Health vs. Obsession: Encouraging Healthy Weight Loss in Your Teen

We want the best for our children. We want them to be happy, to excel and to feel emotionally and mentally stable, confident and sound. We also want them to be healthy and strong and to feel energized. But, sometimes, we watch our children engage in unhealthy behaviors and are unsure of how to help them.

In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents in America were overweight or obese. Obesity is one of the biggest health concerns in the U.S. and childhood obesity can negatively affect a person for the rest of their life. In the face of this problem, how do you as the parent help your child lose weight in a healthy way? How do you encourage healthy eating behavior without damaging your child’s self-esteem?

Be a Healthy Role Model

Image Credit: NicoleAbalde

Teens whose parents have healthy lifestyles, including a healthy diet and plenty of physical activity, are much more likely to succeed when it comes to their own weight loss. Alternatively, when a teen has overweight parents, it’s very difficult for them to lose weight. Examine your own nutritional habits before you start examining those of your child. What types of foods do you keep in the house? Do you make it a point to engage in physical activities? Do you eat out often or do you cook at home? Your habits can greatly influence those of your child, simply in a lead-by-example type of way.

Don’t Pressure Them

Your teenager is just that: a teenager. They’re already prone to defensiveness and, if your child is overweight, they’re probably experiencing plenty of judgment, sarcasm and condescension from their peers. Concern for your child’s well-being can sometimes manifest itself as impatience and frustration, resulting in questions like, “Aren’t you full yet?” or “Haven’t you had enough?”. This type of nagging will rarely get you the results you’re looking for. Simply be there for your child and let them know that you’re there to help when they’re ready.

Experts recommend that you discuss the pros and cons of being overweight, but in teen terms so that they can relate. Instead of focusing on the effect their weight has on their health, talk about the effect their weight might have on their day-to-day activities, like running the mile in gym class.

Empower Your Teen

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Get your child involved in making nutritional decisions for the household. Take them grocery shopping and decide together what foods should be in the family home. Giving your teen more control and more say in what both they and the family are eating will give them a much-needed sense of agency. Talk to your teen about the activities they might want to engage in. Do they love to dance? Do they like the outdoors? Do they enjoy sports? Try to incorporate these activities into your day-to-day, but do so together.

Remind Them That They’re Awesome

The most important thing to communicate to your teenager when they’re trying to lose weight is how awesome they are. Society is telling them that they’re not good enough, not healthy enough, not attractive enough, but you know better. You know how smart your teen is, how kind and compassionate they are, how driven and talented they are, so remind them. They may roll their eyes and scoff at you or say something like, “You have to say that, you’re my dad,” but those messages stick. Make sure you’re sending the right messages—messages that uplift your child and make them feel capable rather than messages that demean them and make them feel like a failure.

Being an overweight teen is extremely difficult, but with your help, your teen can get to a healthy weight and stay there. For both their social and physical wellbeing, make a healthy lifestyle a priority in both your and your teen’s lives.

Feature Image: Keoni Cabral