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Struggling with weight is a common issue in our society. This struggle has also started being passed on to our children.

Issues such as bullying and low self-esteem have been a result. As a parent, you want to do everything in your power to help your kids – especially if you have struggled with your own weight. You may feel the most natural response is putting our child on a diet. Yet, there has been new research that has strongly advised against doing this.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has provided recommendations against dieting (defined as a caloric restriction with the result of weight loss) because it increases BMI (Body Mass Index) and prevalence of eating disorders in teens. So what are some helpful ways to help your teen improve their health by losing weight?

  • Understand Healthy Eating: There seems to be a lot of confusion about what healthy eating truly is. Are carbs good or bad? Do I need to supplement for better nutrition? Should I eat fat or will that make me fatter? With all this confusion, a person can feel stuck on what needs to be changed in the diet. Teens, just like everyone else, need a balance of essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, Vitamin C, fiber, lean protein and heart-healthy fats. They can achieve these recommendations if they make sure to not skip meals, focus on balance from the five food groups and staying hydrated. If you feel, as a parent, you can't provide this information and guidance, consider seeing a registered dietitian to help you take this knowledge and apply it to your family. 
  • Family Meals: It's seems like a simple act but research has strongly shown that sitting down to at least one family meal per day has shown to reduce weight, not to mention a wealth of other things such as improved self-esteem and communication skills. The other important aspect of family mealtime is food modeling – showing your kids how to eat healthfully by practicing healthy eating yourself.
  • Weight Talk: It's hard enough that overweight teens get bullied by their peers about weight but if their loved ones are teasing them or putting them down, this can lead to deeper self-image and self-esteem issues. Striving for a more positive weight talk is key. Having the focus be on "nourishing our body"or "fueling our body so we can learn better in school"are simple phases that will encourage and support a teen who is trying to improve health or weight.

The topic of weight loss, especially in our children, is sensitive and complex. Don't feel like you need to do in on your own. Seek the help of your primary care provider for what the next steps could be. Also, consider meeting with a registered dietitian to help with clarifying what healthy eating is and how to start the small changes in your family to improve health.

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