Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Please Don't Encourage Your Kids To Diet

Image Source: The Los Angeles Loyolan
I wish it went without saying, but it doesn't, so I'll say it again, please don't encourage your kids to diet.

The worry is that by doing so, you may inadvertently have a negative affect on their self esteem, their body image, and/or their relationship with food, and given they're likely not the ones doing the shopping, cooking the meals, or deciding how frequently to eat out, drive-thru, or take-out, even if there wasn't risk to encouraging them to diet, their dietary landscape is primarily in your hands.

And that risk may not just be theoretical.

A study published in last month's issue of Pediatrics found that parents encouraging their adolescents to diet was associated with,
"a higher risk of overweight or obesity, dieting, binge eating, engaging in unhealthy weight control behaviors, and lower body satisfaction 15 years later as a parent, after adjusting for sociodemographics and baseline measures of the outcomes"
It also demonstrated an inter-generational effect whereby kids who were encouraged to diet, 15 years later, were more likely to encourage their children to do so as well.

If you're worried about your child's weight, rather than suggest that they go on a diet, I'd encourage you to explore your home's food environment. Look for ways to reduce liquid calories and energy dense food availability within the home, purchase fewer meals, make it a point to help your kids learn to cook (this recent study found those reporting cooking skills at 18 were more likely to have healthful diets a decade later), and improve your family's health by looking for ways to be active together. And while there's not likely to be any quick fixes, working towards living the life you want your children to live may go a long way.