So we’ve gone through a bunch of ideas and thoughts for helping your teen lose weight. You may have noticed I’ve spent a lot of time discussing emotional health and self-esteem! Losing weight is a long, involved process that involves an investment in one’s health and well-being… which calls for self-confidence and self-respect. But there are more tangible suggestions for teens to lose weight and gain health.
It is normal to want a quick fix. Unfortunately, there isn’t one. Or at least, there isn’t a safe one. Losing weight is slow, and hard, and requires a reframing of habits and environment. As humans, we respond better to a “do” than a “don’t,” which is why focusing on exercise and increasing healthy habits works much better than trying not to do what we are used to.
Losing weight is not just a matter of willpower. There is a wealth of research on this. Our brains are not built in a manner that allows us to simply “flex” our willpower and steadily lose weight over a long time. This is why it is so difficult!
Here are a few more suggestions I didn’t fit into the last 5 posts. Remember to check in with your primary care provider for other ideas and suggestions!
- Three meals, three snacks. This is what adolescents should be eating every day, if possible. Not only does it keep their metabolisms running at prime speed, but it fuels their growth and development.
- Snacks should involve protein. They should be substantial enough to keep a teen satisfied for a couple of hours. Apple and peanut butter, cheese and crackers, a hard-boiled egg and grapes, or yogurt and fruit are all examples, but see what your teen enjoys.
- Breakfast is key. It gets the body and the metabolism up and running. Your teen may need something easy to eat on the way to school. Pieces of fruit, toast with peanut butter, a banana, or a handful of nuts are quick and easy.
- Eat when moderately hungry, and stop when satisfied. It doesn’t matter if your teen is hungry “when they shouldn’t be,” or hungry “for the wrong things,” or they’re not satisfied yet but they “should be by now.” They should be eating what they want, with an eye to health, but not cutting out foods they crave or enjoy. They should stop when they’re satisfied- not stuffed- with an option to eat more in 20-30 minutes if they decide they really do need more.
- Soda is basically sugar water. It has zero nutritional value. Current research shows that diet soda is not a better choice. Water or low-to-nonfat milk are healthier choices. (If your teen drinks soda with caffeine, they may want to stop slowly to avoid caffeine withdrawal.)
- Turn off the TV, computer, X-box, or anything else with a screen. Teens should have no more than 2 hours of “recreational” screen time daily (this doesn’t include schoolwork.) Sitting in front of a screen for hours on end can slow your teen’s metabolism down.
- Look at short-term behavioral goals instead of long-term weight goals, if your teen wants to set goals for him/ herself. “I will exercise 5 days a week” is an easier goal than “I will lose 40 pounds,” and your teen can start reaching that goal in a week, as opposed to months or years.
- “Emotional eating” is a common way to cope with stress. Some people eat for comfort when they are sad, anxious, or angry. Brainstorm with your teen about other activities that can help ease stress, like hanging out with friends, listening to music, drawing, or writing in a journal.
- Watch for signs of a possible eating disorder. If your teen feels like their eating is out of control, if they regularly eat until they are physically uncomfortable, if they make themselves vomit or exercise excessively after eating, if they stop eating or severely restrict their food, or if they start using diet pills or laxatives to lose weight, they need to see a doctor immediately.