Parents with obese children can help their kids lose weight by dropping pounds themselves, according to a new study.
More than restocking the fridge or parenting styles, researchers from California found that a parent’s own weight is the most influential factor and key contributor to the successful weight loss of an obese child.
The study was published online March 14 in the journal Obesity.
“Parents are the most significant people in a child’s environment, serving as the first and most important teachers,” said study co-author Kerri Boutelle of the University of California, San Diego in a statement. “They play a significant role in any weight-loss program for children, and this study confirms the importance of their example in establishing healthy eating and exercise behaviors for their kids.”
For their study, researchers examined the effectiveness of three types of parenting skills among 142 families. Kids ranged between the ages of 8 and 12 and were either overweight or obese.
Their conclusion? Parents serving as role models and shed weight themselves proved to be the most inspiring and motivational method for their own children — more than making changes to the home food environment or enrolling kids in physical activities, researchers said.
But the latest parent-child obesity study runs counter to another analysis published in 2010 in which researchers concluded that parental influence on their child’s eating behavior is limited.
In their meta-analysis of worldwide studies from 1980, US researchers said the family environment only plays a “partial role” and that young people are influenced by a set of broad and complex factors that includes everything from school, peer influence, government policies, food production and advertising.
It’s estimated that about 31 percent of American children — or approximately five million — are overweight or obese.