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Life Lessons: Project Eat

Published On: Jul 22 2013 05:00:00 AM EDT

Life Lessons Project Eat

Between 41 percent and 66 percent of all teenage girls in the U.S. have attempted to lose weight at some point, but a new study shows teens who diet actually gain more weight over time.

So what can parents do to help break this dieting cycle? We have the details.

The images are all around us: the magazine ads, the commercials, all pressuring teenagers to be thin.


Dr. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer is the author of "I'm Like So Fat." For the past 15 years she has been tracking the eating habits of 2,800 adolescents for 'Project EAT' at the University of Minnesota.

"We live in a society where we have classism, we have racism, and we have weightism." says Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD, lead researcher of 'Project EAT' at the University of Minnesota.

Her team found 58 percent of the teens studied used diet pills, vomiting, or skipping meals to lose weight.

Plus the more adolescents dieted, the more weight they gained.

In the course of 10 years, on average, adolescents gained 10 to 20 pounds more than teens who didn't diet.

So what can parents do to help promote a healthy environment for their teens?

"Talk less about weight, do more," advises Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD.
She suggests offering healthy foods in the home, eating dinner as a family, and avoiding negative comments.

"Making comments like you should get off the couch, do you really want a second helping; these comments can be very hurtful, dangerous, and have unintended consequences," explains Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD.

Hopefully, positive reinforcement in the home can combat the negative messages seen everywhere else.

Dr. Neumark-Sztainer plans to track her 'Project EAT' participants through adulthood and study how they communicate healthy eating habits to their own children.