body image issues in teens

The New York Times recently released an article discussing new research that shows regularly commenting on youth’s weight can cause body image issues in teens. Parent’s usually have the child’s best interests at heart—but careless comments about a child’s weight are often predictors of unhealthy dieting behaviors, binge eating and other eating disorders, and internalized negative stereotypes about weight. Minor comments about weight can have repercussions for years later, ultimately contributing to chronic dissatisfaction over youth’s bodies.

Regardless if a child is overweight or not, discussing youths weight can have significant effects on body image issues in teens. The impact on girls can be especially destructive. Girls are exposed to so many messages about thinness and body weight—which often build women’s self-value to be linked to their appearance.

Research on Body Image Issues

The study included over 500 women in their 20s and early 30s. They were asked questions about their body image and also asked to recall how often their parents commented on their weight. Whether the women were overweight or not, those who recalled parents’ comments were much more likely to think they needed to lose 10 or 20 pounds.

Researchers asked the women to recall how frequently parents commented. But it wasn’t the frequency of comments that was the significant influence, it was if women recalled comments at all. They found that a few comments were the same as commenting all the time. Comments made by family member had an even stronger effect than comments made by unrelated people.

Commenting on youth’s weight is not only causing body image issues in teens, but also creating issues in how teens value themselves. Comments on youth’s weight is creating a misconception that parents link weight to the value of their child. Children are internalizing this and it is ultimately leading them to believe that they are less of a person.

Ways to Promote Healthy Choices

If as a parent you’re worried about your child’s weight, there are ways to non-verbally influence healthy options. Keeping healthy foods in the house, setting an example of being physically active, and being positive about your own body image can be positive influences for youth. Actions speak louder than words—it’s time to stop commenting and start moving.

Asheville Academy Can Help!

Asheville Academy, a residential treatment center in a traditional school setting for girls 10-14, helps teen girls struggling with anxiety, depression and other emotional and behavioral issues. If your daughter’s body image issue are more than just normal fears, consider sending her to Asheville Academy, a therapeutic boarding school. With a caring staff and a clinically based program, Asheville Academy can help your daughter feel comfortable with school.

For more information about Asheville Academy for Girls, contact us today at 800.264.8709