Teen Obesity: How Involved Should I Get In Tackling My Child’s Weight?

Teen Obesity: How Involved Should I Get In Tackling My Child’s Weight?

As an eating disorder therapist, I work with a lot of teenagers who struggle with body image and mental health issues related to food and eating. I’ve blogged about my own struggles with an eating disorder as well as factors that can contribute to disordered eating, like anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. A related topic that I feel isn’t talked about as much as it should be, however, is teen obesity. The scary truth is that teen obesity is up 28% since 1999 and is still on the rise. The reason this is such a severe problem is that teenagers who struggle with obesity also deal with a whole host of other health risk factors, like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as mental health risk factors.

As a parent, it’s difficult to know when to get involved and what the best way is to support your teenager who is struggling with weight. Sometimes it can feel like there’s a fine line between teaching your child to love their body and have self-acceptance while also emphasizing the importance of healthy eating habits. Talking to your child about their weight or their eating habits isn’t easy, but turning a blind eye could lead to severe long-term mental and physical health consequences. If this is something you are struggling with as a parent, know that you aren’t alone in this and there are a variety of resources that can help your entire family. For starters, nutritional counseling can go a long way. Sometimes it takes a certified expert — someone other than their parents — to get a teenager to open up and be receptive.

Another place you can turn is a wellness camp. Many people are turned off by the idea of sending their kid to a camp they believe is simply a “weight loss camp,” but I did a lot of research on the subject and have talked to a lot of people who have experienced firsthand how life-changing a wellness camp can be. Specifically, I was able to tour and meet with Tony and Dale Sparber, who founded Camp Pocono Trails, a New Image Camp. I actually first heard about the camp from my sister, who sent two of her children there who were struggling with weight, and they had an incredible experience. When I toured the camp, I was beyond impressed, and not just with the incredible facilities and program, but with the passion the staff had for what they do.

Wellness Camp for Teens, walking together to the campsite on the lake

A wellness camp like Camp Pocono Trails provides fun, engaging summertime activities while simultaneous teaching teenagers lifelong and transformative healthy habits. It’s important to find a camp that has a good balance of promoting health and wellness, instilling knowledge and letting teens have a social and rewarding summer experience. In terms of their health promotion, I was happy to learn that the camp steers completely away from diets or any kind of food deprivation that’s designed with strict weight loss goals in mind. Instead, campers learn how to lead a healthier life by making smart choices when it comes to food, understanding portion control and engaging in physical activity — while enjoying a spectacular private camp setting.

If you are looking for something transformative and know that your teenager needs to take a big step in jumpstarting a healthier lifestyle, I’d encourage you to check out a wellness camp for the summer. LW Wellness has decided to collaborate with Pocono Trails specifically, so that we can offer after-camp care to ensure consistency and maintenance of the new skills that are learned during the program. Remember that health is a lifelong journey that requires constant attention and reexamining as your lifestyle changes. Having the support of professionals, not just in the nutrition and fitness space, but also mental health counselors to guide your teen on their journey is incredibly vital.

Are you interested in continuing the conversation about teen obesity? We’d love to hear from you and answer any questions you might have about the best program or plan for your child who is struggling with weight. All teenagers are different and finding the right fit means everything to us at LW Wellness.

Preventing Obesity In Our Children With Mindfulness

As an eating disorder specialist, and someone who battled an eating disorder for many years myself, this is a topic very close to my heart. Food has become such an obsession in our culture – and body image issues, as a result.

We all know that obesity in children is a growing epidemic in our country. However, eating disorders are also a huge problem, so as parents, it’s hard to know how to deal with the issue of eating when it comes to your children and their health.

An interesting study was published earlier this year in the journal Heliyon that found a connection between impulsive thoughts in children’s brains and how much they ate. For the study, scientists at the University of Vanderbilt looked at the brains of 38 children between the ages of 8 and 13. From MRIs, the researchers were able to establish a connection between physiological reactions in the brain and food behaviors. Then they established connections between BMI and the kids’ eating behaviors (they used this questionnaire).

The results aren’t shocking. We know eating disorders aren’t just a mental thing – they are a physical thing. However, the researchers concluded that teaching children mindfulness could go a long way in helping prevent obesity. If we recognize the connection between children’s impulsive behaviors and eating habits, teaching them mindful techniques, to really focus on what it is they are putting into their mouths, could decrease their eating.

Dr. Cowan, from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said,”We think mindfulness could recalibrate the imbalance in the brain connections associated with childhood obesity.” He went on to say that while mindfulness hasn’t shown much of an effect on adults and eating behavior, perhaps testing the connection in kids could be more beneficial.

Teaching our children mindfulness – being aware, staying in the moment and focusing on tasks at hand – is a skill that will benefit them in more ways than one.

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists, contact me or book an appointment with me. I look forward to hearing from you