Helping  Overeating, Overweight and Obese Teens and Kids

Teens obesity is continuing to rise parallel to the rise in adult and child obesity.Overweight children and teens are increasing much faster than in adults. In the 1970’s only 6 % of children were overweight, while in 2008 more than 30% were found to be overweight.

Despite a very high metabolism and the fact that teens are growing, its easy to consume hundreds of excess calories. The body will store these extra calories and fat builds up in the body. Being overweight and obese means  a high risk for developing other health problems. Obesity is becoming a serious issue in the United States today, and about one-third of  teenagers are overweight or obese. Binge eating, purging and even bulemia is becoming common in teens. Eating in secret is one of the ways teens are able to gain weight with parental knowledge.

Dr Lipman has helped many teens and older children that are overweight as part of his family obesity plan. When treating one or more of the overweight parents, teens and older children in the family are encouraged to participate in dietary changes.

Why are so many  teens becoming overweight and obese?

  • Family history
  • Unhealthy food choices – too much fast food
  • Family food habits – eating on-the-run or in front of the television
  • Bigger portions of food – what other countries consider a large portion, we consider small
  • Emotional distress – teen years are filled with stress and often the stress manifests itself as overeating.
  • Vending machines offer high calorie/high carb foods

Recognizing Overeating in  Teens  and Kids is First Step to Helping Them Lose Weight

The first step in helping overweight children is to learn how to recognize the problem. Most parents think their overweight children are “just about normal.” It is very normal for parents to erect barriers to prevent them from enforcing eating rules in their children. Parents are used to feeding and nourishing their young and have great difficulties recognizing childhood obesity at home. Doing something about it is even more difficult.


Nothing can be done to help children and teens with their dysfunctional eating problems until the parents are willing to recognize and accept the fact that their child or teen is overeating, overweight or obese. No matter what the type of eating dysfunction, it needs to trigger a reaction in the parents to make changes in the whole family’s eating and drinking.

Sixty three of parents (higher if the parents are both overweight) fail to recognize their child is overweight or obese despite the child’s obvious physical appearance. Often they perceive their child’s excess weight to be a temporary problem- “baby fat” or a “stage” which they are sure they will “outgrow.”

Only 4% of parents in the US are willing to admit that their child is even a little overweight, when, in fact, 33 % of all children in this country are overweight or obese. Secretive eating and binge eating is often the source of  excess calories.


Using Teen or Child’s Waist Line to Recognize Overeating, Overweight and Obesity

Waist Circumference in Teens and older children, more so than in adults, is a better indicator of overeating and possibly becoming overweight or obese.

The metabolic disorders accompanying weight gain and the associated risks are more directly related to waist circumference than is the scale or BMI. Recent reports on the distribution of waist circumferences for children between 2 and 18 years old revealed waist circumferences values of 26 inches for 6 year old boys and girls and 33 inches for 12 year old boys and 32 inches for 12 year old girls were the cutoff between normal and overweight children. (The 90th percentile). Note that the normal child increases his/her waist line about 1 inch a year as he/she gain weight.

While data on waist circumferences is not as extensive in children as in adults, there is enough studies to make some generalizations. Pediatricians treating obesity usually make little distinction between overweight and obese, preferring to place the child into a category labeled “overweight” which includes both groups of children, since the treatment is the same.

On the left of the graph (Y=waist line) is waist line and on the bottom is age (X=Age). Below the purple line is normal, overweight is between the purple and green and above if waist line is above the green line and dots the individual is obese.


Using Body Mass Index (BMI) for Older Children and Teens

Body mass index (BMI) is a good measurement for determining if a person is overweight. Here is a good BMI calculator for teens. BMI considers a person’s height and weight to estimate body fat. Once your BMI is calculated you can compare it to a BMI chart. If your BMI falls above the 85thpercentile but less than the 95th you are considered overweight. If you pass the 95th percentile you are considered obese.

bmi for teens recognizing teen obesity

Overweight Teens Become Overweight Adults

According to Health and Human Services, 7 out of 10 overweight adolescents will become overweight adults. If one parent is overweight it rises to 8 out of 10. Ninety percent of parents were unable to estimate their child’s weight accurately and most do not appreciate the health risks of childhood obesity. Some parents think being underweight is more important than being overweight. (A very old fashioned view). Some parents think their overweight child’s problem are no more serious than a “bad flu.”

