U of M study offers advice on talking to kids about weight

MINNEAPOLIS - A newUniversity of Minnesota study is offering tips on how to talk to your kids about food, nutrition and weight.

Most parents know that one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese and, of course, they want their own kids to be healthy.

"Many of them ask their health care providers, 'What should I say? Should I have a conversation? Should I avoid it?' And health care providers wonder themselves, 'What do I tell parents?'" U of M researcher Jerica Berge said.

So Berge led the new study to find out.

She said while some parents believe you have to lay it on the line and tell a kid they're overweight, thestudy titledParent Conversations About Healthful Eating and Weightand published in JAMA Pediatrics, suggests otherwise.

"It really does help to focus more on the healthy eating rather than confronting a child directly about their weight," Berge said.

Researchers surveyedmore than3,500 parents and asked them about how they talk to their adolescent children.They then surveyed their more than 2,300 adolescent children and asked those kids how they control their weight.

"Parents who focused on weight conversations had adolescents who engaged in more unhealthy weight control behaviors and dieting," Berge said. "Those are things like binging and purging and taking laxatives, diuretics, whereas parents who focused more on the healthy eating messages had adolescents who engaged in fewer of those unhealthy dieting and weight control behaviors."

In the long run, those unhealthy behaviors can lead to eating disorders or obesity, Berge said.

She advisesparents to say that it's important to eat your fruits and vegetables so you have a healthy strong body rather than showing concern over a child's weight.

Those conversations should be startedat an earlyage to set agood example for your kids.

The study also showed that it didn't matter if a kid was overweight or non-overweight, talking with them about how to eat healthy is better than talking about their body size.


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