Parents and doctors should encourage healthy living on overweight teenagers instead of looking at their weight, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
AAP recommends adults should steer clear from weight talk, and help kids have a healthy and beneficial relationship with food and their bodies.
Dr. Neville Golden, the lead author of the new recommendations and professor of pediatrics at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, said, “We need to focus on health and healthy behaviors, rather than the number on the scale.”
A new report addresses both childhood obesity and eating disorders, as both affect teenagers.
According to Golden, most teenagers diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia aren’t overweight, but some overweight teens develop these eating disorders to lose excess weight.
Some kids turn to harmful tactics such as fasting, using laxatives or diet pills, or even over-exercising.
Doctors and parents should influence teenagers to forget the idea of dieting.
Golden pointed out dieting doesn’t work. Studies show, teens going on diets have a greater risk of becoming overweight than their peers.
Dieting can go too far, with teens limiting calories and using other unhealthy weight-loss strategies.
Golden added, “it’s easy to miss overweight teens developing eating disorders because they’re not exactly thin, but kids who rapidly lose weight may develop complications like an unstable heart rate or low blood pressure.”
A New York City-based registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Marjorie Nolan Cohn, agreed with the message of the AAP guidelines published online in Pediatrics.
Cohn stated, “Having kids go on a ‘diet’ isn’t going to help.” According to Cohn, ensuring the kitchen has healthy foods, having family meals when able, and encouraging kids to have positive body image, are what help teenagers live healthy lives.
Parents should be mindful of their words to promote a healthy body image.
It’s important for kids to receive terms of endearment instead of criticisms. “Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize that,” Cohn noted. Golden also said, “What you say about yourself and other people is important too.”
If kids hear their parents say bad and hurtful things about their bodies, they will absorb those harsh words.
Instead of focusing on weight, the APP suggests parents and doctors talk about the importance of regular exercise and a balanced diet.
It’s essential for children to follow their parents’ example, so parents shouldn’t slack off in showing their children healthy lifestyle habits.
The AAP recommends having consistent family meals. Studies show kids eat healthier foods when they sit down to eat with their families and are less likely to take extreme measures to lose weight.
Golden said, “[Family meals] may be beneficial because parents are ‘modeling’ healthy eating, or maybe it gives parents and kids a chance to talk, which is important too.”
Weight issues or unhealthy eating habits of kids also manifest in their parents, so if these adults need additional help, they should ask their doctor for tips on healthy eating.