Parents should focus on healthy habits – not weight – when speaking to teens

Adolescence is a period of great turmoil where body image can be a touchy subject. For best results, parents should discuss healthy lifestyles in a positive manner with their teens rather than focus on weight loss. It may seem like splitting hairs to adults, but not to teenagers.

Adolescence is a period of great turmoil where body image can be a touchy subject. For best results, parents should discuss healthy lifestyles in a positive manner with their teens rather than focus on weight loss. It may seem like splitting hairs to adults, but not to teenagers.

Researchers studied nearly 2,800 adolescents and some 3,700 parents to find out whether they had discussed eating habits and eating disorders.

Among overweight teens, those whose parents had talked about weight control were at significantly greater risk of having unhealthy eating habits (e.g. eating compulsively or following draconian diets). Parents were also found to bring up the subject of weight and weight loss much more often if their child was overweight rather than at a healthy weight. In addition, parents of healthy-weight teens were much more likely to discuss healthy dietary habits with their children.

In other words, it appears that promoting a healthy lifestyle is associated with fewer eating disorders than focusing on weight and weight loss. The findings suggest that rather than focusing on the problem, it is best to provide adolescents with the tools and information necessary for them to take their health in hand and achieve a healthy weight. As is often the case in other situations, the best approach is to empower teenagers and help them make the right choice on their own.

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