Manage Your Child’s Care with MyChart
If your overweight teenager is ready to put some effort into
getting healthier, he or she will need your help. Although being
more independent is important to a teenager, your support is
needed in this effort. You can help by creating a reasonable plan.
But remember, your teen needs to buy into it and have a desire to
stick with it to be successful. Some teens do best with 1 or 2
simple goals, while others will want to move faster and make
sweeping health changes. Any movement in the right direction
should be encouraged. Having a partner in the plan (such as a
friend) can also help. Part of being successful is to have a
support for when the going gets tough.
Tell your teen the truth. Losing weight and getting in better
shape takes effort. Have open-ended conversations about the
habits that lead to gaining too much weight such as not enough
exercise, skipping meals, drinking too many soft drinks or
energy drinks, or eating a lot of fast food. (Energy drinks
can have as many calories as soda.)
Tell your teen that weight and body shape run in families. It
is OK if a healthy size for your family is a size 14, with
healthy eating and exercise.
There are serious consequences of starvation or fad diets for
a teen who is still growing. Unrealistic goals lead to
feelings of failure and sometimes to eating disorders. Fad
diets or dieting can also throw your teen's hunger cues off
track. Restrictive diets that say when and what to eat at
certain times make it hard for people to recognize when they
are comfortably full.
People eat for many reasons such as time of day, or feeling
bored, frustrated, nervous, or depressed. The best reason to
eat is hunger. Ask your teen when they eat, overeat, or crave
certain foods. If your teen is eating when not hungry,
encourage your teen to do something else such as exercising,
reading, or working on a project to stop thinking about food.
Help your teen practice eating until hunger is satisfied, but
not to the point of feeling stuffed. If your teen eats this
way, he should be hungry every 2 to 3 hours. Snacking is not a
bad habit, as long as snacks are healthy. People who eat small
frequent meals instead of a few large ones often have lower
body fat, even if they eat the same amount of calories per
day. Try 3 smaller meals, with a few snacks in between.
Cravings happen. If your teen really wants a high-calorie
snack, let her go out for a treat. The treat should be a
reasonable portion. Try not to keep foods that are high in
calories, sugar, and fat in the house. If you bake something,
keep a few servings for your family and share the rest with
neighbors or friends. That way you can satisfy the craving and
move on. Any foods can fit into your teen's diet if your teen
learns a healthy balance between treats and healthy foods.
If you are worried that your teen is overweight or obese, go to a
healthcare provider for a thorough exam. Most healthcare providers
say teens who are still growing should not go on diets. Rather,
they should try to adopt healthy eating habits and try to maintain
their current weight (but not gain any extra). As your teen
finishes growing, the weight will even out. If your teen is above
95% on the Body Mass Index (BMI) for Age growth charts, your
provider may recommend a specific diet for slow weight loss.
If your teen has stopped growing, it is usually safe to go on a
calorie-controlled diet plan. About 1 pound per week weight loss
is a good goal. These plans usually require your teen to eat a
certain number of calories a day. The plan will include eating a
variety of foods from each food group. Talk to your healthcare
provider or a registered dietitian about diets that would be safe
for your teen.
Strong emotions can get in the way of a healthy meal or diet plan.
If there are issues from the past or present that need be
addressed, find counseling for your teen.