You hear every day that kids are getting obese and something needs to be done. You’ve seen the research about a rise in diabetes in children. So this page is not going to repeat that research, or those admonitions.
Instead, we’ve posted the research and findings that that don’t make the headlines, often because there is little to no money to be made. Selling a program, making you worried, telling you to buy a product, that is what makes headlines. Not much money in repeating the research showing those programs backfire. Or that these programs are likely to harm your child and cause eventual weight gain. So we wanted to gather up that information to share with you.
You’re trying to help your child’s health, to make sure they are not bullied due to weight. But quite a bit of research exists showing that when children try to lose weight, or even try to eat healthy to manage weight, they are more likely to develop disordered eating and poor body image—spending hours worrying about calories, carbs and the scale. And for what? Well, the research also shows they will lose some weight, but will then be up to 4 times more likely to heavier in the long run.
Yikes! Not what you had planned. Check out the research and articles below. ead some of the research below.
Also, check out the resources at the bottom of this page.
Kids and Disordered Eating and Eating Disorders
Kids and Weight Management
I Help People Recover From Disordered Eating. Don’t Give Your Child This App - The research below is just a sampling of that that concludes that helping a child lose weight usually causes them to become heavier in the long run, but also creates body image and eating problems. And now WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) is helping to harm children. 8/19
Mama: Don’t talk weight loss resolutions in front of your child —here’s why. Moms are probably the most important influence on a daughter's body image. Even saying, 'You look so beautiful, but I'm so fat,’ can trigger unhealthy eating behaviors and weight struggles in their child. 12/17
How to Determining Ideal Body Weight in Kids with Eating Disorders - If the only way a kid can maintain a certain weight is by constant restrained eating and exercising, then that weight is not their body's ideal weight.4/13
Kids Who Eat Candy Less Likely to Become Overweight - “Jaw dropping research” of 11,000 kids shows that children who ate sweets were 22% less likely to be overweight than kids who avoided sweets. Adolescents who ate candy were 26% less likely to be overweight than those who avoided candy. 06/11 (Not really jaw dropping if you understand the psychology of eating!)
Coming to Terms with my Daughter's Genetically Programmed Body Size - From a mom who did not want to harm her child, but also lamented her daughter no longer being thin. 11/11
Around the Dinner Table Forum - Free support and conversation for parents of those suffering from eating disorders.
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. Kids trying to lose weight, or who are around weight talk (including parents talking about their own weight) and or who are teased about weight have a dramatically increased chance of abnormal weight gain. 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 themselves were more likely than others to resort to unhealthy dieting measures, and some ended up gaining close to twice as much weight. 12/06.
Thinning the Milk Does Not Mean Thinning the Child - School based obesity intervention programs don’t work, but that’s not stopping anyone. 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 Young Kids Fat - Five year old girls who diet end up fatter as they get older. 6/04
Grades in School Suffer Among Those Trying To Lose Weight - Research shows students who are restricting food intake perform more poorly on exams. Interesting, this reverses when they are no longer dieting. 5/04
Children Who Diet End Up Heavier - "Dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain, according to this study of more than 16,000 U.S. boys and girls age 9 to 14 from 1996 to 1998. Pediatrics, 10/03.
Dieting Promotes Weight Gain - Teens who limit food intake to control weight end up heavier. 1/00
Bad News for Girls Who Try to Control Their Weight - Girls without obesity who dieted in the ninth grade were 3 times more likely to be overweight in the 12th grade compared with nondieters. 12/99
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.