For Overweight or Obese Teen, Focus on Lifestyle Not Weight

Posted 10/26/2016 | By HealthCorps

This month’s Health Calendar highlights National Bullying Prevention Month.  A child who is overweight or obese is more likely to be bullied.  A new study suggests that if your teen is overweight or obese you should focus on a healthier lifestyle and not specifically on their weight.

A new clinical report published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that though obesity is of great concern in the teen population, instigating an eating disorder when you try to manage their weight is an equally important concern.  Tackling weight issues by using healthy lifestyle messages and techniques is a much better approach to weight management in this age group.  

This healthy lifestyle model should be a family-style approach since the whole family can benefit, and a family focus helps to avoid isolating the teen weight issue.

Data shows that obesity rates among teens, have nearly quadrupled over the past 30 years.  Eating disorders have also risen, though not at nearly the same pace.  There is a link between these two conditions since obesity can lead to extreme dieting and disordered eating, and certain eating disorders, like binge eating can lead to obesity.  

Pediatricians should be aware of the link between the two conditions and guide families to embrace healthier lifestyles, which can help the teen to lose weight gradually and without extreme pressure.  It’s crucial for teens to understand that healthy eating does not include skipping meals or dramatically limiting food.  The focus should be on quality food choices, limiting highly processed foods and fast food, drinking water and unsweetened tea as the primary beverage choices, and engaging with exercise daily.  Family meals should be emphasized, and teens should be involved in meal planning.  Weight talk and especially weight teasing should be discouraged.  

The report also found that pediatricians who used motivational interviewing in order to counsel families with overweight teens were successful in reducing the teen’s BMI by 31%, compared to a control group.  The best approach to helping overweight or obese teens appears to be an integrated program that involves the pediatrician, the family and other supportive individuals, rather than a teen-centric approach.  When parents are role models for the teen, adhering to the eating plan, limiting screen time and exercising, it can also serve to inspire compliance from their teen.

Some quick tips to help your teen:

  • Discourage dieting
  • Promote a positive body image
  • Encourage more frequent family meals
  • Plan meals and cook more at home
  • Talk about healthy habits and not weight
  • Find out if your child is being bullied or if there is bullying going on at school

Be on the lookout for any signs of an eating disorder and consult with your pediatrician if you even suspect that your teen might be developing eating issues.

Having a program like HealthCorps at your school can also help to support teens’ healthy eating and fitness habits, as well as bolster their mental strength.

Also read: October is National Bullying Prevention Month

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