When children try to eat healthy to manage or lose weight, parents -- influenced by what most experts recommend -- often think, "It was okay, she needs to lose a little weight." Unfortunately most people do not realize the serious problems that often result, including eventual weight gain and the potential for disordered eating.
Many kids who eat healthy to manage weight will get caught up in a kind of healthy eating mentality that causes them to spend years (years they should be enjoying life) worrying about calories, carbs and the scale. Read some of the research below.
Also, check out the resources at the bottom of this page.
Researchers Jennifer Shunk and Leann Birch of Pennsylvania State University note that their research supports other research that shows that kids who attempt weight control may actually end up promoting weight gain.
Negative Comments Can Trigger Eating Problems - Parents who express dissatisfaction over their child’s size can contribute to serious eating problems. 2/16
Preventing Obesity and Eating Disorders in Adolescents. What contributes to weight gain and eating problems? Trying to lose weight, weight talk (even comments by parents about their own weight) and being teased about weight. What minimizes the chance of unnatural weigh gain and eating problems? Eating family meals together and cultivating a positive body image. Pediatrics, 8/16.
Tell your doctor NOT to comment about your child's weight BEFORE THE VISIT. Recently, a client being treated for anorexia told me a year earlier, at age 12, a doctor told her to "watch her weight" and that she should be more active (he didn't say she was fat). She began restricting and a year later, she was in my office. I've seen this many times.
Frequent Scale-Steppers Gain More Weight - Teen girls who frequently weighed were more likely to gain weight, some gaining close to twice as much weight! 12/06.
School Intervention Programs - It appears school related intervention programs are not working, and no one is finding out why. 12/06
Mom's Weight Focus Can Rub Off On Kids - Dieting mom's can trigger unhealthy fixation on weight in their kids. Even small cues, such as making self-deprecating remarks about thighs or showing delight over weight loss, can send the message that children should be similarly focused. 8/06
Family’s Weight Comments Harm Girls - Girls whose families criticize their weight or eating habits may develop lasting problems with body image and self-esteem. Data suggest that even occassional comments may have a lasting negative impact. 8/06
Dieting Makes Little Girls Fat - Five year old girls who diet end up fatter as they get older. 6/04
Dieters Perform Worse on Exams - More research showing dieters perform more poorly on exams. Interesting, girls outscore boys in grade school and high school, even when so many of them are dieting. What would happen if the girls weren't dieting? 5/04
Children Who Diet End Up Heavier - "Dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain," said the report from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Based on a study ofmore than 16,000 U.S. boys and girls age 9 to 14 from 1996 to 1998. Pediatrics, 10/03.
Most kids and teens do not need a restrictive diet. Limiting eating to control weight not only doesn’t work, but in fact, dieting promotes weight gain in tweens and teens. 1/00
Help Your Child Avoid (or Heal) Eating, Weight and Body Image Problems
- 9 Common Mistakes Parents Make About Their Kid’s Weight - and how to help
- Kids, Eating, Weight and Health - Introducing a new approach that can help without harming.
- Changing the Conversation, Part 1 - Compassionate look at the harm obesity prevention can do to kids; offers alternatives.
- Changing the Conversation, Part 2 - How to help our kids by promoting healthy eating for ALL children.
- References - For the above 3 articles.
- Tips to help you raise your child with healthy body esteem.
- Ten Things You Can Do - For yourself and the girls in your life to re-learn body acceptance.
Real Kids Come In All Sizes by Kathy Kater
Secrets of Feeding A Healthy Family by Ellyn Satter
How to Get Your Kids to Eat, But Not Too Much by Ellyn Satter
I Like Me by Nancy Carlson. Starring a female pig who is her own best friend and likes her round tummy and curly tail.