We should move away from dieting resolutions, especially around kids – Insider
- Pandemic data shows weight gain among parents and kids and a spike in eating disorders among teens.
- Include children in movement activities, such as dancing or cleaning, instead of limiting food.
- Experts suggest not using candy as treats for good behavior in kids.
The data is heavy, and the headlines are unrelenting: During the pandemic, 51% of American parents reported undesired weight gain, obesity spiked among kids ages 5 to 11, and hospitalizations for eating disorders among adolescents increased significantly.
I didn’t connect my active, kale-loving family of five to these statistics until I noticed a note in my medical record. Under patient examination, the clinician typed, “Overweight, but alert.”
Alert — and insulted — I immediately began researching diets, such as macronutrient tracking and intermittent fasting, but I worried about following a restrictive eating plan in plain sight of my kids.
Researchers found that dieting discussions and fat talk were harmful to kids and often led to disordered eating. Rachel Millner, a psychologist and certified eating-disorder specialist, said that when parents comment negatively about their bodies, “kids are listening and hearing their own bodies criticized.”
While parents don’t cause eating disorders, the home environment can be a risk factor, especially when there’s a family history of overevaluation of appearance. Studies also showed that weight stigma was more likely to drive weight gain and poor health outcomes, rather than lead to
Zoë Bisbing, a New York City psychotherapist and the author of “The ABCs of Body-Positivity Parenting,” wasn’t surprised by the pandemic weight-gain data, given many months of increased eating and stress coupled with reduced activity. She urged acceptance of weight gain as “part of your survival story, not necessarily a crisis that needs correcting.”
How parents can best tend to their family’s health
Bisbing suggested that parents and other caregivers treat pandemic pounds as an invitation to learn about the body-positivity, anti-dieting, and Health at Every Size movements. She encouraged parents to notice their own weight biases and how often they comment, positively or negatively, about size, appearance, or food choices. “Then, just stop talking about food and bodies,” Bisbing said.
Even if a parent is trying to lose weight, they can protect children from harmful dieting messaging by modeling balance and moderation by “creating some optics that they know how to eat a cookie.”
Wendy Sterling, a registered dietitian and coauthor of “No Weigh! A Teen’s Guide to Positive Body Image, Food, and Emotional Wisdom,” said adults shouldn’t display panic about weight gain. “Just …….