Is your teenager tired of getting teased by friends about their weight? Do you keep bugging them about it too? Stop!
Losing weight as a teenager can be hard especially if they have access to junk food at home, in the lunch room or in the shops. Peer pressure and skinny celebs also make it hard for teenagers who have weight issues.
Experts advise against talking about the need to diet and lose weight to your teenager. It’s unhealthy and counterproductive. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents against telling their kids to lose weight. Doing so runs the risk of making them develop eating disorders or unhealthy habits. Parents need to emphasize exercise and family togetherness, not weight loss. A report in the Journal of Pediatrics says that caregivers should focus on getting them to get a healthy lifestyle.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every five school children (aged 6 -9 years) today has obesity. Eating disorder is also a huge problem and among adolescents, it’s ranked third after obesity and asthma in most common chronic conditions.
Kristi King, a dietician at Texas Children’s hospital, says that these AAP guidelines concur with what she sees every day at the pediatrician offices. “I frequently find in practice that when families and/or a pediatrician is very weight-focused, the child or teen tends to become very fixated on reaching a certain weight point,” she says. “Most of the time, it is a weight point that they think sounds ‘good’ and isn’t necessarily what may actually be healthy for their height, age, activity level, etc. This can lead to very unhealthy lifestyle habits in order for them to reach that weight point.”
Complications of having eating disorders and obesity
Studies have found that teenagers who are obese will most likely also be obese as adults. Those with obesity tend to be at risk of many health issues including chances of coronary artery diseases. Other risks including hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases, polycystic ovary syndrome, bone and joint problems, asthma and gallstones.
In addition, it causes psychosocial problems like depression, poor quality of life and poor self-esteem.
Problems associated with wanting to lose weight fast by teenagers
Most teenagers with eating disorders usually don’t have a history of obesity. Eating disorders usually start when a teenager ‘starts to eat healthy’ (AAP News and Journals). Caregivers also contribute by eliminating foods considered unhealthy from the diet. Overweight teenagers then engage in disordered eating behaviors in their quest to lose weight. Some of these include:
- Self-induced vomiting
- Severe dietary restrictions
- Diet pills
- Use of laxatives
- Prolonged starvation periods
- Skipping meals
Sometimes an overweight teenager who starts exercising will become a compulsive and excessive exerciser. This means that the teenager sometimes wakes up at night to exercise or continues exercising even after getting injured.
When the teenager trying to lose weight is excessively preoccupied with weight loss, it may lead to irritability, social isolation, lack of concentration, a fear of gaining back the weight and a distorted view of their image.
Parents and caregivers should not:
Dieting is all about restricting calories so as to lose weight. Those who do it risk getting obese or having eating disorders. A study on Relation between dieting and weight change among preadolescents and adolescents, associated dieting with weight gain and binge eating in both boys and girls. Stice et al also found out that ninth grade girls who dieted were more likely to get overweight by their 12th grade. These and other studies show that going on a diet is counterproductive when it comes to weight loss. It also leads to eating disorders.
Have weight talks
Even a well-intended comment on weight can be perceived by the teenager with weight issues as hurtful. A study found that weight talk conversations are linked to overweight issues. Caregivers who engaged in weight talk conversations had teenagers who binge ate, had unhealthy ways of controlling their weight and diet.
Weight teasing leads to the overweight status in boys and extreme weight control behaviors in girls. Teenage girls, when teased about their age during early years, run the risk of being overweight later in life. One of the studies done on the same shows that both male and female teenagers who are teased about their weight by family members and significant others, result to unhealthy ways of controlling weight or binge eat.
Talk about body Image
Most teenagers are not satisfied with their body image especially those who are overweight. This leads to unhealthy eating habits. A study on the association between how teenagers view their bodies and their health behaviors, showed that body non-satisfaction is a risk factor for unhealthy weight control behaviors, dieting, less physical activities in girls and boys’ binge eating.
Weight loss tips for teenagers: how to help your child
Being healthy as a teenager is all about being at a weight that’s right for them. To find out if your teenager needs to lose weight, visit a dietician. They will compare their weight to that of a normal kid their size and age, and help you set realistic goals.
As a caregiver, here are ways you can help your teenager lose weight:
- Have family meals together. There is an association between family meals and an improved dietary intake, parents can model healthy food choices, interact with their teenagers, monitor their child’s eating habits and address any unhealthy eating habits. Teenagers increase their consumption of fruits, vegetables and reduce consumption of carbonated beverages. Family meals prevent adolescents from disordered eating behaviors like purging, frequent dieting and binge eating.
- Promote positive body image
- Discourage dieting, use of pills, skipping meals and instead encourage exercising and engagement in sports.
- Let your talks revolve around healthy eating and being active to stay healthy and not on weight loss.
- Make sure the environment at home facilitates physical activity and healthy eating.
- Make sure your kid is not being teased or bullied due to their weight and address the issue with teachers and other parents.
- Make sure you monitor their weight loss schedule. This will alert you in case your teenager results to unhealthy weight loss behaviors.