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Obesity and Weight Management

How Do You Encourage a Teenager to Exercise?

03/11/2008

Question:

My daughter is 15 years. When she was 12 1/2 she was taken off of Adderol, which she had been taking for 4 years. She weighed about 80 pounds. Within 7 months she went up to 130 pounds. A lot of it was in her Belly. Now at 15 she is 5`3" and 160 pounds. She has a great attitude tons of self confidence and I don`t want to take that away from her. But some how I need to comunicate to her that she needs to watch her portion control and exersize. She has a lot of belly fat and I am afraid this will lead to bad health in the future. Any ideas on how to discuss this with her without taking away her confindence?

Answer:

Although health professionals and the media discuss the health hazards of excess weight, it isn’t a very good motivator for behavior change. Obesity is steeped in negatives. But you are right about future risks for those who carry excess weight around their waist.

When you approach your 15 year old, be positive -- use positive images and positive words. See how she feels about her current size and weight, maybe introduced when shopping or watching TV together. Ask who she admires and why. Use well-balanced, healthy, and fit individuals as your examples of people you admire. Ask whether she thinks about trying to become more fit and strong. If she does, ask what thing she thinks would be easiest for her to change first. Then, if she’ll commit to try to change it, help her monitor her progress.

Make her aware that weight gain is all about habits. They can be re-shaped. Reinforce any movement toward a more nutritious diet or activity routine with praise and support. If she isn’t ready to change, don’t give up. Keep up the chatter about fitness and feeling great. Importantly, model the behavior that you want to see in her and, if possible, try to get her to agree to be your buddy as you try to make changes to make yourself healthier.

Set your own easy goals and track your successes. Make your home environment one that supports better nutrition and less sedentary hours. Get her to join you with grocery shopping, meal planning, and other easy daily routines.

Change is a slow, steady progress toward a more healthful daily routine. Even small improvements – a little bit better food choice or a 10 minute walk – add up quickly.

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Response by:

Robert D Murray, MD Robert D Murray, MD
Clinical Professor of Health Behaviors & Health Promotion
Retired Professor of Human Nutrition
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University