourage their adolescents to diet. In fact, nearly 40 percent of parents regularly recommend dieting to their children. Frequently, parental recommendations come from a place of concern. Unfortunately, these good intentions and recommendations to diet are not associated with improved health outcomes, and can even have the opposite effect.
Dieting has been shown to increase the risk for both obesity and eating disorders among adolescents. Recent studies also show an association between parental encouragement to diet and unhealthy eating behaviors, including binge eating, as well as lower self-esteem and poorer body image.
So, how can parents address the touchy subjects of weight and body image with their teens in ways that are helpful to them?
– Susan A. Gutierrez, M.D. and Lawrence B. Friedman, M.D.