If you are a parent with an overweight teenager(s), it’s not easy to know how to find help.
But with obesity in teens rising, helping a child to lose excess weight, becomes essential to their health.
We often leave teens home alone, assuming they will make good choices. And, oftentimes, they do great. They have their chores and homework done, and may have also surprised you by cleaning the bathroom.
But, what food choices are they making?
If your refrigerator and pantry are stocked with fattening foods, those are likely the first things your teenager will grab. After all, they do taste the best. But, if you have made a concentrated effort to have fruits and vegetables available (cut up in containers), your teen may reach for those instead.
A child’s food choices do begin at home. Unfortunately, any parent who has a child who is beginning to gain weight, must first take stock of their own eating habits. We must also take an inventory of what foods we are keeping in our refrigerator and pantry. We are the ones who bring this food into the home. We need to take responsibility.
Children are often brought up is a situation, where they are “awarded” with food. They cry or whine, and we take them to their favorite fast food restaurant. Or maybe we offer them a cookie. After all, we want them to quiet down, so we use whatever tactic that works. But, without realizing it, we are “programing” them. Soon, food equates to comfort. Hence “comfort foods”. As adults, we can list our comfort foods, too. Mine is ice cream.
Teenagers often frequent fast food restaurants, or the food court, at a mall. These places become their “hang out”. More than likely, if they have money, they will make a poor food choice. If they were to order an alternative low fat item, they may be teased. They don’t want that…so peer pressure steps in. However, a teen who has higher self esteem, won’t care what the other think.
As parents, we may also stock the refrigerator with sugar ladened sodas. They are pre-made, cheap (especially the store brands), and they are portion controlled. In addition to that, they are packaged in a disposable (recyclable) container. No extra glasses to wash. But, they are also full of sugar. One soda has over 100 calories.
We know fresh fruits and vegetables are a better choice than chips, pretzels, candy bars, etc, but we don’t have time to cut up fresh vegetables, nor we we like the fact that the fresh fruit we buy, often gets thrown away because it doesn’t get eaten. Packaged snacks have a shelf life of months. If eaten out of the bag, there’s no extra dishes to clean.
Whole wheat bread is a much better choice for sandwiches, however, it is a more dense product. It seems to dry out faster, and often turns moldy. The white bread with all of it’s preservatives, seems to last much longer, and is more appealing. And….a young child who doesn’t have all of their teeth, would probably have a problem with dense whole wheat bread.
Eating steamed, broiled or baked recipes, is much better for all of us, but the prep time is longer, and you have to be “tied to the stove”, so they don’t get overdone. Our time becomes too valuable, so we take short cuts.
We also give our children too many choices. Instead of saying “do you want water or milk?”, we say, “What do you want to drink?’ Of course the child is going to say “a cola”.
In this day and age where both parents are holding down full time jobs, or children are being raised in by a single parent, children are often left alone to make their own choices.
As parents, we can help our overweight teens by spending time with them, watching a show like NBC’s The Biggest Loser. Without having to nag at a teenage to “watch what they put in their mouth”, this type of show will show them how hard it is to lose weight as they get older. It may also inspire your teen to spend more time exercising, as well as encourage them to eat more healthy.
When a teenager is ready to deal with the issue of being overweight, make an appointment with your family doctor. They will undoubtedly have several eating/diet plans that will work well for your overweight teenager(s).
To read more about obesity in teens, read a previous article of mine, titled: Overweight Teens – An Increasing Problem