Ways to help your teenager get to a healthy weight

- Should teenagers be encouraged to diet to control their weight? If the answer is no, what's the solution to helping a child get to a healthy weight? 

For parents who have teens who are struggling with their weight, getting them involved in a diet may seem like a good place to start.  

However, according to recent research, teens who are encouraged to diet are more likely to struggle with their weight as adults. Dr. Susan Albers of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the study, but says the research showed that developing a ‘diet ' mindset during teen years can have lasting effects.  

"They followed teenagers who had been encouraged to diet fifteen years later and found that they were more likely to be overweight, to be dieting, binge-eating, and have lower body satisfaction," Albers says.

The study looked at more than 500 teens who had been encouraged to diet. After fifteen years, researchers found that not only were the former teens more likely to struggle with weight and body image, now as adults, they were also more likely to encourage their own children to diet.  

According to Dr. Albers, dieting can persuade teens to develop a negative relationship with food.  

Instead, she says, it’s more beneficial to practice mindful eating - where the focus is on how you eat, rather than what you eat. Dr. Albers says it’s also helpful to step away from the numbers and focus on your teen’s overall health. 

Instead of focusing on weight loss, she recommends focusing on the health that is gained through eating well.  This can help teens become more energized, more focused and will improve their overall health.  

Dr. Albers says parents can start by focusing on four skills that all start with the letter 'S’ -  Sit down, Shut off devices, Slow down, and Stress management.  

"It’s so important to give teens these skills at this juncture in their life and I talk to parents about tools, not rules," she says. "So moving away from food ‘rules,’ but really helping them to change their habits around the way that they eat."

Dr.  Albers says many teens feel pressure from school or an over-scheduled lifestyle. She encourages parents to find ways to help their teens manage stress because this will help steer them away from comfort-eating. 

Complete results of the study can be found in Pediatrics. 

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