Dieting May Promote Weight Gain in Kids
Children and Teens who Diet May Gain Weight Rather than Lose It
Dieting Alone Isn't Enough
Pediatrician Michael Wasserman, MD, says the findings aren't
surprising, because losing weight takes more than just dieting in both children
"The answer is not that diet is bad, but that changing your
lifestyle is a better way," says Wasserman, who works at a child
weight-loss program at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans.
"It has to be a multifactorial change in how you live. You
just can't change one piece of it, you need to change whole day-to-day
lifestyle that the youngster goes through," Wasserman tells WebMD.
But Wasserman also points out that 90% of the study
participants were white and they all were children of nurses who participated
in the Nurses Health Study II, so the results might not apply to the entire
Even so, the study highlights the need for parents to strike a
healthy balance between encouraging healthy eating habits and not making food
an emotional issue, which could lead to potentially dangerous binge eating or
Smart Ways to Help Kids Lose Weight
How to help children and teens lose weight is a problem more
and more parents are facing today as the prevalence of overweight children has
risen by 100% in the last 20 years. Currently about 15% of children and
adolescents are overweight or obese.
Research also shows that children who are overweight or obese
have a 90% chance of being overweight as an adult, and that's why experts say
it's important to help children develop healthy habits as early as possible.
Having obese parents also increases the risks that the child will be obese.
Registered dietitian Rachel Brandeis offers the following tips
to help children (and their parents) attain and maintain a healthy weight:
Get moving. Increasing physical activity to burn more calories is
the best way to encourage weight loss in children. Turn off the TV or computer
and get them involved in any type of sporting activity.
Offer a variety of healthy foods. Limit sugary snacks, sweets, and
other sources of empty calories, such as potato chips.
Don't label foods. Labeling a food as "bad" is likely to
make that food more appealing to children and might lead to overeating or
binging when it becomes available at home or elsewhere.
Avoid "family style" meals. Plating foods in the kitchen
gives parents more control over portion size and helps children learn what a
kid-sized portion should look like.
Brandeis says it's also important for parents to set a healthy example for
their kids with their own eating habits.
"Children model parent's behaviors. So if parents are
constantly talking about being on a diet, and saying, 'I can't eat this, I
can't eat that,' children pick up on those patterns as well," Brandeis
"Food should just be healthy," says Brandeis, who is a
spokeswoman for the National Dietetic Association. "There's room for
treats, there's room for empty calories, but if your child is struggling with a
weight issue ... don't make food such a big issue."