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Weight: Helping Your Teen Lose Weight

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KEY POINTS

  • If you are worried that your teen is overweight or obese, talk with her healthcare provider. Children and teens should not be on a strict diet unless under the care of a healthcare provider or dietitian. A diet that is too strict can interfere with normal growth.
  • Talk about the habits that lead to gaining too much weight such as not enough exercise, skipping meals, drinking too many soft drinks or energy drinks, eating large portions, or eating a lot of fast food.
  • Encourage your teen to get at least 60 minutes of exercise most days.
  • Teach your teen to eat only when hungry. Have healthy snacks on hand.
  • Help your teen avoid diets that are too low in calories, limit foods to only one food, such as grapefruit, or diets that encourage laxatives and enemas. These diets can cause health problems very quickly and lead to eating disorders.

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What can I do to help my overweight teen?

If your overweight teen wants to lose weight, he or she will need your help. Being more independent is important to teens, but it helps if you are there to guide, listen, and support them. You can help by creating a healthy plan that your teen is willing and able to follow. Talk "with" not "at" your teen.

  • Teach about healthy diet and weight.

    Tell your teen the truth. Losing weight and getting in better shape takes effort. Talk about the habits that lead to gaining too much weight such as not enough exercise, skipping meals, drinking too many soft drinks or energy drinks, eating large portions, or eating a lot of fast food.

    Tell your teen that weight and body shape run in families. With healthy eating and exercise, a healthy size in your family may be larger than what your teen sees in magazines, and that's OK. Make sure that you are a good role model for your teen by eating healthy meals and snacks and exercising.

    Talk about the benefits of eating well. Eating a healthy diet leads to more energy, clear skin, and feeling more confident.

  • Use ChooseMyPlate as a way to eat a balance of healthy foods in the right amounts.

    To use ChooseMyPlate, divide a 9-inch plate into portions for fruits and vegetables, grains and starches, and proteins. This helps you to choose foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Fill half of the plate with fruits and vegetables. The other half of the plate should be split evenly. In one section, put starches, such as whole grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes. The last section is for proteins such as lean meat, beans, and peas. Your teen can also have a cup of dairy, such as low-fat or skim milk or yogurt on the side.

  • Help your teen avoid unsafe diets.

    Starvation or fad diets can be very dangerous. A teen who is still growing needs the right amounts of vitamin or minerals. Diets that are too low in calories, or limit foods to only one thing, such as grapefruit, can cause health problems very quickly. Detox diets that encourage laxatives and enemas can lead to eating disorders. Fad diets or severe dieting can also throw your teen's hunger cues off track.

  • Teach your teen to eat only when hungry.

    Teens eat for many reasons such as time of day, going out with friends, or feeling bored, frustrated, nervous, or depressed. Emotional eating can get in the way of a healthy weight loss plan. If this is a problem for your teen, seeing a counselor may help.

    The best reason to eat is hunger. Ask your teen when they eat, overeat, or crave certain foods. If your teen is eating when not hungry, encourage your teen to do something else such as exercising, reading, or working on a project to stop thinking about food.

    Help your teen practice eating until hunger is satisfied, but not to the point of feeling stuffed. If your teen eats this way, he should be hungry every 2 to 3 hours. Snacking is not a bad habit, as long as snacks are healthy. Teens who eat small frequent meals instead of a few large ones often have lower body fat, even if they eat the same amount of calories per day. Try 3 smaller meals, with 2 to 3 snacks during the day.

  • Provide healthy snacks.

    Try not to keep foods that are high in calories, sugar, and fat in the house. Be a good role model by eating healthy snacks yourself. Snacks that are high in protein and fiber may satisfy hunger longer. Have healthy snacks on hand at home and talk with your teen about switching from high fat, high sugar snack foods to healthy snacks such as:

    • Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
    • Pretzels or popcorn instead of chips
    • Graham crackers with peanut butter or bananas
    • Yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit
    • String cheese or small servings of other cheeses
  • Get your teen moving.

    Encourage your teen to get at least 60 minutes of exercise most days. Teens who are very overweight or not used to exercise need to start slow. It is always best to check with a healthcare provider before starting an exercise program. Team sports, exercise such as walking, biking, dancing, skating, or using exercise videos are all good options. Enjoy active outdoor time with your teen playing catch, taking a walk, or playing sports you both enjoy.

  • Let your teen have treats.

    If your teen really wants a high-calorie snack, help her choose a reasonable portion. Any foods can fit into your teen's diet if your teen learns a healthy balance between treats and healthy foods. Fresh fruits are a healthy way to satisfy cravings for sweets.

    Does my teen need a specific diet?

If you are worried that your teen is overweight or obese, talk with her healthcare provider. Children and teens should not be put on a strict diet unless under the care of a healthcare provider or dietitian. A diet that is too strict can interfere with normal growth.

If your teen is above 95% on the Body Mass Index (BMI) for Age growth charts, your provider may suggest a specific diet for slow weight loss.

If your teen has reached the age where they have naturally stopped growing, it is usually safe to go on a calorie-controlled diet plan. The plan will include eating a variety of foods from each food group. About 1 or 2 pounds per week weight loss is a good goal. Talk to your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian about diets that would be safe for your teen.

You can get more information from:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2016.4 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2016-10-18
Last reviewed: 2016-01-29
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright © 2016 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
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