DETROIT - Zeleka Washington wants to be healthier, and she wants her sons to be healthy right along with her.
The Detroit mother signed them all up to use the Boll Family YMCA.
"That's one of the first reasons that we I came here, so we could work together as a family to become healthier," said Washington. "I'm trying to get a few pounds off of all of us, I want to be in shape."
Lakiesha Thomas also uses the Boll Family YMCA with her daughter Keneisha because she too wants to be a good role model when it comes to diet and exercise.
"She sees everything that I do, everything that I eat, coming here all the time, so it's encouraging her to look at it and think of it in a positive way," said Thomas.
Thomas worries other teenagers want to be thin for the wrong reasons.
"They don't know how to change their lifestyles to get the long term effects of it. They only know the immediate actions, what they're thinking of doing immediately to get immediate results, it doesn't give them what they want so they're always looking for another quick fix," said Thomas.
Dr. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, author of "I'm Like So Fat," has tracked the eating habits of 2,800 adolescents for the past 15 years. Her work is part of 'Project Eat' at the University of Minnesota.
"We live in a society where we have classism, we have racism, and we have weightism," said Neumark-Sztainer.
Neumark-Sztainer team found 58 percent of the teenagers studied used diet pills, vomiting, or skipped meals to lose weight. The study also found the more adolescents dieted, the more weight they gained over time. In fact, in the course of 10 years, on average, adolescents gained 10 to 20 pounds more than teenagers who didn't diet.
Images in the media are not the only reason why some teenagers might use unsafe methods to lose weight. Other teens at risk could be those whose parents criticize them about their weight, those how have adult role models who use unhealthy ways to lose weight and teens who have a history of weight-related teasing.
"I'm grandma and I'm trying to teach the importance of healthy food and not starving yourself to death," said Terri Clark of Highland.
According to Neumark-Sztainer, promoting a healthy environment is exactly what parents need to do for their teens.
"Talk less about weight, do more," said Neumark-Sztainer.
She also suggests offering healthy foods in the home, eating dinner as a family, and avoiding negative comments.
"Making comments like you should get off the couch, do you really want a second helping; these comments can be very hurtful, dangerous, and have unintended consequences," said Neumark-Sztainer.
For more results from Project Eat, click here.
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