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How to talk to kids about weight, food

7:41 AM, Aug 6, 2013   |    comments
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Elementary student eats lunch in school lunchroom (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

ATLANTA -- How do you talk to kids about weight? It can be difficult, especially if they are overweight. 

Findings in a new study can help.

Renee Tessman spoke with researchers about tips to talk to children about food, nutrition and weight. Parents know that one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese. They want their kids to be healthy. 

Researcher Jerica Berge said, "Many of them ask their health care providers, 'What should I say? Should I have a conversation? Should I avoid it?' And health care providers wonder themselves, 'What do I tell parents?'"

Berge led a study to find out the answers. While some parents believe you have to lay it on the line and tell a kid they're overweight, Berge says her new study suggests otherwise. 

"It really does help to focus more on the healthy eating rather than confronting a child directly about their weight," she said.

Researchers asked parents how they talk to their adolescent children and then asked those kids how they control their weight. 

"Parents who focused on weight conversations had adolescents who engaged in more unhealthy weight control behaviors and dieting. Those are things like binging and purging and taking laxatives, diuretics. Whereas parents who focused more on the healthy eating messages had adolescents who engaged in fewer of those unhealthy dieting and weight control behaviors," Berge explained. 

Tessman said in the long run, those unhealthy behaviors can lead to eating disorders or obesity. Parents should avoid telling children of their concern over their weight. 

Instead, Berge suggests encouraging healthy habits. 

"It's important to eat your fruits and vegetables so you have a healthy strong body," Barge said parents should say. 

She also says it's best for those conversations to start early and for parents to be good examples for their kids. For more information on talking to kids about weight and food choices, visit Strong 4 Life online. Parents can read about "The Talk" before having the conversation. 

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