For many parents, discussing weight issues with their kids is about as difficult as the facts-of-life talk. But federal health officials say new research shows talking about such issues is far less important than setting a good example, at least when it comes to parents of teenagers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 28 percent of adolescents are overweight — meaning as many as 1 in 5 parents is thinking about how to discuss the issue. But creating a healthful home environment, modeling healthful behaviors themselves, and encouraging teens who make good decisions about their weight are more effective than merely talking with them about obesity issues.
That’s the chief finding of a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
"In terms of 'talking' about adopting more healthful eating and physical activity behaviors, it is important for parents to remember that their adolescent could have a negative emotional response, for example sad or angry, when questioned about their weight,” said lead researcher Kerri Boutelle, a pediatrics and psychiatry specialist.
“In the current study, and in other studies, parents were aware of the psychosocial effects of being overweight. Therefore, exploring other methods of addressing weight issues besides just focusing on weight loss may be needed when working with adolescents, such as being fit and physically active, or eating for health."
For the study, 27 adolescents and their parents were surveyed to determine factors contributing to successful weight loss.
The results showed parents who didn’t place a great deal of emphasis on talking with their children about weight-related topics, but sought to create households that stressed healthy activities — such as exercise, diet and other behaviors behaviors — had the greatest potential for success in helping manage their children’s weight issues.