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Motivating Teenagers to Eat Better and Lose Weight

by Candice Coleman, studioD

The effects of a person's obesity can be long-lasting and even life-threatening if left untreated. Parents should always ask their teenager's doctor before undergoing any weight loss or exercise program. While weight can be a sensitive subject for everyone, knowing how to approach a teenager's weight problem may mean a positive shift to healthier eating and exercise habits.

Talking About Weight

In a weight-focused culture, sensitivity abounds. Teenagers may feel personally attacked if their weight is mentioned. Before approaching your son about his weight, a visit with his doctor can confirm whether his weight and eating habits could be a danger to his health. If a doctor is concerned, ask your teen how he feels about his weight. If your child has high cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar due to his lifestyle, you may also ask him if he would like to lower those numbers. Be a supportive presence and let him come to you if he needs support while he changes his lifestyle. This approach will be much more effective than telling your child when to exercise and what to eat, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Make It A Group Effort

Singling out an overweight child is likely to backfire and cause resentment between family members. The whole family should strive to make healthy changes, according to the American Heart Association. Look up healthy recipes for dinner with your teenager and come up with alternatives to higher-calorie treats, like swapping candy bars for low-fat yogurt. The family can also go for walks or enjoy a game of basketball together to get moving. A friendly competition may also help teenagers get motivated -- maybe the first one in the family to lose 4 pounds next month can get out of a household chore.

Exercise and Motivation

Teenagers may be reluctant to hit the gym or go through high-impact exercises like running. Forcing your child to exercise a certain way will likely lead to a power struggle and a lack of exercise. Even moderate activity, like brisk walking, can help a teenager lose weight and get into better shape, according to Kids Health, a child development site. Explore exercise classes offered at your teenager's school or local community center, though you should remind teenagers to start out slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of their work-outs. Remind your teen that change and progress happen over time; this may help her keep a realistic perspective and motivate her to continue losing weight.


Fried and processed foods can damage a person's health. Look for baked and unprocessed foods for a healthier, lower-calorie meal. If your teenager's eating gets off-track at school, help him pack a healthy lunch as an alternative. Low-calorie snacks, like strawberries or carrots and hummus, may also help him avoid the vending machines when he is away from home. Talk about any struggles your teen has with food, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics. These conversations can help you keep your child's temptations out of the house. Your support goes a long way in motivating your child to eat better.

About the Author

Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.

Photo Credits

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