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Tween Weight Loss: Keeping Weight Loss Talk Healthy For Teens

Are you losing weight? Dreaming about losing weight? Talking about losing weight? According to a recent study posted by the University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology, at least 38% of you are resolving to lose weight this year.

While maintaining a healthy weight is important for your medical and emotional well-being, many of us approach weight loss with an unhealthy attitude that we then pass on to our kids.

Unhealthy Weight Loss Approaches

Unless your child’s doctor recommends weight loss for health reasons, resist the urge to suggest dieting to your child. Remember with grace the many awkward phases you went through as a tween and be patient. Every child must first grow out before they grow up, so growth spurts necessarily follow weight gain.

If a doctor recommends weight loss, or your tween comes to you to ask about losing weight, know that teen or tween weight loss should not come from a restricted diet. Avoid making separate meals for a certain child or suggesting that they limit how much they eat during mealtime. Instead of a restrictive approach, aim for adding in more good things like healthy snacks, vegetables or exercise.

There are many different approaches to encourage healthy weight and body image in teens and tweens. I’m a big fan of nutritionist Ellyn Satter, who recommends a division of responsibility when it comes to feeding adolescents. You, the adult, is responsible for what you’ll serve, when you’ll serve it, and where your family will eat. Your tween or teen is responsible for how much and whether they’ll eat. (Visit Ellyn’s website: for more on this topic, including her terrific books on Feeding With Love and Good Sense and Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming.)

Finally, be cautious in how you talk about weight loss or bodies in general. Do you believe/hope/fantasize that losing weight will change your relationships with people? Your tween will quickly adopt a similar, yet unrealistic, belief that her body is her key to acceptance by others. Celebrate the many wonderful things our bodies, of great varying shapes and sizes, do for us every day. Our children see themselves in us and the more we celebrate the things we do, rather than how we look doing them, the more our kids will feel emboldened to do great things.

Michelle Icard is the author of Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years. Learn more about her work with middle schoolers and their parents at

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