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Prevent Obesity in Your Teens with This New Guideline

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Dieting is bad advice for teens

Did you know that if your child is overweight or obese, that dieting can actually do more harm than good? Here are the latest guidelines for both parents and pediatricians for preventing teen obesity and helping those who are already overweight.


Research shows that one example of a mistake made by parents and pediatricians, is the focus on resorting to having a child go on a diet. As it turns out, dieting rarely works well and too often leads to the development of eating disorders in the young and/or resorting to taking dangerous dieting pills or other supplements.

According to the Stanford Medical News release, “'Scientific evidence increasingly shows that for teenagers, dieting is bad news,’ states Neville Golden, MD, professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a lead author of the new guidelines. Teens who diet in ninth grade are three times more likely than their peers to be overweight in 12th grade, for instance. And calorie-counting diets can deprive growing teenagers of the energy they need and lead to symptoms of anorexia nervosa, which may even become life-threatening. ‘It’s not unusual for us to see young people who have rapidly lost a lot of weight but are not healthy; they end up in the hospital attached to a heart monitor with unstable vital signs,’ says Golden.”

So what’s a parent to do when they can see their child on a path toward obesity? The new guidelines tell parents and pediatricians to avoid focusing on teenagers’ weight and shape, and to begin focusing on teaching the young how to achieve a healthy, balanced lifestyle with a healthy diet and to pursue exercise for fitness―not weight loss.

The New Guidelines Summarized

To help guide parents and pediatricians on how to deal with weight issues (or prevent them from even happening), the following is a summary of recommendations made by the new guideline:

For parents and in the home

• Parents should not encourage dieting; should avoid “weight talk,” such commenting on their own weight or their child’s weight.

• Parents (or other family members) should never tease teens about their weight.

• Parents should see to it that their families eat regular meals together and have healthy foods easily available throughout the home.

• Parents should help their children develop a healthy body image by encouraging them to eat a balanced diet and to exercise for fitness, rather than for weight loss.

For pediatricians in the exam room

1. Pediatricians should discourage dieting, skipping of meals, or the use of diet pills; instead, encourage and support the implementation of healthy eating and physical activity behaviors that can be maintained on an ongoing basis. The focus should be on healthy living and healthy habits rather than on weight.

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2. Pediatricians should promote a positive body image among adolescents. Do not encourage body dissatisfaction or focus on body dissatisfaction as a reason for dieting.

3. Pediatricians should encourage more frequent family meals.

4. Pediatricians should encourage families not to talk about weight but rather to talk about healthy eating and being active to stay healthy.

5. Pediatricians should inquire about a history of mistreatment or bullying in overweight and obese teenagers and address this issue with patients and their families.

6. Pediatricians should carefully monitor weight loss in an adolescent who needs to lose weight to ensure the adolescent does not develop the medical complications of semi-starvation.

For more details about the guidelines, a pre-published access to the clinical report is available online linked in the references below.

For more about preventing obesity in your child, here are some select articles that could help:

Two Ways a Mother Can Protect Her Child from a Life of Obesity

Prevent Childhood Obesity at Home with This Study Advice

Here’s the Best Way to Predict if Your Baby Will Become Obese


Stanford Medicine News Center “One approach can prevent teen obesity, eating disorders, new guidelines say

American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report―“Preventing Obesity and Eating Disorders in Adolescents

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