If you have a child, or children, who are among the third of our kids who’re overweight, what should you say to them about that?
Be careful how you do this. You don’t want your kid to suffer from disordered eating behaviors: dieting , laxative use, fasting, binge eating. You also don’t want your kid to have an eating disorder like anorexia , or bulimia.
A new study in JAMA Pediatrics examines the best way to have this conversation: what to do, and what NOT to say.
It’s based on the experience of parents of more than 2300 adolescents -- about half of whom were overweight. The group was balanced socio-economically, racially, and ethnically. Most of the kids were in their teens. Their average age was 14 and a half.
The best advice:
Instead, focus on the positive: good nutrition, with food as fuel to make your body strong. Kids whose parents focused on healthful eating behaviors were less likely to engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors.
Also: don’t harangue your kid. Talk is best in small doses, and privately. The study showed that even when both parents did the right thing and focused on food, not weight, it could backfire.
Don’t nag about size, weight, or body shape. Don’t even mention it. Instead, focus on health and healthful eating behaviors. But do it gently. Don’t just talk. Follow through with a plan you’ve discussed. Make sure healthy food choices are available.
Never badger. Never berate. Always encourage.