A new study suggests that trying to force your kids to diet or eat healthier, may actually have the opposite effect.
The team determined that constant messaging about dieting from parents was linked to higher odds for poor self-esteem, body satisfaction and depression in young adulthood. Berge was quick to point out that none of this means that parents who encourage dieting are trying to make their kids unhappy or unhealthy.
“Parents are well-meaning and doing the best for their kids,” she said. “They want them to be as healthy as possible, but they often undermine themselves with the language they use, making a kid feel guilty or ashamed and much less able to change, because they feel about bad about themselves internally.”
She said parents can still encourage healthier eating by taking a different approach, one that involves less shaming.
“If you say something about someone’s weight, it’s internalized as shaming, and it doesn’t lead to behavioral change,” she said. “So, we’re trying to refocus people’s language on eating healthy. We relate it to something kids like to do. If your kid likes soccer, focus on the fact that eating right can help you run faster on the team. Whatever is of interest to your teen, hone in on that and tell them eating well is for that purpose, not focusing on weight.”