Weight Management and Adolescents

Weight Management in Teens

Facts about obesity in teens

According to the CDC’s National
Center for Health Statistics, about 9 out of 50 children ages 6 to 11 in the U.S.
are
considered overweight, and 1 in 5 teens (ages 12 to 19) is overweight. Many more people
are now overweight than 15 years ago. This increase is seen in both sexes and all
ages.
Overweight or obese teens are more likely to be overweight or obese adults.

What is obesity?

Obesity is a generalized excessive
accumulation of body fat. It’s found by measuring both the height and weight of the
teen
and calculating the BMI (body mass index). Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or more.
Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9.
You can figure out your child’s BMI. Research studies suggest that
overweight or obese teens may become overweight or obese adults.

What causes teens to become overweight?

These are some of the factors that
may contribute to overweight teens:

  • Easy availability of food,
    especially high-calorie snack food

  • Parents’ attitudes toward
    food

  • Eating more fast foods

  • Using food as a reward or
    punishment to change behaviors

  • Lack of exercise

  • TV watching and snacking

  • Not knowing how to eat
    healthy

  • Heredity (parents’ and family
    members’ weight)

  • Medical condition such as hormonal problem (rare)

Weight management

Girl standing on a scale

Treatment for obesity in children
and teens involves changes in diet and more exercise. It’s important for parents and
the
teens to be ready and willing to make the change. Generally, weight loss is not
recommended for babies and young children who are still growing and developing. The
goal
of treatment for these children is to maintain their weight while they continue to
grow
taller. Losing weight may be recommended for obese teens who have completed their
growth
or weigh more than their healthy adult weight. The following are some of the general
guidelines that may be followed in treating your teen.

For children older than 7 years of age

  • The goal is to stay at
    a baseline weight at first. Then add slow changes in eating and exercise to
    reach slow weight loss as recommended by your teen’s healthcare provider.

  • At this age, a child or
    teen should follow adult guidelines, and limit fat intake.

  • Eat a variety of foods that are low in calories. Consider the following:

    • Your teen needs
      enough calories to maintain his or her energy level, but no more than
      they can burn off. This is called an energy balance.

      • If they take
        in more calories than they burns, they gain weight.

      • If they take
        in fewer calories than they burn, they lose weight.

      • If they
        balances the two, they maintain their weight.

    • Even when
      dieting, calories should not be cut back so much that your teen’s energy
      needs are not met. The number of calories your teen needs depends mainly
      on age, gender, and activity level.

  • Eat fewer high-fat foods.

  • Eat more vegetables and fruits.

  • Eat fewer sweets, candy, cookies, chips, and sodas.

  • Change to skim milk and low-fat dairy products.

  • Refer to support groups.

What can I do as parent to help my teen
manage obesity?

  • Don’t use food as a reward. Use other activities as a reward for good behavior.

  • Have family meal time and snack times.

  • Give only healthy choices for
    your teen to choose from. For example, stock the refrigerator with apples or
    yogurt, rather than cookies and chips.

  • Have the whole family become
    involved in a healthy eating plan, not just the teen who is overweight.

  • Encourage activities that promote exercise, such as riding a bike, walking, or skating.

  • Seek help from your
    healthcare provider or a nutritionist who specializes in children and teens. They
    can help guide you through the management of obesity in your child in a safe and
    healthy way.