While childhood and adult obesity are getting more attention lately, it’s easy to forget that teens can also be overweight. It’s not just a problem of appearance; being overweight may make teens vulnerable to health problems in later life.
According to the Center for Disease Control, overweight teens are at a greater risk for sleep apnea, joint problems, and psychological disorders than their normal-weight peers. The CDC also points out that overweight teens tend to become overweight adults, and therefore take on the risks associated with obesity such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
How can you help prevent this problem from developing in your child and/or teen? Here are some tips.
Start the Conversation
It may be difficult, but it’s important that you have a talk with your child or teen about his or her weight. It’s also not a good idea to pick constantly on what your child or teen eats, always pointing out that such-and-such a food or habit will “make him/her fat.” Instead, aim for brief, practical, but direct discussions about what causes obesity.
It’s not just the calories you eat that cause obesity – it’s the calories you don’t burn! To help prevent obesity from setting in, adopt a healthful lifestyle that involves daily activity. Hopefully, this will become habit and when your child becomes a teenager, he or she will naturally fall into the active lifestyle he or she is used to.
Teens often pull away from activities with their parents and prefer to be alone or with friends; but if you’ve instilled the value and habit of an active lifestyle as a family prior to the teen years, your teen may be more likely to pursue an active lifestyle on his or her own. Some ideas for family activities or activities you can get your child or teen to participate in include the following:
* Hikes and walks
* Bike rides
* Martial arts
Limit Media and Electronics
These days, there are so many ways for teens to stay “active” without moving! Social networking, mobile devices, and so forth all conspire to create a sedentary lifestyle. Keeping in touch with friends is important, of course, but there should be limits. The same goes for more passive recreation, such as watching TV. An idea is to replace some media time with something active.
Emphasize Good Eating Habits
If you are concerned that your child or teen eats too much junk food, don’t buy it! A good first step is simply not to have cookies, cakes, chips, etc. in your home. Do have foods available like nuts, fruit, vegetable sticks, and so forth. And make sure you are setting a good example by eating healthy foods yourself and not eating too much.
Pay attention to “cruise-by” eating, where you cruise by the fridge or counter and slice off some cake, grab a handful of chips, or otherwise eat mindlessly. These calories can really add up and your kids will likely develop the same habits.