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How to Talk to Your Young Athlete About Weight Loss

By TrueSport, 01/02/18, 3:00PM CST

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There are many reasons an adolescent might want to lose weight.

Unfortunately, many of them come from a place of stigma or peer pressure rather than a genuine desire to improve one’s health for the sake of doing so.

Some adolescents may feel self-conscious about their bodies when changing in the locker room. Others may want to fulfill some idealized standard of beauty, or have a body like their favorite athlete. But for the majority, wanting to lose weight comes from a stigma they have felt either directly (in the form of being teased by their peers) or indirectly (such as through media).

The effects of this are well-documented:

  • In one study of adolescents seeking weight loss help, 71% reported being bullied about their weight during the previous year. More than a third said the bullying had persisted for more than 5 years.
  • Being teased about weight at adolescence is associated with a higher rate of obesity as adults.
  • Nearly half of girls ages 3-6 worry about being too fat.
  • Overweight adolescents report disproportionately higher rates of harassment than normal-weight and underweight adolescents.
  • As many as 85% of high school students witness weight-based harassment toward their peers during gym class.

This harassment does not just come from kids’ classmates and teammates. According topediatrician Stephen J. Pont, “Peers are not the only sources of weight stigma. Research documents [note] stigma by parents and other family members, teachers, health care professionals, and society at large, including the popular media.”

Because harsh words are often a factor in a child’s desire to lose weight, it is important for parents, teachers, and coaches to tread carefully when discussing weight loss with a young athlete.

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TrueSport® is a grassroots movement born and powered by the experience and values of USADA–the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The TrueSport® mission is simple and bold: to change the culture of youth sport by providing powerful educational tools to equip young athletes with the resources to build the life skills and core values for lasting success on and off the field.

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