How parents can help prevent both obesity and eating disorders in teens

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OLATHE, Kan. -- The nation's pediatricians on Monday laid out ways that parents can prevent both obesity and eating disorders in teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics said the focus should be on a healthy, balanced lifestyle instead of weight or dieting.

In her teens, Shelby Smith thought she needed to be on a low-carbohydrate, low-calorie diet.

"I kinda associated dieting and the high of losing weight with my self-worth," Smith said.

Then she'd binge on the foods she'd missed out on.

"It spiraled into something that wound up being a really bad eating disorder," Smith recalled.

Doctors say dieting is the start of eating disorders for many teens, and dieting can also lead to obesity. Research shows those who diet in ninth grade are three times more likely to be overweight in the 12th grade.

The new guidelines say parents and doctors should not encourage dieting. They should avoid "weight talk" such as talking about their own weight or their child's weight.

"And if you don't talk about your own body and you don't talk about their bodies in any negative way, that is wonderful," said Kori Hintz-Bohn, executive director of Renew Counseling Center in Olathe.

She agreed with the doctors' group on what parents should do. Have your family eat meals together.

"To model healthy eating, and healthy does include having dessert sometimes," Hintz-Bohn said.

The guidelines also say to help your child develop a healthy body image by encouraging a balanced diet and exercise for fitness, not weight loss.

Smith has received help at Renew for her eating disorder. Now 24, she has a message for teens.

"You need to enjoy life because dieting is so restrictive. You are truly beautiful the way you are," she said.