The latest US government statistics show that among the 335 million Americans 64% of the women and 74% of the adult men are either overweight or obese. About 34% of children and teens fall into these groups. That would mean that among the 115 million American households, about 3/4 of them would have one or more overweight adults. There are about 25-30 million American households with overweight children or teens as well as one or more overweight parents. This is the group of overeating Americans that are so hard to reach.

Body weight is second after height as one of the more important heritable factors. With one parent overweight the odds a child being overweight is 50%, and with two parents overweight it rises to 90% or more.

All of this data provides evidence that the children will follow the same path as their parents. The parental eating patterns are reproduced in the child. Starting to change this means that the parents have to recognize that they need to lose weight and that their children or teens need to at least slow down their weight gain. Since the average child or teen gains between 6-10 lbs. a year normally, often it’s simply a matter of slowing down the weight gain so that in a year or two they will arrive at a normal or close to normal weight.

Part of this blindness is the result of fears parents have about using pejorative terms about their children, made even worse if they too were overweight as a child. Even physicians are concerned with angering or upsetting the parents in these situations.

Doctors Fail to Recognize and Help Overweight Teens

Doctors are even worse than parents. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic reviewed the charts of 2500 overweight patients who had just seen their doctor. Only 20% of the obese people were recognized as obese. Those that had their weight problem recognized were twice as likely to lose weight.

According to a 2005 study in the journal Pediatrics, doctors diagnosed obesity less than 1% of the time among 2-to-18-year-olds-a figure far below the one-third of young Americans struggling with in 2005 indicated that only 12% of pediatricians were effective in helping overweight children. It is a sensitive area on all sides.

Poor Communication With Family Doctor

Overall, just 9% of adults interviewed by Consumer Reports said that a physician had suggested that their child or teen lose weight. Among respondents with kids more than twenty-percent overweight, 51% reported that their physician had suggested their child shed some pounds. That leaves almost half of all parents of severely overweight kids not engaging in a dialogue with their family doctor about their child’s weight problem.

While data on waist circumferences is not as extensive in children as in adults, there is enough studies to make some generalizations. Pediatricians treating obesity usually make little distinction between overweight and obese, preferring to place the child into a category labeled “overweight” which includes both groups of children, since the treatment is the same.

  What You Can Do for Your Overweight Teen

It all starts with the parents. If they suspect their child is overeating or overweight, then they need to measure the child or teen’s waist line. If they are borderline or overweight, then they need to approach their family doctor with the facts. Nothing can be done until this overeating is recognized and nothing can be done unless there is a plan.

A recent large investigation uncovered that being overweight is a very difficult subject for parents to discuss with their teens. One in 20 parents of adolescents said that they are struggling with their teens’ use of drugs, alcohol and smoking. However, more than 25% of parents are hesitant to talk to their teens about their overeating and weight gain. The study suggested that parents of kids ages 8 to 17 avoid the subject of weight completely. One in five parents admit they have never brought up the subject of maintaining a healthy weight despite knowing that being overweight poses an immediate health risk to their kids. Ninety percent of healthcare professionals said that maintaining a healthy weight is the most important health topic that parents should discuss with their children. One in 5 parents said that their doctor should be the one to discuss the dangers of being overweight.

Susan Bartell, Psy.D., an obesity expert, writes: “Weight has become such an emotionally charged and pervasive subject, especially in a culture that is highly image-driven. Broaching this subject can be extremely intimidating for parents, especially given that parents themselves may be struggling with their weight.”

Parents Can Start Listening to Their Kids and Teens

Given these facts, the first step is for parents to start listening to their kids.

