Our colleagues at The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have some updated recommendations for promoting healthy eating habits in adolescents. Based on a review of studies looking at adolescent obesity and eating disorders, the recommendations include that family discussions focus not on weight loss but rather on generally healthy behaviors, such as exercising and eating nutritious foods. Research suggests that parents’ comments about their own weight or that of their teenage children, even if encouraging, tend to be counterproductive. Such comments actually increase the likelihood of the adolescents gaining an unhealthy amount of weight or developing eating disorders. The AAP report also notes that dieting tends not to work, with efforts to restrict caloric intake leading to binge eating and, ultimately, weight gain.
With the prevalence of obesity and eating disorders having increased in the past few decades, efforts geared toward their prevention are as important as ever. Both types of conditions are associated with medical complications as well as psychosocial challenges, i.e., certainly counter to our goal of having happy, healthy students who are optimally available for learning. Parents with the best intentions, who may be inclined to encourage their teens to lose weight, may be wise to heed the AAP advice and shift focus from the numbers on the scale.
photo credit: Greg O'Connell via flickr cc