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Elisabeth Cerqueira | Nutritionist/dietitian and President of NutriSimple by Elisabeth Cerqueira, Dt.P., Nutritionist/dietitian and President of NutriSimple

No dieting during adolescence!

Teenagers are under a lot of pressure in our culture and the media regarding body image, to lose weight and to look a certain way. Besides, many parents continuously talk about weight and dieting, even encouraging teens to diet, eat less, etc.

We understand that some parents feel guilty and responsible for their teenagers' weight, and they just want to do something about it. However, they often end up getting the opposite effect than their original intention!

A Canadian Pediatric Society position paper states: 

"(…) Recent Canadian data demonstrate that nearly one-half of Ontario teenagers (12 to 18 years) attending public school feel unhappy about their weight. Even among preadolescents, a significant number of children have a desire to be thinner. It is not surprising, therefore, that strategies aimed at changing one's weight and shape are also extremely prevalent. Canadian cross-sectional data suggest that more than one in five teenage girls are 'on a diet' at any given time. American, Australian and British data also suggest similarly high rates of attempted weight loss among adolescents. A recent review of adolescent dieting indicated that 41% to 66% of teenage girls and 20% to 31% of teenage boys have attempted weight loss at some time in the past.

(…) Not surprisingly, studies have also shown that parental criticism of a child's weight, pressure to diet and parental role modeling of dieting are associated with increased dieting rates and increase risk of extreme dieting behaviours. 

(...) Many lifestyle habits are established during the adolescent years and alterations in the eating habits of children and adolescents could have lifelong implications for dysfunctional eating.

(...) It is recognized that teenagers with lower self-esteem are more likely to diet, often in an attempt to feel better about themselves if weight loss is successful. The process of dieting may make the situation worse and have a further negative impact on the young person's self-esteem because, during childhood and adolescence, self-esteem is, in part, defined by successes and failures."


So, what should parents do when their teen presents a bodyweight issue

The notion of diversity needs to be conveyed, which is not always easy, especially when the body undergoes multiple changes at an accelerated pace. Adolescence is a period of great upheaval that can harm young people's perception of their body image. The message should be directed more towards the adoption of healthy eating and living habits. The focus should shift from weight to promoting health and concentrate on the qualities/strengths and pleasure of moving and being active as a family. Parents must understand the power of their words.

In fact, discover our column on the power of parents' words concerning their children's weight.


The role of food is to nourish and bring us happiness when we eat together. Eating nutritious food is essential for concentration, energy, and muscles to keep the incredible machine that is our body running. That's all a teenager should know; the rest is irrelevant.

🙋‍♂🙋‍♀Clinical dietitians teach parents to focus on promoting health and self-esteem by guiding them to plan meals that are optimal for growth and enjoyable to eat.


Position papers: Diets in adolescence.  


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