According to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a two-fold simple approach could be used to prevent teenage obesity and eating disorders.
The report “Preventing Obesity and Eating Disorders in Adolescents,” published in the journal Pediatrics, advises that parents and health experts should veer from focusing on a teen’s overweight body and need for diet. Instead, they should promote a healthy lifestyle balance and that comes with healthy eating.
Many eating disorder programs have noted a marked increase in the number of teens who previously were obese or overweight but who now show early signs of developing eating disorders. In their attempt to lose weight the adolescents may have come to rely on unhealthy and unsustainable methods such as skipping meals or using diet pills or laxatives.
Some who reach normal weights for age and body size also may develop medical and psychologic characteristics similar to teens with classic anorexia nervosa. They may present to the pediatrician with signs of medical instability that can include severe bradycardia (slow heart rate) or orthostasis (postural hypotension).
Three recommendations focus on behaviors to avoid: parents and doctors should discourage dieting, skipping of meals, and the use of diet pills. Instead, they should encourage and support the implementation of healthy eating and physically active behaviors that can be maintained on an ongoing basis.
Two recommendations emphasize behaviors to promote: parents should encourage more frequent family meals, and parents should support a positive body image among teenagers that can motivate them toward developing healthy eating and physical activity habits.