Your teen's weight is affecting his health -- physically or mentally -- so as a parent, you're concerned. Perhaps your teen has been diagnosed with a health problem common in overweight teens, such as high blood pressure or sleep apnea. Or maybe your teen has expressed anxiety about his weight.
Whatever the reason, you want to help -- but it's not easy for a parent to know how. While your teen might feel ashamed or even angry about his weight, he may also be resentful if you try to get involved. As much as your teen may want to tackle his problems without help, however, your involvement in managing his weight is important.
You can help your teen make changes to his diet and exercise habits that will put him on a healthier track.
Set the Stage for Success
Helping overweight teens make healthy choices is complex. To help with teen weight management or teen weight loss, here are a few things you can do to set the stage for success.
Talk with your pediatrician about your overweight teen's BMI.
The first step is to talk with an expert about your teen's weight. Ask your health care provider to calculate your teen's body mass index (BMI). BMI is one way to measure body fat percentage, based on weight and height. Your pediatrician can then compare your child's result with other teens his age. If his BMI falls within the overweight or obese range, talk with the pediatrician about what your teen's weight goals should be. Whether weight loss is recommended for your teen will depend on several things, including:
- How overweight he is
- If he has weight-related health problems (high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol or leg pains)
- If he has been trying to lose weight and, if so, for how long
The initial goal for the majority of overweight teens is often to maintain their weight and "grow into it" as they get taller. Keep in mind that even maintaining a current weight is much healthier than continuing to gain excess weight. When teen weight loss is advised, experts usually don't recommend losing more than 2 pounds a week.
Talk with your teen to get his buy-in.
To get your overweight teen to focus on managing or losing weight, he has to approve of the approach. He has to be involved. Of course, getting your teen interested in anything might feel like a challenge, and teen weight loss can seem like an especially hard sell. Don't tell your teen that he needs to lose weight. Talk to him. Ask questions instead of making declarations -- and really listen to what he has to say. Ask, "How do you feel about your weight?" Then, be quiet and listen. If your teen is resistant, lay off the topic for a little while. Hopefully you will have planted a seed for thought, and he'll be more open the next time you bring up the issue.