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Improving Body Image in Overweight Teens

Many teenagers suffer from a poor self-image. For some overweight adolescents, this is compounded by a negative body image. According to a new study, poor body image can lead to unhealthy weight-loss behaviors such as induced vomiting and skipping meals.

“A focus on enhancing self-image while providing motivations and skills to engage in effective weight-loss behaviors may help protect young girls from feelings of depression, anxiety or anger associated with being overweight,” says Kerri Bourelle, PhD, co-author of the study and associate professor of psychology and pediatrics at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

From a weight-loss perspective, this means that focusing on being “fat” can hamper a teen’s attempts to achieve a healthier body weight. The negative feelings produced by this focus on obesity can cause teens to become discouraged and give up, or seek unhealthy means of losing weight.

Instead of obsessing about weight-loss, experts say, parents and teens should focus on the benefits of getting healthy. Rather than looking at exercise and eating nutritious foods as punishments for being overweight, these behaviors should be celebrated as positive steps toward a healthier, more active life.

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