How  Teens Recognize They Have an Eating Problem

No system works better for overweight kids and teens to lose weight than recognizing themselves that they weigh too much and want to do something about it Here is what they say in their words:

* “My clothes are too tight and I need new clothes every month.”

* “I can’t find anything that fits me.”

* “I never wear a bathing suit and avoid pool and beach parties.”

* “I hate to look in the mirror or have pictures taken of myself.”

* “I like lose clothes and wear oversize shirts to cover my belly.”

* “I am so ashamed talking about my weight.”

* “I get teased by other kids about my size.”

* “I suddenly lose my friends and have trouble finding new ones.”

* “I don’t get invited to birthday parties or to friend’s houses.”

* “I can’t get comfortable with members of the opposite sex.”

* “I can’t keep up in sports; nobody wants me on their teams at school.”

* “I get short of breath and feel tired all day, I fall asleep in class.”

* “I get stretch marks and saggy skin.”

* “I can’t fit into the desks at school.”

* “Every one of my friends is skinny and can wear the coolest clothes.”

More Worries That Overweight Teens Share With Their Friends

“I really want to lose weight. But I feel ashamed to tell my family. I know that they will talk about me behind my back, and might make fun of me. I love them, but it’s just the way they are sometimes.”

“I have always been overweight and I want to learn how to build my self-confidence.”

“I need motivation help. Sometimes I feel like I can’t control myself once I start eating.”

“How do I stop temptations?”

“Why do I still gain weight when I’m eating healthy?”

“What if you’re exercising and eating healthy but you’re still gaining weight?”

” I eat when I am bored.”

“How can I get the support of my friends and family? “

“How do you know when to stop eating? Cleaned off plate? Empty bag?”

“I have stretch marks that make me look like I was pregnant.”

“I am going to see my doctor, but I’m afraid that when I get on the scale I will hear long lectures from my mom. I know I am fat and it’s unhealthy”

“Last year no one came to my birthday party. Maybe because I am 200 lb. and am only 13.”

“My mom saw my big belly. I usually hide it under loose, hanging shirts. She was worried I was pregnant.”

“I am so embarrassed. I broke a chair at school because I weigh so much.”

“I am 16 year old girl and weigh 220 lb. I know I need to lose weight, but I don’t know how to even start. What should I weigh?”

“I want to lose weight fast, and not have to exercise or work too hard, can I?”

“Everyone thinks I lazy and stupid because I weigh so much, I know that’s not true, so how do I tell my teachers I not lazy?

“You are the only one I can talk to about my terrible sugar cravings.”

Dr Lipman Reviews these Twelve Warning Signs Your Child Has a Problem With Overeating

  1. His/her doctor tells you so.
  2. Your child complains about being teased about her/his size.
  3. Your child’s clothes seem to get too small too fast.
  4. Shopping for clothes with your child is a nightmare.
  5. Your child refuses to be seen in a bathing suit.
  6. Your child’s friendships are suddenly changing.
  7. Your child withdraws from activities he/she previously enjoyed.
  8. You find yourself referring to him/her as “big-boned” or “large.”
  9. You notice your child huffing and puffing after a simple task such as climbing a flight of stairs.
  10. You keep telling your child or teen to stop eating.
  11. 11.Your child insists on ordering from a restaurant adult menu
  12. 12.Your child tells you she or he is over-weight.

If you hear any of these comments, don’t ignore it. It might have taken months for them to get the courage to say it. Ask them if they would like to see a doctor to find out what weight is “normal.” Ask if they would like help starting a fun exercise program.Ask if they would go with you to the supermarket to help you find new foods to try that they might enjoy.

Diet Buddies: A Weight Loss Plan for the Whole Family

Diet Buddies: A Weight Loss Plan for the Whole Family

Eat less, move more. We’ve heard that advice for decades. The reality? 1/3 of children and 2/3 of adults are overweight or obese. Weight loss in the 21st century requires a different approach. Diet Buddies offers parents a realistic plan to reverse overeating for their overweight child, and for every member of the family, by making small changes – without sacrificing many of the family’s favorite foods.


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