Health


How can parents help overweight teenagers?



If parents do not do something about their obese children, they will be outliving them. The younger you are when you become obese, the worse are the serious, long-lasting ill effects. I feel for teenagers today as they have many pressures from school to study and spend long hours revising for exams or doing homework, than my generation ever had. Teenagers enjoy sitting around in front of the television and watching movies, or spend hours in front of the computer screen. Sitting about can be a disaster for weight gain. And the television uses this time to market snacks and fast food and drinks targeted at teenagers. I have heard from many teenagers who have put on weight during exam time.

Have a heart-to-heart talk

If your teen is overweight, he or she is probably as concerned about the excess weight as you are. Aside from lifelong health risks such as high blood pressure and diabetes, the social and emotional fallout of being overweight can be devastating for a teenager. It can also be frustrating to attempt weight loss and have poor results. Offer support and gentle understanding; create an action plan of small changes.

Educating teenagers is key

To a degree you can control what small children do and do not eat; but teens will question any changes and may be reluctant to change habits, so education is key. Even many bright students seem to have the notion that whatever they put into their mouths that is tasted and enjoyed by the mouth will then drop, as though by gravity, out at the other end as a waste product. It was clear that they do not realise that it is only the fibre in food that is released by the body as a waste product. Everything else that you put into your mouth ends up in your blood stream, and affects the body, good or bad.

Important facts for teenagers to know
Our bodies have five physical needs – water – food – sleep – exercise – and oxygen.
We need food, water, and oxygen for energy.

Food mixes with saliva and goes to the stomach where it is broken down by acid.
If, for example, you eat an apple, some of the apple goes into the blood, and what cannot be broken down passes into the large intestine as a waste product.

If you eat a lot of cakes containing little fibre and hydrogenated fat (like margarine), over a period of time you can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood, which narrows the arteries.
Alcohol also affects the brain, making it work more slowly, and you start to lose control over your body. It also leads to dehydration of the body, which in turn can give you a headache. Too much alcohol causes alcohol poisoning and makes you sick.

Smoking creates tar in the lungs, and inhaling the carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke forces the heart to work harder; the arteries narrow, as there is less space for oxygen. Smokers also experience decreased immunity.

Peer groups have a big influence on teenagers and they have to learn how to say no to some things that are harmful to their bodies.

Sometimes, being 'cool' can mean being passive. When you are assertive, you put your own needs on an equal footing, and can say 'no' with a smile or a joke. Teenagers need to learn how to be logical.

Drink cool drinks
Make sure there is plenty of bottled or filtered water in the house. Teenagers should also drink fresh fruit juice and they can make their own smoothies. Teens need calcium so make sure they drink milk for healthy teeth and bones. Avoid buying squash and carbonated drinks as they often contain lots of additives and sugar.

Snack smart
Talk to your children about smart snacks. When feeling tired and hungry you make a choice. Some teenagers may be reluctant to swap the sweets for an apple, but if they see you hold firm, they will follow your example.

 Teenagers should have an hour per day of exercise
Many overweight teens may be embarrassed to exercise in public so suggest exercise that can be done in the privacy of their bedroom just to get them started or invest in an exercise bike or treadmill for the home.

Share your food
Most restaurants serve very large portions. Teens can cut down on calories and save money by sharing one entree with somebody else. If that will not be enough food, then order an extra vegetable or salad (with the dressing on the side, of course!). — Alva Carpenter/Nutritionist and fitness expert based in the Gulf. Readers can send questions to alvathursday@natural healthlines.com

Snack Smart
Talk to your children about smart snacks. When feeling tired and hungry you make a choice. Do you have a chocolate bar or an apple? Choose the chocolate bar and you will pile on the kilos and feel tired later. Choose the bright apple and you boost your energy levels and feel great. Some teenagers may be reluctant to swap the sweets for an apple, but if they see you hold firm, they will follow your example.

Ask Alva
I'm a 17-year-old girl. I'm only 5 feet 1 inch tall and I am overweight. Please suggest exercises and diet to follow in order to lose weight and look healthy. I eat lots of chocolates and have spotty skin. Please reply as soon as possible. Hamda

At 17, it is a good age to start taking responsibility for your health and the way you look.  It is best to take care of your body through exercise, healthy eating and taking care of yourself.

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