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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Health experts recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day to stay fit and to help prevent obesity in teens. To help with teen weight loss, your child needs to build up to an hour of energetic daily exercise. Try these two tactics to get your teen moving:
- Coach your teen to set small achievable goals. Starting with 10 minutes a day is fine -- as long as your teen actually does it. Then have her slowly add a few minutes every day. Small, achievable steps will help her have successes that will build her self-confidence and keep her motivated.
- Get the whole family involved. Take up hiking as a family, or go on bike rides together. Getting pedometers for family members can encourage everyone to take more steps. And giving your teen her own pedometer will give her an easy way to monitor her own activity level. Having jump ropes and hand weights accessible around the home will make it even easier to encourage movement.
Helping with weight maintenance or teen weight loss isn't just about food and exercise. Experts say that other changes -- like removing the TV from a teen's bedroom to cut back on screen time and encouraging her to get enough sleep -- can also help.