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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

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Set the Stage for Success continued...

Be your teen's healthy lifestyle coach. 

It may not seem like it, but you have more of an influence over your teen than you think. The trick is to not force a healthy lifestyle on your overweight teen. Your role should be more like a coach than a sheriff. Encourage your teen to find his own incentives to change his food and lifestyle choices. Studies support what may seem like common sense: Overweight teens don't feel happy about being overweight. Overweight teens don't want to be teased at school. But overweight teens do want to feel in control.

Start with changes at home. 

Your overweight teen is not the only one who needs to make changes to his way of life. To help your teen succeed, you -- and everyone else in the family -- need to embrace a healthier lifestyle, too. If you single out your overweight teen to improve only his habits, it won't work. Instead, your teen is likely to feel criticized and punished, which is much less likely to motivate him than striving for a healthier way of living. Everyone in the family will benefit when you set health goals together.

Share your struggle. 

Not sure you're up for the challenge of being a healthy role model? Relax a bit. It's OK if your teen sees you struggling to build new habits. Let him hear your frustration as you waver between choosing a healthy snack like carrots and peanut butter versus an old junk-food standby like chips and dip. Let him know that it can be hard to make the time to go for a walk around the neighborhood and to find the motivation to do it. But remind him -- and yourself -- that feeling good afterward is worth it. Turn the challenges you face into opportunities to ask for your teen's support and to find ways to work together to make healthy lifestyle choices easier for both of you.

Introduce Lifestyle Changes

Helping your overweight teen when weight management or weight loss is recommended involves making some lifestyle changes. As anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows, these changes aren't always easy. But they're essential -- and doable if you're patient and consistent in making small improvements in your habits. The first two areas to focus on are diet -- your teen's food choices -- and physical activity, or exercise.

Diet

The best-kept secret for encouraging a healthy diet and changing the way your teen eats is to keep it simple. Start with these five basic steps.

  1. Lose the soda. One teen weight program in California had a lot of success just by asking overweight teens to cut out sodas and sports drinks and to replace them with water.
  2. Make vegetable and fruits visible and accessible. Eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer high-calorie, low-nutrient snacks and sweets will help your teen feel full and consume fewer calories. Have fruits and veggies cut, clean, and waiting in the front of the fridge so they're easy to find and eat.
  3. Encourage breakfast every day. Teens will often give up breakfast to sleep later, but this leads to overeating at lunchtime and junk-food cravings later in the day. So if your teen is rushing out the door, hand her a smoothie made out of yogurt and fresh fruit, or an apple and a wedge of cheese, to eat on the way to school.
  4. Don't keep any junk food in the house. Although you have limited control of what your overweight teen eats outside your walls, you can offer lots of healthy choices for snacking in your home.
  5. Eat at home. Several studies have shown that restaurant foods contain an average of 33% more calories than the same food cooked at home. Further, one study found that the more often a family ate together, the less likely a teen was to be overweight.

Exercise

 

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