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Parents' Comments to Teens about Weight Can Backfire, Study Shows

MAYWOOD, Ill. – Overweight or obese adolescents whose parents would speak to them about their weight were more likely to engage in binge eating and use unhealthy weight-control behaviors than teens whose parents instead spoke with them in terms of eating healthier, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“I often do not even have my pediatric patients weigh themselves facing the scale; the number is not the goal,” said Ashley Barrient, MEd, LPC, RD, LDN, dietitian and bariatric counselor at Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care. “Kids are overwhelmed by talk of weight and dieting and feel they cannot change the numbers. But if you talk with them about the whole family making healthy eating changes as a team, they feel supported and positive change happens more frequently."

Barrient said that children typically view their family and home as a safe environment and discussion of weight by their parents is threatening and viewed as criticism. “No one likes to feel judged or criticized,“ said Barrient, who always involves the whole family when counseling adolescents. “By addressing the family as a group, everyone makes positive changes."

Barrient works with families in an integrated team approach at Loyola with psychologists, exercise physiologists, physicians and surgeons to combat obesity. 
“Adults in the family are often struggling with unhealthy habits, including skipping meals, drinking sugary beverages or engaging in frequent fast-food consumption, which then influences the child’s behavior,” Barrient said. “When the parent is held accountable for making health improvements, the whole family benefits."

One-third of all U.S. adults (78 million) and 12 million children suffer from obesity, now officially called a disease by the American Medical Association. Many factors including socioeconomic dynamics, education level and residential neighborhood influence a teen’s health. “Many kids report that going with their friends to a convenience store before or after school to get a soda and packaged snack food is the norm,” Barrient said. “Teens are more easily influenced by what their peers are eating and doing."

Barrient’s advice to parents concerned about their teenagers’ weight? “You are a role model for the family, so partner with your child and improve your health together,” she said.

In addition to a nonsurgical medical weight-loss program, Loyola offers surgical procedures including laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and also laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy.  Loyola takes an integrated team approach and education and support groups play an important role in all aspects of care.  To learn more about medical and surgical weight loss at Loyola, or to sign up for a free information session, please call (800) 504-1397 or visit loyolamedicine.com/bariatrics.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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