Teens Who Need Motivation to Lose Weight

by Jake Wayne

It may seem like a teen's whole life should serve to motivate weight loss. Media definitions of beauty, the overpopularity of sports and peer pressure all tell kids that being overweight is unattractive and undesirable. However, all that pressure can have the opposite effect by eroding a teen's self-confidence until she has no sense that she can make a positive change. For others, it's the distraction of fast food, video games and other weight-loss-hostile attractions that gets in the way of a healthy body. Motivating weight loss for teens in either situation is challenging, but not impossible.

Media images of "ideal" bodies are unrealistic in two ways: They portray the "average" teen or adult as thinner and more mainstream attractive than the average "real" person. They also portray an unrealistic lifestyle for maintaining that kind of body. Spokesmodels consume fast food, sodas and alcohol on camera without showing the hours of off-camera dieting and exercise they do to maintain their bodies. MayoClinic.com advises making conversations about weight loss focus on process and lifestyle, rather than on comparing results against the unreasonable expectations portrayed in the media.

Losing even 20 pounds, and the diet and exercise that accompanies that loss, can seem so daunting as to suck all the motivation out of any teen. It helps to break a weight-loss goal into manageable pieces, for example setting a goal of losing 1/2 pound a week for 40 weeks. Starting with the first week of school, your teen will still have lost those 20 pounds by the following summer vacation. Meeting that smaller goal each week feels much more doable, and that makes it more empowering and easier to stay motivated about.

Despite what he might tell you from time to time, your teenager wants your time and attention, and will imitate your decisions. Information at TeensHealth.com suggests making weight loss a family project, with parents and teens working together to eat healthier and be more active. This creates a built-in support system for every family member, and gives you another connection with your teen -- a connection that can help foster the positive self-image that breeds internal motivation for weight loss and other goals.

More than one diet book recommends removing temptation by keeping sweets out of your home, and stocking the fridge with only fruits and veggies for snacks. That's an effective strategy, but shouldn't be your only effort. Weight loss for teens isn't just about results. It's also about building motivation and habits that will help them stay healthy as adults. Removing temptation, however effective, doesn't motivate success so much as hedge against failure. Be sure to include lifestyle habits that build weight-loss skills in addition to leaving the Oreos in the cookie aisle.

About the Author

Jake Wayne has written professionally for more than 12 years, including assignments in business writing, national magazines and book-length projects. He has a psychology degree from the University of Oregon and black belts in three martial arts.

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