When Carole King wrote the song "Happy Being Fat," she nailed the attitude that many overweight teens have about being prodded to slim down: "Don't tell me to go on a diet. Don't give me no pills. Just leave me alone with my ice-cream cone, and let me eat my fill."
And studies show that when weight-loss pressure comes from parents, the majority of adolescents ignore the message or fixate on destructive (and ineffective) weight-control behaviors such as bingeing.
But a small shift in how you talk to your teen about eating habits can bolster his or her brain power, self-image and chances for a brighter future - and isn't that what you really want?
Consider these suggestions for discussing the issue:
- Talk about healthful eating, not weight loss. Teens are sensitive to parental criticism; changing your conversation from weight loss to healthful habits makes sure they don't overreact or get defensive.
- Share nutritional info. Let them know that people who eat 5-9 servings of veggies a day and avoid stripped-down carbs and saturated fats are happier, have healthier hearts, less cancer and end up with better jobs. All that from a carrot!
- Make better nutrition a family project. Do meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking together. Dads, studies show that if you bring the healthful eating message (we suggest the Mediterranean diet) to the table, it has special powers to transform your teen's eating habits and weight.
- And try walking together, too. Enjoy talking about world events, or whatever, but not obesity!