How to Talk to Your Teen About Their Weight

During the adolescent years, teenagers become increasingly more aware of what shapes their identity, and they also begin to see and value how others view their appearance, skills, and achievements. For these reasons, teens are often much more susceptible to eating disorders and can easily develop an unhealthy relationship with food, which has the potential to severely impact their health and self-confidence.

How to Talk to Your Teen About Their Weight

As a guide in your teen’s healthy growth and development, it is especially important that you do not unintentionally do any harm while you are encouraging a healthy lifestyle for your teen. Here are four ways the National Eating Disorders Association recommends to positively reframe your conversations about weight and health with your teen:

When you talk about food, focus on health, strength, and nutrition rather than weight loss

The ways that you discuss food and exercise can definitely affect your teen’s eating habits and may also impact how they view their body. In fact, according to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, weight-related comments from parents or siblings were highly linked to disordered eating habits geared toward unhealthy, unsafe weight loss measures, particularly in teen girls.

Whether your teen is underweight, normal weight, or overweight, your words matter to them when speaking about their bodies. To ensure that you do not unintentionally harm your teen, you should focus on talking about health, strength, and nutrition rather than weight loss or diets. For example, saying, “Fresh fruits and vegetables help your body and mind stay healthy and strong.”, will be more helpful for your teen than saying, “You need to lose some weight, so eat all your vegetables”. The distinction of focusing on eating for health and strength will help your teen develop a better relationship with food and understand the importance it plays in a healthy lifestyle.

Ensure everyone in your family speaks the same way about health, food, and exercise

To make certain that your family practices healthy eating habits, and talks about food, weight, and exercise in positive ways, everyone needs to use the same language. You and your spouse, as well as any siblings in the household, need to all talk about these things in the same way.

Emphasize the importance of health over weight

When you want to talk about weight with your teen, pause and remember to speak about health instead. Speaking about the value of eating well for good health and energy to do all the things you enjoy, rather than the importance of being a particular weight will ultimately help your teen develop a more positive body image and relationship with healthy food.

Demonstrate your words in your body and life

Speaking positively about food, health, and exercise with your teen is very important. However, it is equally vital that you live the example of your words, and make sure you are not silently demonstrating unhealthy eating patterns or body image views to your teen.

If your teen is struggling with body image or an eating disorder, then speaking with a professional teen counselor can help you learn more ways to promote healthy eating and lifestyles in your home and your words.

4 Ways You Can Instill a Healthy Body Image in Your Teen Athlete

By the time your son or daughter reaches the teenage years, they will inevitably be involved and immersed in many interests as they explore their developing skills, talents, and passions. One of the most common pass times that teens typically enjoy at various degrees during adolescence and beyond is athletics.

Participating in athletics is a fantastic way for your teen to stay healthy and fit, while learning the value of teamwork, respect, and hard work. Playing sports can also build self-esteem and help your teen form healthy bonds of friendship as they learn how to handle success and defeat.

However, as you teen begins to develop athletic skills and pursuits, they will also become more aware of their bodies and how they compare to their peers and any athletic icons they look up to as role models and motivation.

Unfortunately, this heightened body scrutiny and comparison can give way to unhealthy body image issues and evolve into eating disorders very quickly if your teen is not equipped with a strong sense of what it means to be healthy, strong, and athletic. In fact, according to the National Mental Health Institute, 2.7 percent of teens age thirteen to eighteen have struggled with some type of eating disorder.

4 Ways You Can Instill a Healthy Body Image in Your Teen Athlete

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, here are four ways that you can help support a healthy body image in your teen athlete to protect them from developing dangerous, unhealthy eating or training habits:

Understand eating disorders and other body image issues your teen may face.

It is important to understand that eating disorders do not stem solely from eating or not eating in unhealthy manners. Eating disorders are a symptom of a much deeper mental, emotional, or psychological issue that may be plaguing the happiness and well-being of your teen. Make sure that you do the research on what different body image issues and eating disorders exist, and fully understand how they may impact your teen as they strive to excel in athletics.

Know how to identify if your teen is struggling with their body image or suffering from an eating disorder.

To keep your teen healthy and safe, know the warning signs and symptoms to look for that may provide you early warning into a potential problem. Most teenagers will not come forward openly with their body image or eating disorder problems, so you will need to begin the open, honest, supportive conversation if you witness the warnings. According to the Mayo Clinic, warnings of an eating disorder may include:

  • Abnormally low body weight
  • Fear of weight gain
  • Distorted body image
  • Expressions of self-hatred or loathing
  • Excessively limiting calories or food intake
  • Escaping to the rest room immediately after a meal
  • Refusing to eat
  • Vomiting after meals
  • Use of weight loss pills or laxatives

Talk to your teen about their athletic role models, and help them identify healthy bodies and training regimes.

As the Summer Olympics quickly approaches, your teens will be watching with added excitement and attention as the very best competitors in their favorite sports compete for medals. This is a great opportunity to point out healthy, strong bodies and talk to your teen about the best ways to accomplish their fitness goals in a safe manner.

Additionally, there are many athletes who have overcome eating disorders. Sharing these stories of triumph and success can help encourage your teen to open up and seek help if they have been experiencing issues with their body or are developing an unhealthy relationship with eating.

Intervene with support, positivity, and straightforward help when you suspect body image issues or eating disorders in your teen.

If your teen exhibits the warning signals of poor body image or a potential struggle with an eating disorder, you should intervene immediately. When you bring up this topic with your teen, do not speak in judgmental or negative terms. Be open, positive, and straightforward as you encourage your teen to speak openly while you listen. If your teen continues to display unhealthy behaviors after you’ve intervened, it can be immensely helpful to consult the advice of a professional teen counselor to help you reach your teen with tools for an active and healthy approach to athletics and life.