Breaking the teen dieting craze

Published On: Jul 12 2013 10:39:59 AM EDT   Updated On: Jul 15 2013 06:45:00 AM EDT

Between 41% and 66% of all teenage girls in the US have attempted to lose weight at some point, but a new study shows teens who diet actually gain more weight over time. So what can parents do to help break this dieting cycle?

The images are all around us: the magazine ads, the commercials, all pressuring teenagers to be thin.

Dr. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer is the author of “I’m Like So Fat.” For the past 15 years she has been tracking the eating habits of 2,800 adolescents for ‘Project EAT’ at the University of Minnesota.

“We live in a society where we have classism, we have racism, and we have weightism.” said Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD, Lead Researcher of ‘Project EAT’ at the University of Minnesota.

Her team found 58% of the teens studied used diet pills, vomiting, or skipping meals to lose weight.

Plus the more adolescents dieted, the more weight they gained. In the course of ten years, on average, adolescents gained ten to 20 pounds more than teens who didn’t diet. So what can parents do to help promote a healthy environment for their teens?

“Talk less about weight, do more,” advised Neumark-Sztainer.

She suggests offering healthy foods in the home, eating dinner as a family, and avoiding negative comments.

“Making comments like you should get off the couch, do you really want a second helping; these comments can be very hurtful, dangerous, and have unintended consequences,” explained Neumark-Sztainer.

Hopefully positive reinforcement in the home can combat the negative messages seen everywhere else.

Neumark-Sztainer plans to track her ‘Project EAT’ participants through adulthood and study how they communicate healthy eating habits to their own children.


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