Healthy Weight Loss Considerations for Your Dieting Teen

Healthy Weight Loss Considerations for Your Dieting Teen

Growing up has never been easy, but today’s teenagers face challenges that many of us who grew up in previous generations could never imagine. From the ubiquity of social media to the rise of the online influencer and the reality TV star, kids are bombarded with unrealistic images of what health and beauty mean.

In this selfie-obsessed era, indeed, the pressure on teens to be “perfect” at all times is immense, and that can take a devastating toll on your child’s body image and overall self-esteem.

So what do you do when your child tells you they want to go on a weight-loss diet? Though some alarm bells may instinctively fire off in your mind, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily reject the idea outright. After all, weight loss can be a positive step toward physical and mental health when it is done responsibly. There are, however, a number of important considerations to keep in mind as you seek to support and guide your dieting teen toward their goal. 

Define Goals

When your teen tells you they want to start dieting, one of the first and most important things you can do is sit down and help them define their reasons and their goals for such an undertaking. 

If your kid is already at a healthy weight and they’re just looking to compete with their leaner friends or the latest photoshopped internet celebrity, then it’s probably a good idea to have a heartfelt conversation about the dangers of comparing yourself to others and, in particular, of attempting to compete with the unrealistic and highly-doctored mages they see in media.

Instead, help your teen shift their focus from physical appearance to health, working with them to establish healthy and realistic goals that will help their body to be strong and well.  

Distinguish Between Nutrition and Dieting

Parents know all too well how easily influenced children and teens can be by media and marketing. When it comes to your dieting teen, though, the influence exerted by media can have dangerous consequences. For example, your teen may be mesmerized by the marketing hype surrounding a certain fad diet or weight-loss product. 

This, in turn, may incite them to consume dangerous supplements or diet aids while simultaneously imposing dangerous restrictions in other aspects of their diet. They may cut caloric intake to life-threatening levels or exclude essential nutrients from their regimen.

For this reason, it’s critical to educate your teen on the risks and, ultimately, on the ineffectiveness of fad diets and dietary products. In the process, you’ll want to help your child learn to distinguish between dieting and nutrition and to pursue the latter, rather than the former.

A key component of this should be the adoption of a healthy lifestyle, one that not only emphasizes a balanced diet but also lots of physical activity and healthy sleep. In this way, your child learns to prioritize not a number on a scale but overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

Prepare Your Child for the Mental Impacts of Dieting

No matter what age you are, when you’re dieting, it can be so easy to become fixated on the physical aspects of the new regimen that you forget about the mental impacts. The reality, though, is that weight loss doesn’t just change how we look on the outside, but it can also impact how we feel on the inside. 

If your child has a history of overeating, for example, this may be a sign that they’ve been turning to food as a coping mechanism, a way to deal with unresolved anxiety, depression, or even trauma. Once the food crutch has been removed, then your child may, at last, begin to feel the troubling emotions they have been using food to conceal or evade. 

On the other hand, your child may have internalized a host of unrealistic ideas about how their life would change after weight loss. Thus, when they’ve worked hard to achieve their weight loss goals only to discover that the same basic problems and challenges remain, they may become hopeless, depressed, even despondent.

This is the reason why it’s imperative that you concentrate as much on your dieting teen’s mental well-being as you do on their physical health. Help your child understand that weight loss is not a panacea, but that there is help available to support them in dealing with the emotions that may surface during and after this journey.

The Takeaway

When your teenager tells you they want to go on a diet, your first impulse may be to panic or to resist. However, such a moment can present an important opportunity for helping your teen learn to build a healthy, happy, self-nurturing lifestyle, instead of one built on fad diets and poor body image. Rather, through this process, you can help your child learn to reach realistic and healthy goals by feeding their physical and psychological needs in positive and healthful ways.

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Article Author Details

Charlie Fletcher

Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer living in the pacific northwest who has a variety of interests including sociology, politics, business, education, health, and more.