As I’m sure you remember all too well, the teen years are a time of insecurities and self esteem issues. As children turn into adults, their bodies grow and change in ways they can’t control, which can sometimes lead kids to unhealthy measures to look like the celebrities in their favorite magazines.
No one is safe from the pressures of achieving the “perfect” body, but kids are exceptionally susceptible to taking drastic steps in their pursuit of being attractive to their peers. Prom season is an especially tough time, as teen girls are wanting to look amazing in that perfect dress on their special night. Just as adult women are prone to crash dieting for an upcoming wedding, reunion, or vacation, prom is usually the first big event where young girls feel the pressure to look their best.
Young girls know even less about healthy eating and exercise than the average adult, which is illustrated by the shocking amount of eating disorders in teens. Kids think in black and white, all or nothing, and patience is not their strongest trait, making slow, steady weight loss less appealing to them than fad dieting.
Weight loss is not something that should be discouraged based on age, especially in our era of childhood obesity robbing our children of their health, but when it comes to teens and the sensitive subject of weight, healthy weight loss needs to be stressed. Focus on the importance of progress through consistent, healthy eating and consistent exercise over an extended period of time to build healthy habits that will last teens a lifetime.
The healthy rate of weight loss for anyone is 1-2 pounds per week, typically achieved by creating a 500 calorie deficit everyday through cutting calories, exercising, or, ideally, a combination of both. Workout with your teen, going for walks or even hitting the gym or a yoga class together, and get in the kitchen and cook healthy meals with your child taking the opportunity to teach them about proper nutrition. Most importantly: watch your words. How you feel about your own body is more obvious than you think, especially to the impressionable ears of an insecure teen.
With prom right around the corner, a drastic, double digit weight loss is probably not going to be typical for many teens, but some progress can be made. While this may make many overweight teens feel hopeless, prom can still be a powerful motivator to make healthy changes, especially because most teens don’t understand that even a few pounds shed can do wonders for their self esteem and body image.