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October 31, 2011

Talking to Your Teen About the Birds and the Bees, and Being Overweight

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

If you're like most parents, it's awkward to discuss sex, drugs, and alcohol with your child.  If that's the case, then this may come as a surprise: talking to your teenager about their weight may prove even more difficult. 

That's according to new research from a national "Raising Fit Kids" study conducted as part of fit, a partnership between WebMD and Sanford Health.

The study finds that nearly one in four parents are hesitant to talk with their teenagers about being overweight. That's compared to one in 20 parents who struggle with the subjects of sex, drugs, and alcohol. 

Having the right information about a balanced diet and regular physical activity is part of a successful dialog about your child's weight and eating habits; your approach to the topic is another.  Here are some tips for promoting a healthy weight at home:

• Be sure that your child is actually overweight before talking with them about it.  Discuss your child's weight with your pediatrician first. 

• Don't put your child on a diet unless you've been advised to by your pediatrician or by a registered dietitian (R.D.) who has provided the specifics about what to eat.

• Consider weight control a lifelong effort for the entire family. When a child is overweight or has poor eating habits, it's likely the rest of the family does, too.

• Let your child know he or she is loved and appreciated no matter what his weight.

• Focus on your child's health and her positive qualities, not the numbers on the scale.

• Be a good role model for your child. If they see you enjoying healthy foods and getting regular physical activity, they are more likely to do the same now, and for the rest of their lives.  

• Start today to limit or eliminate sugary beverages, such as juice drinks (6 ounces of 100% fruit juice daily is OK), soda, energy drinks, and coffee beverages.  Children drink hundreds of unnecessary calories daily, which contribute to being overweight and to poor nutrition.

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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