Teen Weight Loss Secrets
Successful teen dieters reveal their weight loss strategies.
With over 12.5 million of our nation’s children overweight, we need to find
creative ways to encourage young people to adopt healthy habits. But it's hard
enough to get adults to take responsibility for their weight and health. How do
you inspire kids who are also dealing with the tumultuous nature of being a
teen to succeed at weight loss?
Overweight teens bear a heavy burden. They must cope with the teasing,
social isolation, verbal abuse, and emotional torture that often result from
being overweight, as well as their own negative self-images.
Wes Gilbert, son of registered dietitian Anne Fletcher and one of the teens
who is profiled in Fletcher’s book Weight Loss Confidential, describes
his anxiety and guilt about being overweight.
"I worried about whether clothes made me look fat, what others thought
of me, and especially when old friends gave me the look when they noticed how
much weight I’d put on," he says. When Wes finally lost weight, he
says, "a huge metaphorical burden was lifted."
"Kids who are overweight have a quality of life similar to kids with
chronic diseases like cancer," says Kerri Boutelle, PhD, LP, an adolescence
and obesity expert at the University of Minnesota.
At her STAR (Service for At-Risk Teens) Clinic, she finds that overweight
kids tend to have, or are at risk for, depression, poor self-image, and social
isolation. They are also perceived as lazy and less attractive than
Teen Weight Loss Woes
For Fletcher, her desire to help her overweight son became a passion for
finding solutions to help overweight teens. She interviewed 104 kids to learn
what life was like when they were overweight, and what helped them lose the
weight and keep it off. The results were published in Weight Loss
Confidential: How Teens Lose Weight and Keep it Off and What They Wish
"Their stories broke my heart. Being overweight affected their
popularity, self-esteem, ability to get dates -- everything that is important
to a teenager," says Fletcher, who also wrote the Thin for Life
series on weight control in adults.
One of the teenage girls in the book described boys groping her as if it
were acceptable because she was overweight.
"The pain and suffering of being an overweight teen was what finally led
most of these teens to embrace serious weight loss," says Fletcher.
How Parents Can Help Teens With Weight Loss
Teens cannot succeed at weight loss alone. They need supportive parents who
create healthy home environments -- and who serve as good role models. When
parents succeed at losing weight, their children are more likely to succeed as
well. But when a teen has overweight parents, it's often very difficult for
that teen to lose weight.