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Parents Can Influence Overweight Teens

Bummed out about your body? Need to lose a few pounds? Whatever you do, don’t gripe about your appearance in front of your kids or try out a crash diet.

A study published in the May 2010 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that when parents have a healthy attitude about food and their bodies, their overweight teens do as well.

After analyzing surveys from 103 overweight adolescents and their parents –mostly mothers– researchers found that psychological factors like parents’ depression, self-esteem, body satisfaction and emphasis on thinness influenced their teenage children (I think it’s safe to conclude that younger kids are influenced as well).

“There was a pretty strong association between parent body satisfaction and adolescent body satisfaction,” said Taya Cromley, Ph.D., who led the study at University of California, San Diego. “Messages from parents about weight and body image can be communicated directly or indirectly. It’s important to consider what the message is that’s being communicated.”

The study analyzed a number of health practices, including fasting, taking diet pills, monitoring caloric intake, increasing exercise, eating more fruits and vegetables and avoiding foods high in fat.

Family dynamics were significant as well. Not surprisingly, the study also found that teens in stressed out combative family situations overate, while those in connected, healthy families overate less. I know I’m certainly more likely to hunker down with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s after a stressful day.

So stop popping diet pills, going on crash diets and skipping meals unless you want a pill-popping, crash dieting, meal-skipping teen.

Troubled by the notion that there’s yet another problem that can be blamed on parents? The good news is that you can make a positive difference. The study also found that when parents follow healthy weight-control strategies and maintain a healthy body image, their overweight teens modeled their example. What better reason to eat your fruit and veggies and go for a run?

Are you worried that your poor body image and unhealthy diet is affecting your kids?

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mandynogood/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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