How to Help an Overweight Teen?

Overweight teen eating unhealthy mealI recently read a post on Children’s Hospital Boston’s blog “Thriving”, which asked for input on how to help a 14 year old overweight girl (“Ms. K”) lose weight. In the post it said that Ms. K doesn’t eat breakfast, but eats a greasy school lunch with a salad and chocolate milk. After she gets home, she snacks on junk food and for the rest of the afternoon she eats things like baked chips, 100-calorie packs, and cereal bars. Then she eats dinner with her parents, which is often fried chicken, pasta with cheese, or a hamburger. After dinner, she usually eats 1 to 3 snacks while working on her computer.

I’m a very picky eater, so I definitely understand that eating healthy is very hard. However, I definitely have some tips that will hopefully help Ms. K lose weight. First, I think that Ms. K has to really want to lose weight; otherwise it’s going to be even harder for her to motivate herself or to reject certain foods. Second, I think that she shouldn’t skip breakfast. Eating breakfast will help keep her fuller for a longer period of time and will get her metabolism going. Of course, she should try to eat healthy foods such as whole grains, a glass of low-fat milk (instead of juice) and a piece of fruit or two instead of something such as a pop tart or toaster strudel. Also, instead of eating the school lunch (which I never ate because I always found it to be disgusting), she can bring her own lunch to school. I know it may make her feel like a little girl, but I remember that a lot of people in my high school used to bring their own lunch. Like her breakfast, her lunch should be healthy, so it should include protein, fruits, and vegetables.

From personal experience, I learned that if a food isn’t in the house then I probably won’t eat it. So, it would be good if Ms. K’s parents didn’t keep junk food in the house. The thing is, if you like something and you know it’s available; you may end up eating it even if you‘re not hungry. I know that I tend to be like that, so I just try to avoid keeping junk food in the house – and it definitely makes it easier to consume fewer calories. I learned in my nutrition class that the hardest thing about losing weight is breaking the habit of eating the things that you normally eat.

However, I do understand that it’s good to have snacks throughout the day, so keeping whole grain crackers, yogurt, popcorn, and fruits that she likes around the house may be a good idea. Ms. K’s family should also be involved in helping her lose weight. To start, they should change their dinner menu to something healthier. I think that if they all support each other and are motivated enough, they can help her, and maybe help themselves in the process.