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Health Team

Teens and dieting: Why it's not a good idea

Posted July 17, 2018 6:29 a.m. EDT
Updated July 17, 2018 7:11 a.m. EDT

For parents with teens who struggle with their weight, it may seem that a diet would be a good place to start. However, according to a recent study, encouraging a teen to diet may have the opposite result in the long run.

In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers wanted to know the long term effects of a "diet mind set" in teens.

They enrolled more than 500 teens in the study.

Psychologist Dr. Susan Albers commented on the study that showed, as adults, participants were also more likely to encourage their own children to diet.

"They followed teenagers who had been encouraged to diet 15 years later and found that they were more likely to be overweight -- to be dieting, to be binge-eating and have lower body satisfaction," said Dr. Albers.

Many experts now believe that "dieting" can persuade teens to develop a negative relationship with food.

Dr. Albers says it's better to practice "mindful eating," where the focus is on "how your eat" rather than "what you eat."

Teens and dieting: Why it's not a good idea

The number on the bathroom scale is not as important as focusing on your teen's overall health. Rather than focusing on losing pounds, Dr. Albers recommends focusing on health gained through eating well.

A great way to do this is to focus on four skills that begin with the letter S -- sit down, shut off devices, slow down and stress management.

"It's so important to give teens these skills at this juncture in their life and I talk to parents about tools, not rules," said Dr. Albers. "So move away from food rules, but really help them to change their habits around the way that they eat."