RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Interviews with parents of overweight adolescents revealed that about half the parents correctly identified their kids as overweight. But those who recognized their kids’ weight problem were no more likely to take effective action than parents who were unaware of the problem. In fact, parents who knew there was a problem were more likely to encourage their kids to diet; a tactic that can make weight issues worse.
THE DETAILS: Researchers interviewed 314 pairs of parents and children who had participated in an earlier study about adolescent eating patterns and weight-related issues. The parents classified their kids’ weights according to six categories (“very underweight” to “very overweight”). Both parents and kids answered questions about family meal habits, the food available at home, and attitudes towards eating and exercising.
WHAT IT MEANS: Knowing there’s a problem doesn’t help if you don’t know what the solutions are. “I think that for the most part parental intentions are good, but there may be misconceptions about the best way to encourage weight loss,” says Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, who directed the study. In her book "I'm, Like, SO Fat!": Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices about Eating and Exercise in a Weight-Obsessed World (Guilford Press, 2007), Neumark-Sztainer identifies four “cornerstones” for helping kids achieve a healthy weight:
1. Be a good example of healthy behaviors.
2. Create a home environment where it’s easy to make healthy choices by providing options for healthy foods and exercise; limit TV access.
3. Don’t focus on weight loss.
4. Support your child with lots of listening and unconditional love.