Parents usually try to provide the best for their kids according to their understanding. This norm often includes teaching children how to eat and live healthily. But in the attempt to stress over the widespread problem of obesity, some parents often force children to follow strict diets and lose weight. According to scientists, this could be harmful and even result in bad eating habits.
According to WHO statistics, over 42 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese globally in 2010, which is roughly a 60 percent increase from 1990. If the trend continues at the same rate, by 2020 around 9 percent of preschoolers will be overweight or obese. Generally, overweight children are likely to stay overweight into adulthood and to develop weight-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger range. That’s why all health professionals say that prevention of childhood obesity is essential. But in the same time, it seems that talking about weight and dieting to kids may actually do more damage. A new study published yesterday in journal JAMA Pediatrics says that if parents tell their kids they are fat or they will get fat if they continue to eat the way they do, children are more likely to develop unhealthy eating behaviours or suffer various eating disorders.
Many parents and mothers, in particular, often engage in lengthly diet conversations and try to force their teenage girls to start a diet to lose weight, but no girl has ever lost weight because her mother told her to. The researchers from University of Minnesota collected data from different surveys on a total of over 2,300 adolescents’ eating habits and family relationships. The results showed that if the parents talked to them about their weight, these kids were more likely to suffer from eating disorders – fasting, binge eating, throwing up and taking diet pills and laxatives. About 64 percent of kids who were being told they were heavy had some eating issues, compared to only 40 percent of teens whose mothers focused on healthy eating instead. In fact, this pattern was relatively the same in children who weren’t overweight.
It’s always hard to talk to your child about weight, body shape and healthy eating, especially in adolescence when they are very vulnerable to all kinds of ideas and new lifestyles. When discussing weight issues with you children, the doctors say, don’t even mention the word “weight”. Instead, parents should emphasize on healthy eating and forget about restrictive diets. Judging your children won’t help nor frequent diet conversations, the experts say, it will only make it worse.