Caution: Parent Talking Weight with Child May Increase Risk of Eating Disorder

Study Suggests Talking About “Eating Healthy Foods” is Safer.

From Psychiatric News Alert (8/5/13): When parents discuss weight issues with their adolescents, it may encourage them to develop eating disorders, a large community-based study reported in JAMA Pediatrics suggests. The study found, for example, that youngsters were more likely to engage in unhealthy eating behaviors such as extreme dieting, laxative use, and binge eating when their parents talked about weight than when they talked about eating healthy foods. This was the case for overweight youth as well as for those who were not overweight. In addition, binge eating was found to be more prevalent among adolescents whose mothers discussed weight than among adolescents whose mothers didn’t.

“I think these are important findings,” Michael Devlin, M.D., co-director of eating disorders research at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, told Psychiatric News. “They support the idea that, despite our concerns about obesity and its comorbidities, the most useful health promotion messages relate to lifestyle and not weight, and that weight-related messaging, particularly messages that evoke shame or contribute to stigma, can be counterproductive.”

Body dissatisfaction is another major factor that has been linked with the development of eating disorders in young people. Read more about that issue in Psychiatric News here, and read about research on binge-eating disorder here.

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