Study Links Weight Talks With Eating Disorders in Teens

First Posted: Jun 25, 2013 09:30 AM EDT

A new finding reveals a strong association between the manner in which parents discuss weight with children and the likelihood of developing eating disorders.

In today's society where thinness is prized, it is common for teens to be self-conscious. At times it is difficult to talk to teens on certain issues, and one of these sensitive subjects is weight.

According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School, talking to children about weight and food could influence them in developing an eating disorder, reports Health Line.

This study says that when parents talk about body weight and size they increase the chances of their kid opting for unhealthy dietary choices like dieting, binging and other activities that lead to weight loss. On the other hand, when children were told to simply stick to healthy eating they were less likely to develop eating disorders.

To prove the hypothesis, the study lead Jerica M Berge, a researcher from the U of M, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, along with her colleagues examined a survey and assessment that was conducted between 2009-2010 on 2,793 teens of mean age 14.4 years and 3,709 parents of mean age 42.3 years. The teen sample was taken from Eating and Activity in Teens 2010 and parents were from Project Families and Eating and Activity in Teens.   

"Adolescence is a time when more youths engage in disordered eating behaviors, it is important for parents to understand what types of conversations may be helpful or harmful in regard to disordered eating behaviors and how to have these conversations with their adolescents,"  Berge was quoted in Health Line.

The researchers noticed that those children whose parents had weight related conversations were more likely to engage in unhealthy weight control behavior and take up binge eating. On the other hand, obese and overweight children whose parents spoke on healthy eating behavior were less likely to diet and indulge in weight control behavior.

The researchers conclude that weight related talks increase the risk of children developing eating disorders whereas talks on healthy eating avoid this.

The way parents present the topic is crucial. An example quoted in HNGN shows, rather than saying "You should stop eating chocolates because it will make you fat", it is better to say "Eating too much chocolate is bad for the body as it has too much sugar in it, you may get diabetes".

The study was published in the issue of JAMA Network.

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