Focus on Health, Not Weight for Teens

Focus on Health, Not Weight for Teens

It can be easy for teens to fret about the number on the bathroom scale, especially teens who struggle with their weight.

A new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges parents and doctors to first focus on healthy lifestyle habits for teens, and not their actual weight.

Focus on Setting Good Examples
Sara Lappe, MD, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, says that when it comes to kids, it’s best for parents to avoid talking about weight and instead focus on setting an example.

“Try not to talk about weight at all and really, parents should model good behaviors,” Lappe says. “So the hard part for parents is kind of modeling – what does a nutritious plate look like and eating that at dinner time and showing your child what that looks like.”

Dr. Lappe says it’s also not a good idea for parents to take up “fad diets” in the presence of their kids because kids often will pick up the things their parents are doing and try it themselves.

The AAP report said a real danger exists when teens start trying things like fasting, using diet pills or laxatives or performing excessive exercise.

Disordered Eating
Studies have shown that teens who diet are actually more likely than their peers to become overweight and develop eating disorders.

While the AAP has previously issued guidelines on both childhood obesity and eating disorders, the new report is the first time they have made a connection between the two.

Lappe also points out that because most eating disorders are commonly associated with being overly thin, it can be easy for parents to miss a disordered eating problem with a teen who isn’t extremely thin.

Talk About Good Health
Lappe said that it’s best for parents to focus on what can be done for good health, and not on making restrictions for their teen.

“Don’t focus on the weight at mealtime,” she says. “Don’t say, ‘Oh you can’t have that because you’re overweight,’ ‘You can’t do this because of that,’ just talk about…the things you can do. What are those healthy things to do and then trying to set your kid up for success, so keeping those healthy things in the house, keep the snacks out of the house that you know are going to be pitfalls and troubles.”

Lappe adds the best thing for teens and adults to do if they are concerned about their weight is to talk to their doctor about it, instead of trying measures on their own first.

Article courtesy of Cleveland Clinic News Service.

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