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The Informed Parent

When Your Teenager Is Overweight

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Mar. 03, 2008

If your teenager is overweight, he or she is not alone. It is estimated that approximately 15% of adolescents and 10% of preadolescents are overweight. A teen is considered obese when his or her weight is more than 20% above that which is determined to be desirable for a person's height, weight and sex.

There are some variations between the sexes as well as socioeconomic differences. There are also differences between varying cultural groups. Obesity is more common among females, more prevalent among Caucasians and is generally in lower rather than in higher-income families. Children are more likely to become overweight as adults if there is a family history of obesity and if they are physically inactive. To date, however, there is no evidence that an obese baby will become an obese adult.

Most successful weight-reduction strategies for obese teens concentrate not only on dietary control and exercise but also on improving self-esteem. The dieting adolescent should stay away from starvation diets, extreme and fad diets, and the use of diuretics, laxatives, or diet pills. A careful parent should also watch for the development of self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise in their teen, as this may signal the onset of an eating disorder.

Healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle can become a family affair. The entire family can improve its eating attitudes. Exercise is often a great way to improve calorie expenditure. To get the most out of exercise your teen should be active at least 30 minutes a day, three-to-four times a week.

Once your teen begins to see some improvement from the weight loss program she can work on changing the daily habits that contributed to her weight gain in the first place. This can be an exciting time for your teen. It is a good opportunity for parents to praise their teen for the hard work and motivation! See your child's doctor if you have any questions.

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