There’s no doubt that obesity is a large problem in America, and if you have an overweight teenager, you’ll want to help him get back on the right track. You must tread lightly, though. Restricted eating or obsession with calories and food can set him up for a lifetime of weight problems. Focus instead on providing healthy meals and snacks in reasonable portions.
Diet vs. Dieting
The word “diet” often conjures up images of eating salad with low calorie dressing, skinless baked chicken, steamed vegetables and other foods that don’t seem appetizing when compared to fatty junk foods. The real word means anything that you eat. Your diet may be healthy or unhealthy, high fat or low fat, or satisfying or not. Steer your teen into focusing on eating an overall healthy diet rather than following a fad diet plan. Thinking that you’re “on a diet” can make you feel deprived, which can lead to binging later on.
The Dangers of Crash Dieting
You can lose a lot of weight on a crash diet — which severely restricts calories — but you’re more likely to gain that weight back, usually along with a few extra pounds, according to MayoClinic.com. This is because the reduced caloric intake slows your metabolism down. When you return to regular eating, your metabolism cannot handle it and you regain the wait. This is especially damaging in the teen years, when the body is still growing. Lowering the metabolism may cause your teen to continue gaining weight.
Portion Control at the Family Table
Compare the recommended serving size on the nutrition label with the size that you’re eating, and you’re likely to see a big difference. You and your teen are probably eating far more calories that you realize. You can start to get this under control at the family dinner table. Try using plates that are slightly smaller so that you can fill them up with food while sticking to reasonable portion sizes. It can also be helpful to fill the plates in the kitchen rather than having serving bowls on the table, which can encourage unnecessary second or third helpings.
Snacks are an important part of any healthy diet, but you need to break your teen of the idea that a “snack” should be chips, cookies or candy. Encourage her to make healthier choices, such as whole wheat crackers with peanut butter, vegetables with hummus or fresh fruit. If she’ll be staying late at school, send her with a healthy snack so that she can avoid the vending machine, which often contains high-calorie treats.
Images of both men and women in the media are often retouched, making them literally unattainable. This doesn’t stop many teen boys and girls from wishing that their bodies looked the same. Teens often fear that they are “too fat” when they are quite fine at the weight they are. Try to develop a positive self-image in your teen. Discourage negative talk in both your teen and yourself.