You can do more for your overweight teen by closing your mouth than trying to control what they put into theirs

It’s heartbreaking to have an overweight teen. It doesn’t matter if it’s a girl or boy, you know that weight is a major reason why your child is unhappy. Let’s not pretend that an overweight teen doesn’t make the parents unhappy too. As a parent you’re concerned about how your teen’s weight affects friendships and health, especially future health problems.

The same family may have both overweight and thin children, and they all should be treated the same.

Your teen may complain about their weight, but you think they look fine. Maybe your teen is obviously overweight but happy but you don’t know when overweight is a cosmetic problem and when it’s a cause for health concerns – either now or more likely later in life. (Should you sign your child up for a commercial weight loss program?)

It’s not easy to tell if your teen weighs too much because as you know teens come in all shapes and sizes, It’s hard to apply a standard that applies to all teens. It’s very much an individual teen-by-teen assessment. Don’t get hung up on charts. It’s best to let your teen’s doctor determine what’s a healthy weight.

It’s not just a matter of a number on the scale.There are other important health numbers that need to be considered and habits are even more important than numbers.

If your teen looks a little heavy but overall has healthy habits, there’s no need to panic and certainly no need to pressure the child to go on a diet. Daily healthy habits are:

  • eats 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables
  • eats 2 or 3 servings of whole grains
  • eats 2-3 servings of protein
  • drinks 3 8-oz glasses of low fat/fat-free milk
  • limits sweets to a few a week, including soft drinks
  • physically active (spends an hour or more engaging in moderate to high-intensity physical activities)

If your teen is definitely overweight and is challenged to eat well and exercise with any frequency don’t tell your teen to go on a diet or try to put your teen on a diet against their will. You won’t make things better, but doing either can make it worse.

If you think making negative comments about your teen’s weight or body is motivationg, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Keep your comments to yourself.

Comments about body weight and body parts are completely off limits. Don’t talk about weight – period. Talking about who’s overweight, who looks great because she lost weight, who needs to lose weight, or identifying body parts that are “too fat and ruin an otherwise perfect body” reinforce that a person’s value is determined by their weight.

Comments about what your teen is eating or how much are completely off limits. You are not responsible for how your teen eats, nor can you influence them in a positive way by making yourself their food police.

It’s not your job to praise or show displeasure over your teens food choices or serving sizes. If you think your teen eats too much, cook less food. If you think your teen snacks on too much processed food high in fat sugar and salt cut back on how much of that kind of food you keep in the house.

Buy more fruit and vegetables and make it easy for your teen to enjoy them as snacks. Fresh fruit in a bowl on the table makes it easy to pick up to eat an apple or a banana or a handful of grapes. Carrot and celery sticks kept front and center in the fridge encourages snacking on these tasty, crunchy vegetables.

Comments about spending too much time sitting with screens are completely off limits. If you want to start a fight or drive yourself crazy nag your teen about spending too much time gazing at screens. You can’t change their behavior with your words, but your actions can have a positive effect.

Engage your teen in chores. Why pay to have your yard landscaped when you have a healthy teen who can do the job? Pay your teen to cut the grass, do the raking, weeding and trimming. They can wash the cars too, especially if they want the privilege of driving them. They may not appreciate your insistence that they help around the house, but that’s a fight worth fighting.

Your comments are a lot of talking that says nothing, your actions can say everything that needs to be said. Be a role model, not a nag.shu

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.