Dear Your Teen:
My daughter is overweight. She seems content with her body but then expresses a desire to lose weight. Some of my children are naturally thin despite how much they eat. How do I balance the different diets for teens in my family, when some kids can take seconds while some shouldn’t? And how do I encourage healthy body image while also urging healthy diets for my teens? And, most importantly, how do I not make healthy food and exercise a battleground between my daughter and me?
EXPERT | Aurelia Williams
I would like you to consider that even if the other kids can eat as much as they want without it affecting their weight, they still may not be healthy.
There is a lot more to health than the weight one carries.
Having said that, the best thing you can do is implement family-wide lifestyle changes that are designed to help everyone and to focus on healthy eating for teens.
6 Ways to Focus on Healthy Eating for the Whole Family:
1. Toss the junk.
Even thin family members do not need to eat processed fake food, otherwise known as junk food. This is food such as chips, cakes, cookies, and ice cream. My mom called them “empty calories.” Replace these items with healthy foods to eat like fruit and veggie trays. You can make a very healthy treat with frozen bananas, a little Greek yogurt, and strawberries blended in a blender.
2. Up the veggies.
At the dinner table, ensure that everyone has one serving of the main course, but that there is almost unlimited access to veggies. Steamed veggies, and even raw veggies, are delicious without the addition of butter or oils and can be eaten by most people in unlimited quantities. If everyone fills up on veggies instead of bread, or other empty calories, no one will leave the table hungry.
3. Have fruit for dessert.
Plain, raw, unfettered fruit is the best thing for dessert. The added benefit is that most people can enjoy as much fruit as they desire. Most desserts have at least 500 or more calories. One would have to eat five large bananas to match that caloric intake. Most people don’t want five bananas. But even if they did, it’s still healthier than eating the same number of calories in a buttery, crusty, sugary dessert.
4. Get moving.
Everyone in the family should be encouraged to exercise and move around every single day. Try taking a nice family walk after dinner, or encourage the kids to play ball outside together while you cook dinner. Whatever you can do to increase the activity level of the family will help everyone and not place the focus on one individual.
5. Speak to a doctor.
Just in case, it’s important to ensure that there is nothing metabolically wrong with your daughter that is causing her to be so much different from her siblings. There are issues that can crop up such as thyroid disorders, diabetes, and genetic disorders that can cause weight gain and out of control hunger.
6. Don’t judge.
Aside from those tips for a healthy diet, the best thing you can do is allow your daughter to talk to you about these issues without the fear of judgment. Focus on healthy foods to eat, instead of junk food. It’s not easy today in our culture to turn down the junk food everyone else seems to be able to eat without consequence. In a way, your daughter is lucky because her body is telling her that the junk food is not right for her. Other people spend a lifetime thinking they are fine because they are thin, when in fact, they are a day away from a massive heart attack.