How to Talk to Teenagers About Losing Weight
Adolescence is already a tumultuous time, so having a conversation about weight loss with a teenager may seem like dangerous territory for some parents.
Yet for the sake of preventing disordered eating habits while also empowering your teen to make healthy choices for the rest of her life, broaching the subject is important if you suspect that her health is in danger or if she has expressed concerns about losing weight.
When having that talk, here are some things to keep in mind:
Teenagers are technically still children, but they're old enough to be self-sufficient - and this trait is one that will serve them well when it comes to their health.
Let your teen know that you're available to help in any way you can, but leave the door open for her to make her own decisions or come up with solutions. Help her explore options, such as a new exercise routine or a different type of diet.
By involving her in the decision-making process, you can help build her confidence.
Overweight teens don't need your criticism - they need your support. As much as you might want to nit-pick about her eating habits or the things she's doing wrong, most kids won't benefit from this type of parenting.
In fact, some studies suggest that "fat-shaming" tactics actually backfire and contribute to the negative emotions that often trigger continued unhealthy behaviors.
Be a good role model
According to Dr. Robert Pretlow, author of "Overweight: What Kids Say," 70 percent of kids he surveyed said the most important factor in preventing obesity is parents setting a good example. The attitudes and behaviors that teens develop when it comes to food are very often passed down from parents, Pretlow explained in an article on WebMD.
Being a role model when you talk about losing weight, then, is perhaps the most important factor. For example, explaining how to choose healthy options - and following through with that yourself - can inspire change.
Encourage balance, not restriction
Teens shouldn't feel like weight loss is synonymous with deprivation or restriction of certain foods. Children deserve to have cake at birthday parties or eat pizza for dinner - as long as it's done in moderation.
So when having a conversation about weight loss, try to approach the topic from a place of balance: encourage your teen to learn the difference between enjoying a food and overdoing it.
One strategy that might be helpful in this area is to help your teen learn proper portion sizes or to buy "treat" foods that are individually packaged so as to prevent overindulging.
At the end of the day, your teen should know that you love and support her no matter what she weighs. Helping her learn how to be more mindful of her choices, empowering her to change and assisting her by being a good role model are ways you can ensure her success.