Teaching teens the importance of proper eating habits, nutrition, and physical activity is the first step in addressing an overweight problem.
By helping them become more selective with the types of food that they consume, and increasing the amount of physical activity that they accomplish, it will only produce positive results.However, it should be stressed that formal dieting, especially giving your child a severely restricted diet, should only be attempted with medical approval and the appropriate nutritional supervision. Many pediatricians believe the best course is to hold an overweight child’s weight at a steady level, and avoid losing large amounts of weight at a time. When their height is at a healthier proportion to their weight, then a dietary regime may be started.
The following 4 steps will help to facilitate healthier eating habits, and increase the amount of physical activity your teen does.
- Assessing the Health of Your Child
Before you make any personal or environmental changes in your teen’s life, take a few minutes to survey what your home life is like. Do you allow them to lead a sedentary lifestyle? Are they given plenty of chances to over eat at any time? If they are, it’s important that you introduce changes in to these areas of their life gradually.
First, look at just how many hours your teen spends either watching TV, or sitting at their computer. A teen can spend up to 24 hours a week watching TV. Log any time that they spend doing either, watching TV or on the computer, and try to reduce this by half.
When you have meals, does your family gather around a table, or do you eat most of your meals sitting in front of the TV or computer? Make it a family rule that, all food (including snacks) will be eaten in the kitchen or in the dining room at a table. This one small change has been shown to significantly reduce the amount of over eating that takes place at home.
Next, you will need to take a close look at your fridge and pantry. Which foods do you have that you are most likely to eat when hunger hits? If the foods are high in fat, sweetened or low in nutritional value, then find healthier alternatives, such as fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Do Not Shame your Child into Losing Weight
Neither adults nor children can be shamed into losing weight, and an overweight teen will know that they weigh too much. What a teen doesn’t know, is how they can achieve a normal weight, as well as increase their self esteem. Teens like to know that their parents love them unconditionally, whether they are overwieght, underweight or at the right weight.
For any parent, mastering the fine art of loving your child just the way they are, while helping them to achieve a healthier body can be difficult. Any parent must learn to “give time” and believe that the lessons we teach, will one day come to fruition.
This means we can teach our youngsters to visualize a healthy meal, one that is half salad or vegetables, a quarter starches and the remainder protein such as fish, meat, poultry or soy. But you also know that at some point, they will sneak either sweets or cookies, and upset the balance that you have achieved.
A parent can persist in teaching their teens to see their plate before any food is put on it. This is helpful, as it creates a sense of portion control that is helpful when the parent is not around. This portion control can also be practiced when visiting a restaurant as well.
- Physical Activity as a Family
Physical activity should be practiced several times a week. The recommended amount of physical activity for an adult is 30 minutes. For children it’s 60 minutes. However, if you are trying to lose weight, more physical activity may be necessary.
A great way of breaking the pattern is to arrange activities that involve plenty of movement for the whole family. These types of activities burn calories, and serve as a setting for parent and child communication. It is especially important in a teen’s life, since opportunities to interact with your teen are at a premium.
There is little or no financial cost involved in going for a walk or a bike ride. Many communities now have swimming pools which do not cost too much to use. Just taking the family dog for a walk in the evening will help to increase the family’s metabolism.
- How to encourage the right sort of behavior in your teen
The best way to help an overweight or obese teen is through your own behavior. Too often, teens will do as an adult does, rather than what we tell them.
No parent can ask their child to turn off the TV when they are watching it in another room, or to stop using the computer when they are spending hours themselves surfing the net. Nor should they restrict the portions of food they eat, when they do not watch what they are eating. Why would any child want to drink water or munch on fruit or vegetables, when they see the adults around them drinking sugar laden soda or having a bag of potato chips?
When looking to lead a healthier life style, it should be done one day at a time, and the end result will be well worth the effort….
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