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Helping your teen lose weight

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






6 weight loss tips for kids

Maybe your daughter never lost her baby fat. Maybe the son who used to be lean and lanky is suddenly a little less... lean. However it happened, you suddenly look at your teen and think, Hang on, what happened here? If your teen has become overweight -- whether overnight or over time -- here's what can you do to help him or her get healthy.

Overweight TeenIt's not easy to admit that your child has weight issues. We spend so much time bemoaning the media, who would have us believe that size 10 is fat and that women should bounce back to bikini shape days after giving birth. But the natural tendency to overlook weight issues in our kids isn't doing them any favors. In fact, it could really harm them in the long run.

 "Even children in the high normal weight range have an elevated risk of becoming overweight or obese as adults," says Alison Field, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston, and the lead author of a decade-long Harvard study on overweight children.

Clearly, this isn't a risk you want to take with your child's health. So what can you do about it?

How you can help

If you've confirmed with a health professional that your teen is, in fact, overweight, it's time to take action. Your job is to help build your child's self-esteem at the same time you work to shrink his waistline.
Except in extreme cases -- and only with the blessing of a health care provider -- don't put your teen on a diet. Instead, start making smarter choices all around, and implement them for the whole family.

Talk to your teen

Let your teen know that you love her, and that her weight doesn't make her any less important. But be honest with her about the risks to her health and any other concerns you have. Tell her that the family is going to work together to be healthier, and let her know you'll do whatever it takes to support her.

Limit couch time

Take stock of how much time your family spends on the couch watching TV or in front of the computer. Yes, some downtime is a nice thing, but no one needs to watch three hours of television a night. Limit TV to an hour -- or make a rule that anyone watching has to be on an exercise bike or a treadmill at the same time.

Make exercise a family affair

Get everyone in the family up and out the door. Go for a bike ride, a hike, or even just a walk. Challenge the family to train together for a 5k run. Or check out our other ideas for family exercise routines.

Clean out the cupboards

Take stock of your fridge and pantry. Are you loading up on ice cream, cookies, and candy while the fruit and veggie drawers sit empty? Replace ice cream with homemade fruit smoothies. Swap berries for candy, and portion cookies into snack size baggies for when cravings hit. You don't have to get rid of every piece of chocolate, but work on making healthier choices more readily available in your home.

Master meal planning

You can slim down your teen at the same time you fatten your wallet if you start planning meals. Before you do your grocery shopping, figure out what you're serving for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all week long. Then base your list on what you're actually planning to eat. And insist on a good breakfast for everyone in the family -- it's one of the easiest ways to aid in weight loss.
Encourage your family to make a habit of sitting at the kitchen table for meals. Too often, we eat while doing other things. Instead of focusing on the food, we're caught up in a million different activities, so we eat more, and we don't feel satisfied.

Help your teen set attainable goals

Too often, people set impossible goals, like losing 20 pounds in two weeks. Even if the goal is more realistic -- losing 10 pounds in 10 weeks, for example -- it's not under your control. Instead, help your teen set goals he really can meet, such as exercising for 30 minutes daily or eating 3 servings of vegetables at dinner.
Supporting your teen's weight loss efforts will help her discover a healthier lifestyle. And if your whole family can benefit, so much the better.   

Read more on keeping kids healthy:

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