It's not easy to lose weight. It seems even harder to talk about it. Even though it's everywhere on TV, even though there is a crisis in America, there is still a social stigma about weight. Now, imagine being an overweight teen today. It's even harder than before. Facebook & Twitter have made online bullying easier than before. More of our children are overweight than before. And despite the fact that there are more tools to help them than ever before, we still have a problem. How is is it best to discuss weight with your teenager?
It turns out, the best way is to bypass the conversation about weight, diet, and exercise. That is a sure fire link to failure. Instead, it may seem like walking a fine line, but talk to them about a healthy lifestyle. In essence, it is the same discussion. However, HOW you discuss it affects how they feel they are perceived which ultimately effects the outcome.
Portion control is important. However, if all I do as a pediatrician & all you do as a parent is discuss limitations, it is a set up for failure. Our weight loss strategy is doomed at the start. However, if you discuss healthy choices, your teenager is in control of their decisions regarding food. If we discuss exercising as a necessary part to weight loss, it's another sure fire strategy to failure. However, if we discuss having fun in a physical activity, then your teenager can feel good about his/her choices regarding physical activity.
First, is education. We all can improve our healthier food choices. Education can come in the form of your pediatrician, books, online sites, an a good nutritionist/dietician. Second, is the ability of the teen to choose for his/her self. Third, if we follow the same paradigm as our teen, then we are being a good role model for our family. They are more likely to follow by example. Fourth, if the family make healthy lifestyle together, it doesn't single out the overweight family member & everyone lives healthier. Lastly, we need wiggle room to feel okay with the occasional "less than healthy" lifestyle choice. If it's not a habit, it can actually help out in the long run. Joining the "not healthy club" can allow the teen to feel less isolated & more like their peers.
If we focus on what they "can't eat" & "aren't doing", then we are only focusing on the negative. Discussing healthy lifestyle choices, allows the overweight teen to be more in control, resulting in a positive outlook on their lives.
Nancy M. Silva, MD, FAAP
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