How to Talk to Teens about Weight

Fat teen staring at junk food

Do you struggle to find the words to talk with your teen about their weight?  (Photo credit: Gaulsstin)

The conflicting messages our society sends about size and weight are all around us.  Whether you are browsing the tabloid rack at the grocery store or flipping through the channels, you can find some super thin celebrity explaining how this system or that system made it incredibly easy to get the body they have.  Every news outlet is talking about how the obesity epidemic is endangering the future of our country while parents wrestle with competing concerns about what is best for their child.  On one hand, they are focused on preventing the development of eating disorders, keeping their teen from being bullied, and worrying about how to get them into a healthier lifestyle.  On the other, they know how important it is to boost their self esteem, be supportive, and be accepting, no matter their size or shape.

If you are wondering how to help your teenager change their habits and adopt a healthier lifestyle without damaging their self esteem, you are not alone.  The truth is most of us adults could do with a healthier lifestyle too.  If you are overweight, self-conscious about your size, always on a diet, or have simply given up, that is the behavior you are modeling for your child.  They see you struggle, give in, and give up while the picture perfect person on TV talks about how easy it is to drop 60 pounds in just 6 weeks with only 60 minutes a day.  The messages that are getting through are not the ones they need in order to do the work required to create and maintain a lifestyle that supports good health.

While talking about weight with your teen may not be any more comfortable than talking about sex with them, it can be just as important.  Most experts recommend a low-key, life encompassing approach.  Rather than having an intervention-style sit down serious talk about weight concerns, look for natural opportunities to discuss good health, healthy weight loss, and to offer assistance and support.   You don’t need to focus on the fact that your teen is overweight, they already know that.  Focus instead on how you can provide a better model to follow and on letting your teen know that you are there for them, are concerned for them, and are willing to help and support them with this struggle.  To help guide your conversation, here are some do’s and don’ts that can make talking to your teen about weight less of a minefield.

  1. Do talk about making healthy choices whenever the opportunity naturally arises.  Shopping for groceries, making meals, planning menus, and doing something active together all provide great natural times to talk about what it takes and means to be healthy.
  2. Do talk to your teen’s doctor about any concerns you have.
  3. Do pay as much attention to who your teen is as you do to what size they are, how they look, or what they are putting in their mouth.
  4. Don’t sugar coat.  No matter what anyone else says, losing weight is hard and it isn’t fun.  Despite the wide range of products that promise otherwise, there is no quick fix and no short cut.   It takes time, patience, and perseverance, commitment, dedication, and focus.
  5. Don’t talk about dieting.  Keep the focus on eating healthy and being active.
  6. Don’t be a food cop or a weight watcher.  You teen needs support, encouragement, and advice not constant monitoring, questioning, and criticism.

If you have any questions about how to best talk with your teen about weight, please don’t hesitate to give us a call and speak with a registered nutritionist.

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