How encouraging your children to diet could have a very negative long-lasting effect

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  • A new study has found that children whose parents told them to diet will pressure their own children to diet too.

    In the midst of an obesity crisis, it can feel as though we are bombarded with messages that promote dieting and low calorie meals or intense fitness regimes.

    Although many parents might suggest a diet to their children out of genuine concern, a new study has found that it can have life long effects.

    Jerica Berge, a co-director at the University of Minnesota Medical Centre and the study’s author, explained: ‘Adolescents who received encouragement to diet from their parents were more likely to do it with their own children.’

    She added: ‘They also were more likely to be overweight and obese, more likely to be dieting or binging, and to have lower body satisfaction.’

    It is normal for parents to encourage their children to lead a healthy lifestyle and suggest getting fit if they think it is necessary.

    However, researchers said the problem with encouraging a diet is that it implies the child needs to lose weight and can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.

    Children encouraged to diet were more likely to be overweight later in life, according to the study

    The study followed 550 people for 15 years and compared their attitudes to diet and how this influenced their parenting styles. Those who were encouraged to diet were 25 per cent more likely to be overweight and 72 per cent more likely to binge eat.

    To avoid causing any negative long-term effects, Jerica suggest getting the whole family involved in eating healthy and not focussing on weight.

    She said: ‘Parents are concerned about their kids, but need to try to focus on healthy conversations. Instead of focusing on weight, talk about how healthy eating can help everyone in the family be stronger physically and live longer lives.’

    Making lifestyle changes rather than encouraging a short-term fix is the most beneficial option and is less likely to negatively impact the child.

    Were you told to diet as a child and now tell your children to diet too? Do you think it’s the responsibility of the parents to ensure their child does not become overweight in the first place? We would love to hear your thoughts, let us know in the comments section below!