Adults who were pressured by their parents to diet during adolescence may have a higher risk of obesity and eating disorders as adults than people who weren’t urged to lose weight as teens, a new U.S. study from the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis suggests.
As parents, adults who endured dieting pressure during their teen years were also more likely to encourage their own children to watch what they ate, researchers reported.
When adolescents were encouraged to diet by their parents, they were more likely to be overweight, engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors, binge eat and diet, and to have lower body satisfaction as adults.
The results suggest that a pattern is created and passed from one generation to the next.
For the study, researchers examined data from eating surveys that 556 participants completed in school when they were 15 years old, as well as results from online surveys they completed as adults 15 years later.
The study findings
In the first surveys, 37 percent of the teens said they were encouraged to diet by their parents. They were more likely to experience this if they were girls, younger in age, from low-income households, overweight or obese, or non-white.
When the participants grew up, those who had been pushed to diet were 25 percent more likely to be overweight and 37 percent more likely to be obese than the adults who weren’t pressured to lose weight during adolescence.
While binge eating was rare, it was 72 percent more likely among the adults who had been pressured to diet as teens.
Adults encouraged to diet as teens 50% more likely to push their own kids to do the same
As parents, people who were pushed to diet during their teen years were also roughly 50 percent more likely to push their own kids to diet and to talk to children about their weight.
Families with a parent who was pressured to diet growing up were also more likely to tease one another about weight or openly talk about each other’s weight.
Beyond its small size, another limitation is that researchers relied on participants to accurately report whether they were overweight or obese. Most of the participants were women, too. And there weren’t enough fathers in the study to explore how experiences in adolescence might influence how they interacted with their own kids about food and weight.
Even so, the study offers fresh evidence that even well-intended efforts by parents to encourage kids to lose weight can backfire.
Teens who feel that their parents want them to lose weight might try unhealthy ways to do so like skipping meals, taking supplements or relying on very low-calorie cleanses. These diets aren’t sustainable, and people often end up gaining weight instead of losing it, making matters worse.
Source: Pediatrics, March 2018.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.