This is an excerpt from the book, Weight Loss Confidential: How Teens Lose Weight and Keep It Off – And What They Wish Parents Knew, which discusses how they did it and what families can do to help. The author, Anne Fletcher, interviewed and surveyed more than 100 teens who had lost weight in healthy ways, some as much as 100 pounds, as well as many of their parents. Many of them came from overweight families and had been heavy for a long time. This book tells how they were able to turn things around and make important lifestyle changes.
The Teens’ Advice to Parents
I asked the teens for their advice to parents of overweight teens about what helps and what hurts. Here’s what they told me.
How Not to Talk to a Teen
Steven Berg-Smith, M.S., coauthor of a study on how to motivate teens to improve their diets and a health psychologist who owns the California-based company A.I.M for Change, urges parents to avoid the following pitfalls that can generate resistance and entrench a teen in a no-change position.
Mr. Berg -Smith points out that when a teen offers a hopeful sign that he or she might be interested in changing, it’s best to use restraint, not to pounce. For instance, if a teen says, “My pants are too tight. I look really gross,” don’t respond with “Let’s sign you up for the YMCA weight program.” Rather, say, “Do you want to talk about it?” (My son Wes says, “Let them know you’re willing to talk then back off.”) When you see signs that a teen is trying to change, it helps to focus on successes and efforts versus what’s not happening. For instance, if a teen comes home from school and goes for a long walk, then sits down and eats a bowlful of buttered popcorn, say something positive about the fact that she took a walk and restrain yourself from mentioning the popcorn. He adds, “Teens are more motivated by what they hear themselves say than by what someone else tells them, so let them make their own arguments for lifestyle change and ways of achieving it.” So if a teen expresses an interest in starting an exercise program, rather than jump in with all of your ideas about what type of exercise is best or how to start out, ask what types of exercise he has considered and how he thinks he might go about getting started.