Obesity and Teens: How To Talk To Your Teen About Healthy Habits

It’s heard in every house in America today: “Am I too fat?” And yes, American culture is partly to blame. With stick-thin models populating the covers of popular magazines and fad diets taking over the Internet, it’s no wonder your teen worries about his or her image. For teens, it can be even worse – this is the time when peer pressure hits the hardest and concerns about image trump concerns about health. It’s important to have an honest talk with your son or daughter about the risks of obesity, healthy eating, and healthy body image.

Starting the conversation

If your teen is already packing on the pounds, there’s no need for you to voice that fact – you can be fairly certain that he’s been thinking about it and wondering about how he can get back in shape. When starting a conversation with your teen about obesity, it’s best to not be negative and outright. Instead of talking about things your child shouldn’t be doing, provide positive messages and champion healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Encourage your child to exercise and be active as a way to curb the boredom blues eating habits and control calorie intake.

Practice what you preach

Of course, none of these will do any good if you don’t back it up yourself and follow through on your own end. Keep snacks like cookies and candy out of the kitchen and make sure the fridge is full of easy-to-grab healthy bites like grapes, berries, celery and carrot sticks. Rid your cabinets of sodas and sugary drinks, and watch portion sizes when you’re serving meals. Encourage your teen to join you on a hike or at the community swimming pool, and encourage limits to television viewing and computer usage. Join a gym together or find classes your think your teen may be interested in – like Pilates, dance, kickboxing, or gymnastics. Even if physical activity is only for an hour a day, that makes up for plenty.

Listen, be patient & realistic

Anne M. Fletcher, who wrote the Weight Loss Confidential: How Teens Lose Weight and Keep It Off — and What They Wish Parents Knew, argues that the more encouraging and supportive parents are, the more likely the child is to be successful in maintaining a healthy weight. She spoke to teens who struggled with weight loss and learned that many of the thoughts parents have about talking to their teens are misconceptions. Parents should listen to their teen when they say they want to lose weight and come up with creative solutions together. Don’t force a diet or healthy eating, and be sure to impose any new meals and regimen on the whole family, not just your overweight teen. Having patience and being realistic are also important factors in helping your teen out. Recognize that weight loss takes time, and remind your teen of this fact as well. Even though it may look like they’re not listening, they are.

The best you can do for your teen is to listen, and don’t push. The more supportive you are of your teen, the happier and healthier he’ll be.