by Victoria Simpson
Many people suffer from obesity these days and teenagers aren’t exempt. According to Statistics Canada around 25% of Canadian kids are obese. Is your child one of them? If you feel that you’re trying to convince yourself otherwise, it might be time to take a good, honest look.
The Mayo Clinic defines obesity as being diagnosed when your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. Your BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height in meters (m) squared.
Obesity comes with many complications, including depression, shame and isolation, sexual dysfunction, disability, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gynecological problems, osteoarthritis, infertility, stroke, cancer and breathing disorders. It shouldn’t be ignored until it goes away. And it can go away.
So, how do you get your kid off the couch? Without alienating them? There’s no magic recipe for success but some approaches might work better than others.
Here’s a list of ten methods to help pave the way to a healthier kid:
1) Have a Heart-to-Heart
Find a good time and sit down to talk with your teen. Ask them if they are concerned about their weight-likely, they are. Offer support and gentle understanding, and show your teen that you are there to help them manage some healthy changes. The Mayo Clinic suggests that you might say, “I can’t change your weight. That’s up to you. But I can help you make the right decisions.”
2) Emphasize Activity Not Exercise
Teenagers need a total of about 60 minutes of accumulated activity each day. Movement should never be a chore- you want to make it something to enjoy and build upon. Skate boarding, jumping rope, dancing, even turning short driving trips to the store into walking trips counts. It doesn’t need to be at the gym.
3) Make it a Family Affair
Putting your teenager on a new diet and singling them out in the family can be isolating and result in a rebellion. To help your teen succeed, everyone in the house needs to take on a healthier lifestyle. Have a meeting. Talk about how everyone can be healthier as a family, and how the whole household can benefit from healthy changes.
4) Get Active Together
Find an activity that your teen likes and try it together. You not only set a good example and show that you are willing to take on some healthy habits too, but also that you support their efforts. Go on bike rides, hikes, try a climbing wall- the sky’s the limit. Challenge yourselves together and you will go further!
5) Find Activities Your Teen Likes
Don’t force your child to go to the gym or join the basketball team if they hate weight lifters and wouldn’t dare be seen near a ball. Let your teen lead the way in suggesting ways to be active.
6) Count Liquid Calories
Many calories are taken in through sugary drinks including sports drinks, pop, flavoured coffee drinks, and so called “energy drinks”. They soon add up. Counting these calories in your daily intake can result in a surprise- reducing sugary drinks can cause substantial weight loss.
7) Encourage Smart Snacking
Chips and chocolate bars are an easy grab with vending machines and convenience stores every way you turn. Smart snacking can make a big difference-it’s possible to do! Coach your teen to start by replacing one snack at a time. Suggest they bring easy snacking food from home including:
- Grapes, strawberries or other fresh fruit
- Cherry tomatoes
- Baby carrots
- Low-fat yogurt
- Pretzels or graham crackers
- String cheese
And remember- out of sight, out of mind. Don’t buy the unhealthy stuff like chips and chocolate and temptations will be reduced. If your teen doesn’t see it, they can’t reach for it.
8) Watch Portion Size
It’s a fact-if you have a huge plate, your going to eat a lot. Encourage your teen to scale back and to stop eating when they are full. Try using smaller plates. Add more fruits or vegetables to your meals. If you want to indulge once and a while, share it.
9) Celebrate Small Victories
Set small weight loss goals with your teen and revisit them often. Doing so weekly can help to keep things realistic and on-track. Help your teen keep a journal by writing goals down. By looking back in the journal, it can be easier for your teen to gain the inspiration to keep going. Not sure how to celebrate? Go to a movie together or help your teen buy a new shirt- whatever is meaningful to them.
10) Limit Screen Time
Avoid eating meals as a family while viewing an electronic screen- it keeps you from being aware of how much you are eating. Encourage the whole family to spend less time hooked up, and more time playing catch, going for a walk or swimming.
Overall, it’s important to stay positive throughout the whole process. Remember to emphasize with your teen that you love them unconditionally- not only if they go down three jean sizes.
Quality weight loss takes time. Stay positive and stay together.