If you want to support the health and well-being of children, stop focusing on their weight


<classe étendue="légende">Physical activity, eating habits, and emotional support from friends and family are better predictors of health than body mass index.</span> <span class="attribution"><une classe="lien rapid-noclick-resp" href="https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/sarah-and-her-mother-zohra-khamis-left-sit-in-their-news-photo/474721444" rel="nofollow noopener" cible="_Vide" data-ylk="slk:Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images">Keith Bedford / The Boston Globe via Getty Images</a></span>“src =” https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/SqJY_3IrFsM.0s_tRyd6PQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ5MQ–/https://s.yimg/res/1u/api 77. /SqJY_3IrFsM.0s_tRyd6PQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ5MQ–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/77.QivYcIqk_jwwfaPIDsA–~B/aD0xMDAyO3c9MTQ0MDthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/https://media.zenfs.com / en / the_conversation_us_articles_815 / 740bbd8fe88613981fe6e2b958f04810 “/></div>
<p>Since the start of the pandemic, people of all ages have gained weight.  At the same time, the rate at which youth and young adults seek treatment for eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder, has increased.</p>
<p>While the reasons for these changes are complex, pandemic stress and weight bias – the belief that a lean body is good and healthy, while a bulky body is bad and unhealthy – are significant contributors.</p>
<p>As researchers who study health-related behaviors and are also parents of young children, we often see health research and health initiatives that place a disproportionate emphasis on weight.</p>
<p>This is a problem for two main reasons.</p>
<p>First, it distracts attention from the best predictors of chronic disease and strategies to combat these factors.  Although a high body mass index, or BMI, is one of the risk factors for various chronic diseases, it is only one of many, and far from the strongest.  And although moderate weight loss reduces the risk of chronic disease for some people, about 80% of people who are successful in losing weight regain it.  The remaining 20% ​​describe their continued efforts to maintain their weight loss as stressful and exhausting.</p>
<p>Second, a disproportionate emphasis on weight reinforces the weight bias.  Weight bias, in turn, contributes to weight discrimination, such as bullying and teasing, which is common among young people.  Across various samples surveyed, 25-50% of children and adolescents report being teased or harassed about their body size, and these experiences are linked to eating disorders and depression, as well as less good academic performance and poorer health.</p>
<p>To best support children’s physical and emotional health during this pandemic, we suggest reducing the focus on body size.  Below are some specific tips for parents, teachers and caregivers.</p>
<h2>1. Stop using the words “fat”, “obese” and “overweight”</h2>
<p>When asked, children and adults with larger bodies consistently report that these are the least preferred and most stigmatizing terms for talking about body size, while ‘weight’ and ‘body mass’ are. most preferred.</p>
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So, consider modeling less stigmatizing language. For example, if your teenager calls her friend “overweight,” respond by saying, “Yes, your friend has a bigger body. Likewise, if your doctor calls your child “obese,” ask them to share their “body mass index percentile” instead. Or, better yet, ask them not to talk about weight at all – which brings us to our next recommendation.

2. Focus on health behaviors

Physical activity, eating habits, and emotional support from friends and family are better predictors of illness and death than BMI, and all have been greatly affected by COVID-19.

Considering that behavioral weight loss programs are ineffective for the majority of people, we recommend focusing on behaviors that are more easily changed and that have a stronger influence on health and well-being. Regular physical activity, for example, improves mood and lowers the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, even without weight loss.

It can be difficult to create and maintain new health behaviors. Parents are more likely to be successful if they start by setting realistic goals that include the whole family, rather than choosing a child based on their size.

Like adults, children enjoy activities more when they have a say in the activity. So let them choose as much as possible. There are additional physical and mental health benefits if these activities are performed outdoors.

Father, son and young daughter jump while exercising together outdoors

3. Challenge weight bias

Much of the weight bias stems from the belief that individuals are responsible for their body size, and if they are unable to lose or maintain weight, they deserve to be blamed and ridiculed. These beliefs can contribute to an increased risk of eating disorders in children through parenting behaviors such as overly restrictive eating practices and negative comments about weight.

Parents are also greatly affected by this bias, reporting guilt and sadness for their perceived contributions to their child’s weight.

We suggest parents challenge weight biases by recognizing that – literally – hundreds of factors beyond a person’s control contribute to body size, including genetics, racism and trauma, as well as environmental factors, such as crime levels and proximity to green spaces and recreation. facilities.

4. Advocate against discrimination based on weight

Weight is the number one reason young people are teased, according to a large sample of teenagers in the United States. However, the weight bias is lower in schools where body weight is included in anti-bullying policies. Consider speaking with your child’s principal, attending the next PTA meeting, and advocating for the inclusion of weight discrimination in existing bullying policies.

If your child gets teased, be curious. Ask them what they think about it. Recognize that weight discrimination is a very real phenomenon. Don’t take this time to encourage weight loss. Instead, help your child appreciate their body for what it is. Then talk to their teacher. Schools whose teachers are ready to intervene are less victims of bullying.

And if your child is struggling, consider working with a mental health professional, in person or remotely. During the pandemic, the number of psychologists in the United States providing remote care has increased twelve-fold, and while there are some reported challenges – such as finding a private and quiet space – young people in treatment for disorders of the disease. The diet describes an appreciation of the accessibility, convenience and comfort of this approach.

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5. Help young people become savvy social media consumers

Young people who spend more time on social networking sites feel more dissatisfied with their bodies and have a messier diet. Additionally, more than half of the teens surveyed reported an increase in experiences of weight discrimination at these sites during the pandemic.

Of course, not all social media is bad. Research suggests that this may depend on how young people engage with these sites, with “photo-based activities” being most closely related to eating disorder symptoms.

Parents can help their children learn to notice that when they post and view photos or follow appearance-oriented influencers, they feel bad or compare their bodies to that of others, and encourage them to do so. pause. They may also suggest that they consider moving away from following these accounts and instead look for people who inspire them, make them laugh, and help them feel empowered.

The past year and a half has been difficult. As people reflect on how to resume some of their pre-COVID activities, we hope that food and movement can help families and communities reconnect and feel good. Our bodies have taken us through an extremely difficult time and deserve respect and kindness.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Nichole Kelly, University of Oregon; Elizabeth Budd, University of Oregon, and Nicole Giuliani, University of Oregon.

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Nichole Kelly receives funding from the University of Oregon and the National Institutes of Health for research focused on health behaviors and children’s mental health. She has no conflict of interest to disclose.

Elizabeth Budd receives funding from the National Institutes of Health for research related to the promotion of COVID-19 testing and other preventative behaviors among Latinx communities and from the University of Oregon for research focused on health behaviors and child and adolescent health outcomes. She has no conflict of interest to disclose.

Nicole Giuliani receives funding from the University of Oregon, the National Institutes of Health and the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon for research focusing on parental influences on child self-regulation and health-related behaviors . She has no conflict of interest to disclose.

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