Dr Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 describing why fad dieting may actually make American children GAIN weight - click here.
Why do our adolescent girls struggle so much with their weight?
Images of Perfection: Previous generations of girls have always struggled with body image but these issues are at an all time high. Our girls are inundated by images everywhere of physical perfection especially with our celebrity culture. The demands for excellence on girls have gotten worse over the past two decades leading to weight concerns in girls as young as six years old. But channeling energy into appearance and away from normal developmental tasks can disrupt, if not sabotage a young girl’s self esteem and ability to tolerate stress.
Helicopter Parents: The current generation of parents is full of parents who are well meaning but who are micro- managing their children's emotions and lives. Being "ordinary" or just “okay” has lost its allure for too many of today's parents who insist on their child not experiencing the ordinary problems of living. Frustration, rejection and even failure seem to be harder on the parents sometimes than it is on the kids. They project their own anxiety onto kids who just need to figure it out sometimes on their own. Over focusing by the parent makes the girl more anxious and the weight is one more report card she has to face.
Mothers with Eating Issues: Many mothers have struggled for years with their own weight so those issues are easily taught and inherited.
Epidemic Rates of Anxiety and Depression: Girls get depressed at twice the rates of boys when they enter puberty so eating problems flourish when mood disorders hit. Depression hits a full decade sooner than it did a generation ago and it re-occurs 50% of the time.
Why would girls get into this kind of fad dieting so early in life?
Trying To Compete with Other Girls: Many girls are influenced not only by the images in the movies and on TV of women, but also their peers. Many parents are paying for plastic surgery and liposuction for their children these days, and many young women can’t keep up. They instead turn to fad or extreme diets to drop the weight.
Get Slim Quick! Many young women find fad and extreme diets alluring. They just have to suffer for a short amount of time to be beautiful – they can tough it out for that kind of reward. But many girls don’t realize what kind of serious physical effects these diets can have on them and how on-again-off-again dieting is actually very unhealthy.
Why don’t fad diets work well?
Short Term Weight Loss: Many fad diets may actually work, but what girls fail to realize is that once they are off the diet – they will usually gain back the weight with a vengeance.
Lifestyle Change: Without a change of lifestyle and most importantly, without a fundamental change in attitude, any diet that works will only work while you are on it. The only way to truly lose weight and never find it again is to adopt a completely different, healthy lifestyle that combines food, rest, and exercise.
What can parents do to help their children?
Positive Example: Model what you want them to see and be. Mothers especially are incredibly influential for their daughters so be careful what behaviors you are modeling. What you say and how you handle yourself emotionally and with food will set the gold standard for your daughter.
Educate Your Daughters: Most kids don’t truly understand nutrition and positive eating habits. Make sure that they have all the information and understand how what they eat truly affects their bodies and their lives. Introduce healthy foods that are lower in calories but filling, and encourage him to drink a ton of water! Teach your children what is good to eat and how to stay away from foods that will pack on the weight.
Positive Eating Messages: Encourage positive attitudes toward your child's new self-image. Do not shame or embarrass him, but focus on the new body you can build together.
New Self-Soothing Techniques: For many kids, food is an escape from anxiety and stress. Emotionally coach your child to deal with his negative emotions by talking them out. Remind him that setbacks are temporary and that he can cope with whatever he is facing. Overeating no longer has to be a coping mechanism when you are more emotionally resilient.
Distract From Hunger: Begin to spend time with your child to develop new coping skills that will distract him from his hunger. For example, before dinner, go out for a brisk 20- to 30-minute walk. It is a great appetite suppressant and will increase his endorphins.
The work of Dr Martin Seligman
"Generation Me" by Jean Twenge