Talking to Obese Teens

Teenagers who are obese are 16 times more likely to become severely obese adults than teens who have a normal weight, according to a November 2010 Journal of the American Medical Association study. Obesity is generally considered an appearance issue in a looks-obsessed society, but being obese is actually a medical concern. These are important reasons to talk about kids weight loss with your teen, but discussing the topic with sensitivity and insight will help to prevent future lifelong complications. The American Dietetic Association suggests the following tips when talking to teens about weight:

  • Focus on health, not weight. Remember, the key issue is your teen’s health, not their weight. Compliment your teen on healthy lifestyle choices, rather than losing a pound or two. Say things like: “That orange is a great snack choice” or “Congratulations on walking an extra mile today”.
  • Involve the whole family. Talking to an obese teen is an extremely sensitive subject and should be handled delicately. Involving the entire family in healthy eating habits and exercise will help your teen not feel so singled out.
  • Present uniformity. Both parents, close relatives and family friends should present a unified front in terms of healthy eating and kids weight loss.
  • Talk to a professional. Many hospitals, clinics and local communities have special programs that focus on childhood obesity and teen weight issues that allow participation of the entire family. Search for a registered dietitian who is also a pediatric weight management specialist for advice and recommendations.
  • Don’t threaten, yell or punish. Your teen probably already feels bad about being obese — you don’t want him to feel worse about his weight and you certainly don’t want him to develop an eating disorder.
  • Replace some computer, video games and computer time with active time. If your teen balks at this, consider getting a video game that promotes activity, such as the Wii Fit or Dance Dance Revolution.

The good news that came out of the Journal of American Medical Association study is that lifestyle habits seem to help. Of those severely obese teens studied, 30 percent did not become severely obese adults.