The teen years are laced with drama. Girls and guys alike are plagued with rampant hormones, social pressures and mountains of insecurity. Doubt fills every corner of their lives from what they’re wearing to who they’re talking to and how they’re doing in school. But perhaps one of the most pressing concerns for today’s adolescents is physical appearance, particularly weight.
There is an inordinate amount of focus on size – a focus that isn’t restricted to health but to social and emotional wellbeing, as well. Teens feel the need to shrink or grow to the expected and accepted body size. If they don’t, they will be ridiculed and looked down upon, by themselves if not their peers, on a regular basis. As such, they often rely on detrimental weight-control techniques, including purging, bingeing, fad diets and diet products. Today, both males and females succumb to eating disorders at rates considerably higher than a decade ago. They turn an unhealthy overweight into an unhealthier under-weight, missing the middle ground – the place of physical and mental wellbeing.
As a parent, you must monitor your teen and ensure that weight loss, if necessary, be achieved in a healthy, safe manner. Start by offering your support but avoid comments that focus on the ideal, being fat or being thin. Your goal is health not size. Encourage nutritious eating and more activity, but don’t push it. Obsessing over a treat or forcing a hated activity will only instill negative thoughts in your teen. Instead, allow the occasional diet splurge and help your child find an exercise that he enjoys. And finally, stay positive. Weight loss is difficult at any age, but in adolescence, when there are already so many other stressors (hormonal and otherwise) it can be even more frustrating. You want to help keep the self-esteem up and the weight down, not the other way around.