Obesity is a national health issue. Two thirds of American adults are overweight and 15% of teenagers are out of shape and overweight. But, addressing weight loss with a teen, already in the throes of hormonal surges that upset their emotional balance, can be a touchy subject.
Although important to address, the subject must be approached in a compassionate and patient manner. It is also important to remember that teenagers do not have the emotional and mental developmental level of an adult.
Teenagers can be annoyed with excess fat on their body and they often have a distorted body image. When weight loss is addressed with teenagers these issue must be included in the plan. Without an understanding that teens see themselves differently than they really are, you will not be able to help motivate them to continue to make healthy life choices.
Some teens may need to see a nutritionist to evaluate their eating and determine how to change their habits. Professionals can often give teenagers advice that they accept rather than from their families and friends. Professionals are more distant and they do not have as much invested in the relationship.
But what does overweight really mean? Overweight is the term used for anybody, teen or adult, who is above the ‘normal’ weight determined by using body mass index (BMI). The body mass index is a numerical equation that uses a person’s height and weight. These are norms that have been established but are only guidelines. However, while they are guidelines it is generally accepted that a BMI over 40 defines obesity.
Weight loss plans designed for teenagers should be approached in a supportive family environment. It is so much easier to achieve your goals when you are working with like minded supportive people. Even though you are able to change the foods that are brought into the home, teens continue to eat while away from home. That’s why education about healthy nutrition and good food choices is so important to the success of any weight loss program.
Parents can help by removing milk products, carbonated drinks, juices, junk foods and fatty foods from the home and the family’s diet. You know your teen best. Some teens respond to a global change quickly, but most weight loss programs that are successful achieve this by removing one type of product at a time from the diet. The goal for your teen is not to lose weight quickly but to change their eating habits that last a lifetime.
Keep nutritious snacks in the home. Teens snack constantly! They will reach for what is available and if chips and dip are handy that is what they’ll be eating. Try to keep grapes cleaned and off their stems in the fridge for an easy snack, apples, celery and peanut butter and bananas all make good quick snacks also.
Teens often suffer from poor self-esteem and poor self-motivation and it is the parent’s job to help gently encourage them. Weight loss programs using pills for teens are not effective because they often affect a growing body adversely. Teenagers continue to require appropriate nutrition to feed their growing body.
Teen weight loss programs can easily become a tug of war between parent and child. This only sets up the teen for failure. Make the process fun. Keep your patience and look for ways to make learning fun. Look for ways to keep your teen active through after school activities or sports. Today’s teenagers are well versed at the computer and gaming. Our responsibility is to teach them that movement and activity can be just as fun. Learning life long habits that will keep them healthy and fit will increase the success rate of any weight loss program.