Changing Behaviors in Overweight Teens

According to 1999-2000 data, about 9 million kids between the ages of 6 and 19 are overweight. This is about 15% of this age group! This number has tripled since the early 1980’s. 15% more of this same age group are at risk of becoming overweight.

By definition obesity is when a person weighs 20% more than their ideal weight. Being overweight is just having any amount of weight over the ideal weight. A common eating disorder of adolescence is obesity. We live in a world where food is overly processed, fresh foods are not what we put in front of our kids as a whole. Many school cafeterias are serving pizza, corn dogs and hamburgers for lunch but they get away with it because they also offer a salad bar. How many of us during our school years would have chosen salad over pizza? But we expect our kids to. We have families with two working parents that are tired at the end of the day and they order dinner to go or go through a drive thru rather than go home and prepare fresh food for their families.
We need to be teaching our kids that weight is not about fitting into our skinny jeans or looking as glamorous as someone in the media. We need to be teaching about diabetes prevention or high blood pressure and other heart disease. Being overweight can even increase your chances of cancer. These are things that may hit your teen hard when you talk about the importance of getting healthy. However, if you are someone who does not struggle with your weight and you eat junk food a lot but don’t gain your teen will not think it is important. You truly have to set the example in your home.
The first behavior to change when you have an overweight teen is to help them set realistic goals. There should be room for forgiving oneself and for moving forward even when there is a slip up in diet or exercise. The focus should always remain on nutrition and health in general, never appearance.
Using multiple small goals to reach a large goal is also known as “shaping” and this is a great tool in successful weight loss and weight maintenance. The idea is that success brings success. So if you succeed at one small goal, you will succeed at two until you reach the final big goal.
Monitoring is a great tool in overcoming specific hurdles. Keeping track of what you take in and how much exercise is happening is a great tool for this. Keeping track of your weight is also crucial but needs to be done in moderation so that health is the goal and not necessarily a number on a scale. It is wise to teach your teen about the bodies fluctuations in weight because of water and other factors.
A powerful tool in weight loss is to eat controlled portions of healthy foods and then give your body time to send the message that you have had enough and are full to the brain. This can take between 15 and 30 minutes and can make all the difference if you are willing to stop eating and just wait until you know for sure whether you are truly hungry for more or not.
Most of us have things that trigger our eating or cravings. These can be hard to figure out even for an adults so without making a big issues out of it you may want to be watchful of your teen and see when they have cravings or are more likely to overeat or make unhealthy food decisions.
There are many programs that offer to help overweight teens but until you have set the example and worked with your teen in a way that does not condemn them or make them feel ashamed you never know what you can do as a family. It’s worth a try.