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Parenting an Overweight Teen
Naturally, parents want their children to be happy and healthy so if their child is struggling with teen obesity they want to help. Parenting an overweight teen can be difficult. This article offers information and parenting tips on helping overweight teens be healthy.
Parents can play an important role in helping overweight teens make healthier choices and feel good about themselves. It's important for parents to set a good example for their teens of healthy eating and exercise, and to be supportive and encouraging of teens so they learn to have good self-esteem.
The percentage of teens who are overweight or obese has been rising steadily in recent years. Teens who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for many health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. They also may have low self-esteem or depression. Luckily, even taking small steps to improve a teen's eating and exercise habits can lead to being healthier and feeling better about themselves.
Parents who are concerned about their teen's weight should see a doctor before putting teens on a diet, especially any miracle or fad diets, which may be harmful to a teen’s health. Developing healthier eating habits, however, can help teens lose extra weight and improve their overall health. This doesn't have to be expensive or involve eating unappetizing foods. Some tips to start eating healthier include:
The other important component of having a healthy weight is exercise. Teen exercise also helps with having strong bones, reducing stress, and improving self-esteem. Teens should exercise 60 minutes per day, but this can be broken down into shorter activities. Teens who aren't used to exercising may need to build up to that amount, and should consult a doctor before beginning physical activities. Exercise doesn't have to be boring or exhausting. Parents can help teens have fun exercising in several ways:
Set goals as a family, such as having healthier meals or more physical activities. This will help the family work together to be healthier, and avoids singling out overweight family members.
While parents are trying to help teens reach a healthier weight, it is also important for them to show teens that they love them no matter what, and that they are only concerned about their weight because they care about their well being. Compliment them on things other than their appearance, such as trying hard at school, doing chores, being kind or helpful to others, or any other positive activities they are involved in.
Listen to teens if they are expressing discouragement about their weight. Be supportive and encouraging, and, if needed, remind them that it can take time to lose weight, but that they will be healthier in the long run for their efforts, and that they have many positive things going for them in the meantime. Be on the lookout for signs of eating disorders, either eating too much or too little, or becoming obsessed with exercise or physical appearance. Also watch for signs of depression and substance abuse, which are often related to eating disorders.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Weight-control Information Network, "Helping Your Overweight Child" [online]
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Healthy Weight, "Tips for Parents" Ideas to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight" [online]
Nemours, KidsHealth, "Overweight and Obesity" [online]
University of Michigan Health System, YourChild, "Obesity and Overweight" [online]
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