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Study: Overweight teens need support, not criticism

Study: Overweight teens need support, not criticism

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PROVO — Teens who are overweight or obese report poor relationships with their parents, teachers, and friends; But often people don't know how to help, a new study says.

Brigham Young University researcher and Sociology Professor Renata Forste found in her studies that overweight teens struggle with their self-image and in their relationships with others, especially when parents focus on the teen's weight. Girls, she found, were especially vulnerable.

She recommends that in order to help them with their weight, change the discussion.

"Focus more back on character traits, and talents and interests and athletic ability instead of just focusing constantly on appearance and on their bodies," Forste said.

Forste says parents and teachers can help teens gain confidence and a sense of self-worth through their talents and interests.

"If young people feel that sense of confidence — ‘I'm good at math, or I'm good at reading, or I'm good at sports' — something that's a talent or ability they have; or, ‘I'm really kind, or I'm a thoughtful person, a very helpful person,' then that's where they are going to feel comfortable and confident in themselves," Forste said.

Comments about dieting or remarking on size and shape only hurt, not help.

"Put the focus more on their talents and interests and abilities, and helping them find something they are really good at, that you can praise and encourage them," Forste said.

She said that when kids feel good about themselves on the inside, they will strive to improve their body image as well.

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Mary Richards


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