Help Teens Avoid Obesity – Otherwise, It’s a Lifelong, Uphill Climb

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Ask individuals who have battled their weight from the time they were young, and they will confirm a recent surveyy that suggests that allowing obesity to entrench itself during a person's youth means a terrible lifelong struggle. A recent new story highlighted the ongoing debate about when it's appropriate to remove a child from their home, when it involves ongoing weight issues. In this case the 8 year old weighed 200 pounds and the short version of the story is that the child and parent were enrolled in a support program. After initial early success with weight loss, the child began to consistently pack on pounds and social service stepped in. Experts will tell you that in most cases of childhood and early teen obesity, the goal is to have the patient shed a portion of the dangerous weight and then try to keep them in a "weight holding pattern" while they grow in height and begin to catch up to their weight.

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    If you talk to adults who struggle with serious weight issues, they will tell that that part of the challenge is that unlike a cigarette or drug addiction, you somehow have to learn to co-exist with your demon, because food is always around you. Sure, you could live with empty cupboards and refrigerators, and only buy the bare minimum ingredients needed for each meal, but that's just not reasonable. And you will still have to go to work, and go into a supermarket, and go to family and friend events and face food. So somehow, your obesity treatment has to address the stimulus for out-of-control eating and it has to help you to be able to cope with daily temptations. Given those realities, it's not hard to understand why it is so important to try and "stop the problem before it begins." That means helping your kids to avoid the kind of weight gain that will lead to a tortured destiny of cyclical dieting and the heartache associated with failure to achieve long term sustained weight maintenance.


    Many kids who are overweight certainly have a genetic component, but this biological issue is expressed as a dominant trait because of behaviors that include eating too much, eating too many foods that can easily boost your weight, eating for the wrong reasons, not exercising. Let's also acknowledge that even if these kids are lucky enough to avoid pre-diabetes, frank diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and physical joint pains due to the burden of the weight, most are seriously unhappy and many are at risk of bullying. As a teen, you have enough to cope with, without adding the singular, most obvious fulcrum for bullying.


    Not surprisingly, many overweight and obese kids have overweight or obese parents. The timing of the weight issues may be dissimilar, but the same lifestyle habits, along with the possible genetic predisposition, that caused serious weight issues in the adult family members, contributes to the weight issues that the kids experience. Dual working parents may create an empty home for kids to come home to, but parents supply the food choices and amounts in the pantry and frig. TV and computer time when kids are young should be controlled by parents, but that is often not the case. Using food as a reward or bandage is an adult-mediated behavior - kids will however learn it, and then they will perpetuate it.


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    Bottom line - Parents need to take the responsibility of raising a healthy child and get help and support from health professionals if they see an early weight issue. They also need to focus on the entire family's habits, not just those of the weight-challenged child or teen.  This is not about a blame game - it's about creating a healthy environment for your kids to grow in.

Published On: December 01, 2011