Overweight teens who have a higher body satisfaction and positive body image also tend to have higher self-esteem, and are less prone to engage in unhealthy behaviors to control their weight (such as vomiting and missing meals).
So says a new study that will be included in the Journal of Adolescent Health in June 2012.
“A focus on enhancing self-image while providing motivation and skills to engage in effect weight-control behaviors may help protect young girls from feelings of depression, anxiety or anger sometimes association with being overweight,” said Kerri Boutelle, an associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, in a press release.
Experts have some suggestions for how parents can help their overweight teens improve their body image in order to potentially prevent any negative psychological or emotional issues.
Ragen Chastain, a dancer, choreographer, speaker, “fat person” and writer of the blog Dances With Fat, said in an email that there is one main way parents can help their teens have a high body satisfaction.
“Take the focus off of weight and put it on health,” Chastain said.
“By taking a health-focused approach, kids see healthy behaviors as ways to feel good and nurture their bodies, and they succeed every time they engage in a healthy behavior, and develop a lifelong love of healthy foods and movement (instead of seeing healthy behaviors as punishment for being fat or a way to keep from becoming fat, and judging their success or failure based on a scale.)”
She said in general she believes overweight adolescents tend to have more issues with healthy self-esteem and body image.
“Kids don’t separate themselves from their bodies, so you cannot have a ‘war on childhood obesity’ without having a war on obese kids,” Chastain said.
“These teens are the casualties of that war. When Michelle Obama says that she wants to eradicate childhood obesity in a generation, obese kids hear that she wants to eradicate them.”