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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

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Body Image Issues continued...

(Find out what signs to watch for if you suspect an eating disorder.)

In general, there's no evidence that encouraging people to get to a healthy weight results in any type of psychological harm, says Robert Jeffery, PhD, director of the University of Minnesota Obesity Prevention Center.

It's always beneficial to talk to your kids about healthy weight, he says. "It's like talking to your kid about safety helmets or not drinking when they drive. It's a fact of life. We're all at high risk of being overweight and they ought to know what causes it."

A Parent's Place

Even though teenagers are often responsible for what food they choose to eat -- like in the school cafeteria -- and how much physical activity they do, parents still have a hand in their health.

He can't munch on cookies at home every day after school if there's only fruit and other healthy foods in the kitchen. She can't sit in front of the TV or computer all weekend if the family has plans to go hiking. 

"Kids learn basic philosophies -- like fruits and vegetables are good, sodas aren't great for you -- but we have to help them along the way," says Stephanie Walsh, MD, medical director of Child Wellness at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Parents can suggest exercise classes a teen might like or sports he might try. Parents might encourage signing up for an activity with a friend because at this age, teens are much more likely to stay interested in an activity if they're involved with friends.

Bring in the Expert

Remember, that your teen is probably in the midst of puberty with an ever-changing body.

"The key is not to panic over a couple of pounds in either direction," says Walsh. "At this age, they have these fluctuations that are totally normal. Focusing on weight will only get you in trouble. Their weight may change but if their habits are good, that's what's important."

If you feel like you've made all the right healthy changes -- more nutritious foods and more activity -- but are still worried about weight issues with your teenager, then talk to his doctor. Make an appointment now, or plan to talk to her at your teen's next well checkup.

 

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