According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 18 percent of American teens are overweight. Obesity poses many health risks for teens, just as it does for adults. Parents can play a big role in helping overweight teens lose the extra pounds.
Make an appointment with your teen’s doctor. Sometimes medical problems like a thyroid disorder cause weight gain and they also make it difficult to lose weight. In addition, overweight teens often suffer from the same problems overweight adults experience, like high blood pressure and diabetes, so a thorough check up is in order.
Provide a variety of healthful meals and snacks. Teens may have access to unhealthful foods and snacks at school and at friends’ homes and most teens have money of their own and can buy their own snacks if they want to. It’s almost impossible to exercise total control over what a teenager eats. However, if you provide a variety of healthful choices, chances are your teen will at least eat some of them.
Involve your teen in meal planning, shopping and cooking. Children of all ages are more likely to eat food if they are involved in choosing it and preparing it. Get a cookbook with healthful recipes and ask your teen to help choose meals for next week’s dinner. Encourage him to go grocery shopping with you and help you fix meals.
Eat dinner as a family. The Office of the Surgeon General reports that children that eat dinner with their families eat more veggies and less junk food. As an added bonus, eating as a family strengthens relationships between parents and kids.
Consider making an appointment with a registered dietician. A registered dietician is a health care professional that specializes in nutrition. She can educate you about how much your teen should eat and provide you with tips for preparing healthful meals. She can also educate your teen about nutrition and making healthful food choices.
Encourage physical activity. Encourage your teen to be physically active but make it fun. Help her find a sport or exercise activity she enjoys if possible. Consider encouraging her to sign up for an organized sport like volleyball if she’s interested but also consider physical fitness classes like tai kwon do, Zumba or belly dancing. Don’t insist your teen participate in sports or exercise classes, just gently encourage.
Plan family activities that involved physical activity. Instead of taking the family to the movies, go to the park and play Frisbee. Go on a family hike or take a family bike ride. Go canoeing, ice skating or horseback riding. Sometimes teens are reluctant to participate in family activities of any kind, but offer physically active family fun times.
Don’t nag. No one responds well to nagging, especially teens. View your role as one of providing support. Create an environment in which is it easy for your teen to make healthful food choices and provide your teen with the education he needs, but don’t nag.
CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/prevalence.html. Childhood Obesity.
New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/11/health/11fat.html. Childhood Obesity Risks Death at Early Age.
Office of the Surgeon General. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/obesityprevention/pledges/parents.html. Parents and Caregivers Checklist.
Institute of Medicine. http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2004/Preventing-Childhood-Obesity-Health-in-the-Balance/FactSheetHomeFINALBitticks.ashx. Parents Can Play a Role in Preventing Childhood Obesity.