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How to help your tween lose weight

Childhood obesity is a dangerous and, unfortunately, a widespread problem.

If your tween is suffering with his/her weight, it’s important to encourage your child to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits now to avoid a host of health problems in the future.

Talk honestly

The tween years can be very difficult for kids and their parents. Although your tween is probably sensitive about carrying excess weight, there’s no doubt he/she wants to do something about it. Talk to your child honestly about the long-term health risks of being overweight, including diabetes, high blood pressure and other issues. Be as gentle and supportive as you can, while also expressing your concern and willingness to help your tween tackle the problem.

Use the right terminology

Instead of talking about losing fat or getting thin, use terms like “fitness” and “healthy weight.” Every person is different and not everyone can be (or should be) thin as a rail. Help your child learn about reaching a certain level of fitness rather than a bottom-line number on the scale. Meet with your family doctor to help your tween set realistic goals for their body mass index (BMI) and to develop a diet and fitness plan.

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Encourage team sports

Promote activity and socialization by encouraging your tween to join a sports team at school or in the community. Even if your child isn’t a stellar athlete, team sports are a fabulous way to stay active and have fun.

Take part in family fitness

Get moving with your family as much as possible. Walking or biking together after dinner, shooting baskets after school, playing jump rope together or even setting up an obstacle course can encourage your overweight tween and the whole family to get active.

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Nix the quick fix

Tweens (and most of us) want the extra pounds gone as quickly as possible. However, fad diets and weight loss pills are not the answer. They are unhealthy, and the effects are usually short-lived. Lifestyle changes in eating habits and exercise are necessary in order to make real, long-term differences.

Offer healthy food options

Your tween isn’t going to lose weight if the rest of your household is munching on sugar-filled snacks and fat-laden meals. Make dieting easier for your tween by filling your refrigerator and pantry with nutritious food options. Though your tween might be tempted to overeat (or eat unhealthy) at school, you can provide a solid base at home with healthy breakfast, dinner and snack choices. Make water the go-to beverage in your home instead of soda, juice and other sugary drinks. Serve salad with dinner every night, and offer your kids a variety of whole grains, lean meat, colorful fruits and veggies, and healthy fats.

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More about kids’ health

How to break the cycle of childhood obesity
How eating organic improves your child’s health
10 Fast fixes for your child’s diet

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