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Praise, Don’t Tease, And Other Tips To Help Kids With Their Weight

According to Marlene Schwartz, a psychologist and the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, a child’s immediate family can be a common source of fat shaming, or commenting negatively on the child’s weight.

“I think sometimes parents misguidedly think that if they tease the child, that it will motivate them to try harder to lose weight,” she says. “But there’s virtually no evidence that that works. And in fact, there’s evidence that it causes harm.”

For instance, studies have shown that children subjected to weight-based teasing gain more weight than other children. And even less overtly cruel tactics, like advising your child to lose weight or encouraging your child to go on a diet, can often backfire, causing lasting physical and psychological harm. A 2016 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics warned parents and doctors against prescribing or discussing weight loss to kids and teens, because such behavior could increase their risk of weight gain and disordered eating.

Still, parents can help kids with overweight or obesity eat more healthfully, stay active and maintain positive attitudes about their bodies. Here’s advice about the best ways to communicate with children about weight and support their health.

Promote positive self-image, instead of focusing on weight.

Even practical comments focused on your child’s weight can backfire, Schwartz says: “Even ‘gentle prodding’ about weight isn’t a good idea, in my opinion.” Research backs this up: In one 2017 study in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders, researchers found that women who remembered their parents commenting about their weight in childhood reported greater dissatisfaction with their bodies well into adulthood — regardless of their actual body mass index.

Instead, help your child feel comfortable in their body, no matter the size. For example: “If you’re going clothes shopping with your child, don’t make comments [like], ‘That makes you look slimmer’ or ‘That is too tight,’ ” she says. “Focus on finding clothes that the child feels comfortable with, and be generous with your praise when your child finds an outfit.”

Denise Wilfley, director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Wellness at Washington University in St. Louis, suggests evidence-based programs that focus on “modifying the entire family environment to support the child.”

The solution, Wilfley says, is to make your entire household a healthy environment “where the child is exposed to high-quality nutrition and prompts for physical activity.”

Excerpted from “Praise, Don’t Tease, And Other Tips To Help Kids With Their Weight” in NPR online. Read the full article.

Source: NPR | Praise, Don’t Tease, And Other Tips To Help Kids With Their Weight, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/08/25/753446490/praise-dont-tease-and-other-tips-to-help-kids-with-their-weight | © 2019 npr

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