Parents: How to Help Your Teen Fight Obesity
Childhood obesity has risen in epic proportions since the 1980s. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 9 million children ranging in age from 5 to 19 who are at least twenty pounds over their suggested / ideal weight.
Who is at fault in this health crisis? Most probably it’s the parents. After all, it’s the mother who feeds the child early in life. She shows him what an acceptable meal is. She is responsible for giving him cookies instead of fruit, serving potatoes at every meal, and ordering take out food laden with fat and calories. The child knows no other way of eating.
Compound a poor diet with a sedentary lifestyle, and you have a crisis waiting to happen.
Can the circle be broken? Yes. Once the child admits he needs help and makes a personal commitment to seek help, follow advice, stick with a program, and change his ways, success will follow.
This is not something the child can do alone, however. He needs emotional support from his family and his peers. If he decides to change his eating style, his parents need to make sure that the healthy food choices he needs are readily available.
Weight Loss For Teens – Tips and strategies for the entire family:
- Weight is like a helium filled balloon. It goes up quite easily, but it takes much more effort to pull it down.
- The pounds didn’t get packed on in one weekend so no one should expect the pounds to fall off that quickly either.
- Learn to take baby steps. Sudden major changes just don’t work. If he has been eating three large meals a day, he isn’t going to change quickly. He can have three meals a day but help him substitute foods slowly.
- Do not tell your 10 year old that “it’s baby fat and it will come off”. It isn’t, and it won’t. Certainly not without help.
- If your teen has made an effort to eat more salads and vegetables, the parents might want to reconsider filling up on burgers and fries, especially in front of him. This behavior is not fair to anyone.
- Make it easy for your teen to stick to his commitment. If you are still loading up the freezer and pantry with junk food, you need to make a concerted effort to buy the healthy alternatives he has agreed to eat. If you baked a cake for dessert, make sure he has a similar low calorie frozen alternative (try Weight Watchers frozen desserts; they are excellent!).
- Obese children more often than not are raised by obese parents. If you, the parent, are not willing to undertake the same dieting commitment as your child, at least admit to him that you know you have a problem! This is vital to his personal success. (Perhaps when you see how successful he is at losing those pounds, you may even want to join him in further dieting efforts!)
- As soon as your child asks for or agrees to accept help, find a local support group for overweight children in his age group. Socializing with children who have the same problem is critical. Frequently, just knowing there are others like him can help him fight depression and ignore criticism from his “friends”. Local youth centers frequently run programs for free. Also check out local youth chapters of Weight Watchers.
- Many times some early, simple dietary changes can produce remarkable results. For instance, if your teen has learned to eat frozen pizza every day for an after school snack, find low fat and low calorie pizza snacks for him instead. Johnny will be more agreeable to trying a Lean Cuisine vegetable pizza rather than forcing him to eat a plate of celery and carrot sticks!
- No matter what, he needs more exercise. Chances are he’s not into team sports or he wouldn’t be overweight. And, it’s not easy to get kids to a gym. But it’s usually very easy to get them to walk the dog or take him to the park to play. Don’t have a dog? Run to your local humane shelter and bring one home. Having the responsibility of a pet has shown incredible results in helping teens with almost all types of problems, including weight management and depression. Don’t think you can afford a dog? Stop buying all that junk food and you can easily feed the new pooch!
- Let’s face it – we all cheat on diets. And your teen will, too. Don’t chastise him, don’t yell, don’t make threats, and don’t insult him. Comments such as, “No wonder you’re fat! You can’t stop eating!” could force him to turn to food for comfort. Actually, what I call “regulated intermittent cheating” is a successful part of any diet program. For instance, every weekend he is allowed a few “regular” meals, or perhaps on Wednesday night he can have a “normal” dessert with the rest of the family. Sometimes a little cheating is the best thing!