Statistics from across the western world reveal a disturbing rise in the number of teens who are overweight. Teenage obesity increases the danger of developing diabetes and heart disease and often has other serious physical health consequences. Overweight teenagers are also more likely to have low self-esteem and depression. While people today are much more sensitive to the need to avoid offending others with remarks about their color or religion they are still frequently very insensitive when it comes to hurting the feelings of someone who is obviously overweight.
The first step to help the overweight teen requires you to show a friendly concern without coming across as too interfering or over-critical. This is often easier to do in a parent and child relationship where the child recognizes the genuine nature of the parent’s concern and has a good relationship with them. Teenagers start to put on weight for various reasons. Sometimes they do not appreciate the importance of healthy eating to their future health. They go with their friends to fast food restaurants and parties and eat whatever the friends eat without further thought.
For other teenagers overeating is a response to stress they are under or a depressed state of mind. A good parent should be able to identify what lies behind the teenager’s overeating and help them address the issue. For example, maybe all they need to do is gently explain how they are concerned about the way their son or daughter is putting on weight and worry about the impact on their health and how other people look at them. Words spoken from the heart with genuine affection can influence the most obstinate of teenagers to change their ways.
Professional advice also has an important role to play in the fight against teenage obesity. Some teenagers will be skeptical about their parents’ understanding of this issue so a consultation with an expert dietician might make the difference. Ideally the dietician will know how to explain to the teen in a friendly way that their current diet could cause them serious harm. They should be able to work out with their teen and family an alternative healthy diet that will be appealing while at the same time nourishing and hunger satisfying. The most effective approach requires the entire family to change to the healthy eating plan. Otherwise, it places the teen in a very challenging position when they see others around them eating foods they enjoy while they are restricted to a special diet.
A gradual approach is the best one to follow. Changes to family meal plans ought to be made slowly. Begin by reducing the frequency that “junk food” is brought into the house. The emphasis needs to be firmly on the positive inclusion of healthy food in meal plans rather than the negative cutting out of unhealthy dishes.
At the same time it is a good idea to encourage the overweight teen and other family members to get more exercise. Everyone knows that largely sedentary lifestyles and lack of exercise also contribute to increasing obesity in teens as well as with older people. Anyone who spends hours in front of a TV or computer screen and travels even short distances by car is likely to start putting on weight. There are so many vigorous activities that help bring weight down and keep it down – walking, cycling, swimming and going to a gym are some of the best know examples. When the entire family, or at least some other family members start taking part in these activities the teen is much more likely to want to join in.