New Year’s resolution diets and the messages they send to youth

Negative focus on weight loss could trigger eating disorders.

You’ve decided that your New Years resolution is to lose weight, but before you start, what is your approach to losing weight? What messages are you sending about bodies, especially to the adolescent or young person around you? How are you addressing your weight? Is it negative, derogatory or reflective of a much deeper psychological issue? Is the message you are sending to the young females (and yes, males) around you, that the way you look or the way they look is bad, unacceptable or something to be ashamed of?

Here are some important factors from Michigan State University Extension to recognize potentially negative approaches to weight loss:

  1. You are driven by what someone else thinks about your body.
  2. You make negative comments about the overweight individuals around you, to help motivate others, such as your child, adolescent or another young adult.
  3. You think constantly about what you need to eat or how much you exercise.
  4. Your goal weight is based on an image from television, in a magazine or other media.
  5. You are depressed or really hard on yourself about your weight or your appearance in general.
  6. You reduced your calorie intake way below what’s recommended for your height and weight.
  7. You’re exercising obsessively, maybe more than an hour a day, six to seven times a week or more.
  8. You’ve reached your goal weight and can’t stop obsessing about eating and exercise.
  9. Trusted, close family and friends are warning you to slow down.
  10. You are beginning to hide what you eat or drink or how much you exercise.
  11. You are developing eating behaviors that you are ashamed to let others know about.

Your approach to your New Year’s resolution may be leading to an eating disorder or worse, subliminally encouraging your child to acquire an eating disorder.

A healthy approach to weight loss includes:

  1. Focus on good health. Visit your physician and under their guidance aim to first reach good health indicators, like normal blood pressure, cholesterol, healthy weight, etc.
  2. Visit a mental health professional if you feel depressed, have thoughts of harming yourself or your weight issues are related to parental or adult bullying.
  3. Professionally address issues related to reducing or eliminating behaviors or thoughts that lead to inadequate eating and/or too much exercise.
  4. Encourage the overweight or obese, especially children and adolescents, by making healthy lifestyle changes for the whole family. Do not only focus on the “fat” family member.
  5. Make small changes at a time. Visit Michigan State University Extension’s weight management and physical activity pages to find quick, healthy habits to incorporate into your daily lifestyle.

Learn more through­ the National Eating Disorder Association and remember, Feb. 24 through March 2 is National Eating Disorder Week.