Talking about weight with your teen is a touchy subject. On one hand, you want your teen to be happy and healthy. On the other, you don’t want to damage his self-esteem or hurt his feelings during an awkward and difficult developmental period. While it’s important to approach the issue and make changes at home, you may want to turn to outside resources to get help with the subject to best meet your teen’s needs.
Teen obesity puts your child at risk for very adult problems, like heart disease and diabetes. If your child doesn’t develop obesity-related medical conditions as a teen, there’s an increased risk he’ll develop them as an adult if he doesn’t lose the weight. Aside from his health, your teen’s weight may affect his social life. Obesity carries with it a stigma that can lead to bullying and other social problems.
Determining a healthy weight in teens is difficult because teens develop at such different rates, and their height, weight and body mass can change dramatically in short periods of time. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use the Body Mass Index, or BMI, charted by percentile to help determine a healthy weight. Obesity is determined as a body mass index at or over the 95th percentile. See the “BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen” in the Resources section to calculate these values for your child.
Your teen might benefit from a medical approach to weight loss. This could include working with your family doctor to talk about healthy lifestyle choices and to create a treatment plan. Your family doctor may recommend you work with a nutritionist or dietitian to help develop a healthy eating plan to help teach your teen about good nutrition and healthy choices. If you suspect your child overeats due to emotional issues, a therapist or counselor may be able to help her address and deal with those issues.
Getting active is important to losing weight. Talk to your teen about sports teams, athletic clubs, dance lessons or any activity that involves moderately intense physical activity. A gym membership could be inspiring, or a personal trainer may be able to help your teen learn new ways to exercise and build muscle. Support groups for obese teens can offer the support and friendship of other teens with similar problems. Community health and fitness initiatives may also be helpful for your teen and for your whole family.
Your teen needs to make changes to his everyday diet and exercise routine to stop and reverse weight loss. These changes are often most effective when made with the support of the whole family. For example, instead of singling your teen out with special meals, cook healthy food for the whole family. Take walks and exercise as a group. Teens need 60 minutes of physical activity per day, according to MayoClinic.com. Changes at home will not only help your teen, but other children and adults in your family who struggle with weight.