In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a clinical paper stating that dieting — defined as calorie restriction with the goal of weight loss — is a risk factor for the development of eating disorders and obesity. Citing several large studies of kids and teens, researchers found that dieting was associated with binge eating and a twofold increased risk of becoming overweight, and that dieting was the most important predictor of a developing eating disorder.
Now that Weight Watchers has decided to offer free memberships to teenagers this summer, I wonder how this will effect a new crop of young people.
Sure, parents will need to give consent for their teen to participate in the free Weight Watchers program, but consider that parents may have their own food and body image issues. An estimated 45 million Americans are dieting every year, and about 91 percent of American women report body dissatisfaction. Kids are following in their parents’ footsteps, with about half of teenage girls and a quarter of teenage boys saying they are dissatisfied with their bodies. But a parent’s intention to be helpful, no matter how innocent, could cause harm.
I think most parents are trying to save their kids from unnecessary suffering. Is a Weight Watchers meeting really the best place to help teens take care of their bodies? Or should parents look for a solution that doesn’t start by saying “Your body is a problem”?