MONDAY, Jan. 5, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight teens trying to lose weight for their own well-being are more likely to succeed than those who do it to impress or please others, according to a new study.
Researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU) said parents should help their children focus on their health, rather than social pressures to shed unwanted pounds.
"Most parents have the view that their teen is largely influenced by other people's perceptions of them," the study's lead author, Chad Jensen, a psychologist at BYU, said in a university news release.
"Our findings suggest that teens have motivations that are more intrinsic. One implication is that parents should help to focus their teen on healthy behaviors for the sake of being healthy more than for social acceptance," he added.
The study, published in Childhood Obesity, included 40 formerly overweight or obese teens. On average, the teens lost 30 pounds to achieve a normal weight. The teens successfully maintained a healthy weight for an entire year.
Of these teens, more than 60 percent said their main goal in losing weight was to improve their health. Meanwhile, 43 percent of the teens said they were trying to lose weight to gain acceptance from their peers.
All of the teens involved in the study said losing weight was their decision. The teens also revealed the best way their parents helped was by setting a good example of healthy behaviors and providing healthier foods for meals and snacks.
Major life changes or the timing of important events also helped motivate teens to lose weight, the researchers pointed out.
"There were some periods, like a transition to high school or to college, where we saw groups of teens who lost weight in those important periods," Jensen said. "It's sort of an opportunity to re-make yourself. There's a lot of change going on, so some teens decide to make a change to be healthier."
Although the teens in the study successfully lost weight, the study's authors cautioned they did not get immediate results. They noted that although the popularity of reality TV shows featuring quick weight loss create awareness about healthy lifestyles, they could set unrealistic expectations.
"None of these teens in our study lost weight in a hurry," Jensen said. "Their advice to other teens is to stay the course and sustain it over the long term. For most of them it was just a pound or two a week."
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more information on teenage obesity.
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