How To Help Teens Struggling with Obesity

February 22, 2022

Joe D Staff

Adolescent Weight Loss

Health and social issues related to obesity can lead to low self-esteem for teenagers.

The teenager may feel frustrated, angry or sad. She wants to fit in, but gets bullied at school. He wants to feel in control of his life, but serious health problems like high blood pressure or diabetes get in the way.

In these situations, concerned parents want to help, but their teen may not want them to meddle. Don’t give up! It’s important for parents to be involved and supportive in helping teens with obesity successfully become healthier and more active.

5 Tips for Supporting a Teen with Obesity

  • Talk with the teen. To successfully lose weight, a teenager has to want to do so. So don’t tell them they need to lose weight. Ask them how they feel about their weight and then listen.
  • Talk with the doctor , who can measure the teen’s BMI (body mass index), help set weight goals and guide a safe exercise and diet regimen.
  • Be a coach, not a drill sergeant. Parents have a lot of influence with their kids. So encourage them to find their own reasons to eat healthier and move more.
  • Make it a family effort. Singling out one person doesn’t work. The teen will feel criticized, punished and unmotivated. Make healthy changes for the benefit of everyone in the family.
  • Be honest about the struggle. Change is hard, even for adults. It’s OK for a teen to see parents struggling with new habits, like choosing fresh veggies instead of chips or making time for a walk. Remind them that making the healthier choice feels good.

Sometimes parenting a teenager can feel like walking through a minefield and explosions are imminent. Keep cool and keep moving forward. Big lifestyle changes are not easy, so it’s not surprising that a teenager with obesity may resist at first.

Tips for Successful Change

  • Don’t change everything at once. Start with simple changes and goals that are achievable. Do them every day, and then encourage more over time. A family challenge or reward system may help.
  • Don’t micro-manage. Many adults don’t like to be micromanaged, and kids don’t, either. Don’t comment on every bite they eat. It could damage their confidence in their own decision-making. Slip-ups will happen. That’s OK. Aim for progress.
  • Stress a positive body image. Thin is beautiful in popular culture — sometimes unrealistically so. Parents can’t change that or control everything a teenager sees. Do comment regularly on the teen’s positive qualities. Let them know they are wonderful and loved for who they are.

With the support of parents, family and physicians, teens with obesity can find a successful path to better health. If that path ultimately leads to weight-loss surgery, the experts at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital adolescent weight-loss surgery program can help teens ages 15-17 (with parental consent) determine if it is the right choice for them.