If your overweight teen is the only overweight member of the household, it’s tough. Try these guidelines to help your teen lose weight without excluding him:
How Can Teens Lose Weight, And How Can Parents Help?
1. Treat everyone the same.
“Do not single out the teenager who has problems with weight,” cautions Jill Castle, a childhood nutrition expert and co-author of Fearless Feeding: Raising Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School. If you’d rather your overweight teenager didn’t eat certain foods, don’t bring them into your home. Don’t control portions for one teenager, but not another. And no special diets for one teenager, but not another. “That’s called restrictive feeding, and we know that when we put too much restriction or control on their eating, they tend to overeat and gain weight because they want what they can’t have.”
2. Serve dinner family style.
“One thing that works well is to serve dinner in a family-style manner, kind of like the Walton’s, where you put all the dishes in the middle of the table,” Castle adds. There’s no danger in letting everyone self serve because “parents decide what’s on the menu, so tip the balance in favor of healthier foods. So, even if your over eater is eating a lot, they should be getting lots of nutrition in foods that tend to be less dense in calories.”
3. Get moving.
Encourage your teenager to exercise daily by signing up for a gym or class, taking walks, going for a bike ride, even playing video games—like Wii Fit—that require you to get off the couch and move.
4. Get help.
Unfortunately, as parents, it’s easy to hurt more than help when it comes to encouraging our teenagers to lose weight. You may start with the best of intentions, but wind up nagging. “There are too many traps that end up counteracting your intentions,” Castle says. Professional help can keep your teen and you on track without damaging the relationship.