Susan Lennon MSW, LCSW Content Strategist
Communications Consultant
Specializing in Thought Leadership and B2B/B2C Marketing Communications

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Childhood Dieting: Mothers, Take a Chill Pill
USA Weekend Magazine, August 13, 2006
by Susan T. Lennon

Note to moms: if you’re preoccupied with dieting, weight and body size, you might be unwittingly passing your obsession on to your children, especially your daughters, says an ongoing study of adolescents (5,331 girls; 3,881 boys) and their mothers.

“While childhood obesity is certainly a national problem,” says epidemiologist Alison E. Field, assistant professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston, “an unhealthy concern with weight can lead to frequent dieting and low self-esteem in teens.”

Overeating is not good for your health, but dieting is not an effective tool for long-term weight control - in fact dieters gain more weight.

For girls, preoccupation with weight and being thinner can lead to unhealthy behaviors, like vomiting and using laxatives.

Boys don’t usually want to be "thin," but they may be very concerned with not being fat and havng more defined muscles. These boys are at risk for dieting and for using steroids and creatine to bulk up.


To promote a healthy weight while not overstressing the issue, try Field's tips:

  • Play up exercise; be active – be active together
  • Cut down on empty calories, especially sweetened beverages
  • Don't talk about feeling fat in front of your children
  • Limit portion sizes
  • Recognize that if dieting hasn’t worked for you, it won’t for your kids, either
  • If your child is overweight, talk to your pediatrician about seeing a weight loss specialist trained to work with kids
  • Talk to your children about what a healthy body weight really looks like; explain that skinny pictures of models in magazines may be manipulated
  • Discuss celebrity weight-obsession and its connection to eating disorders, drug use and hospitalization
  • Know what a healthy body weight is – by using Body Mass Index (BMI). Learn your child's BMI at for kids

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