Adolescent Overweight and Obesity

Adolescent Overweight and Obesity

Here are the Australian 2011 alarming stats:

  • 1 in four young people 12-24 yrs is currently overweight or obese – this is a global trend.
  • The rate is faster in young adults, especially females than older Australians. Many young women are now at the weight their mothers were after having children
  • Rates of overweight have doubled and obesity have tripled over the past 20 years, currently they have plateaued
  • 55% of 12-24 yr olds are inactive
  • Most don’t eat enough fruit and veg
  • Unlike tobacco and alcohol use, public policies have not been able to turn around the trend (looks like it’s up to parents and the kids)
  • If the trend continues into adulthood, overweight and obese adolescents are 1.9 times more likely to develop diabetes and 1.4 times as likely to have heart than target BMI’s
  • Higher prevalence of overweight and obesity in Middle-Eastern or continental European origins
  • Higher prevalence in country areas
  • Higher prevalence in lower socio-eco backgrounds

So how can you help your overweight or obese adolescent?

Here are some tips, bearing in mind you can’t always influence the immediate behaviour of older teenagers and young adults, but perhaps their behaviour as adults.

  • lead by example (the strategy often stops here, especially in regard to non-hunger & comfort eating, mindless eating, portion sizes, fitness and skipping meals)
  • encourage activity:1 hour per day if sedentary
  • avoid dieting, it can lead to an over-focus on food and weight cycling
  • avoid targeting a family member, get the whole family to eat well and move more
  • encourage 3 meals and up to 2 snacks per day, discourage grazing and skipping meals
  • no one needs dessert, leave it to special occasions or once per week
  • there is no such thing as ‘kids food’ - its junk food and it sets kids up for an expectation for it and potential addiction to sugar, salt and fat that causes cravings which can be difficult to live with
  • limit soft drink to special occasions only, sugary drinks are often cited as a major cause of obesity and over weight, promote water instead.
  • use smaller plates, bowls and cups at home
  • limit ready-to-go snacks apart from fruit – get the kids to make a sandwich if they are hungry or eat cereal. Food without any effort is often not so healthy.
  • make eating a second not primary activity at family gatherings – play tennis, ride bike, swim, horseride, throw balls, play golf etc…
  • teach the kids how to cook simple meals
  • get the family to eat mindfully for a week – no distractions, halve bite, double chewing and pause before next mouthful. Compare enjoyment and satiety to distracted and fast eating.
  • Remove junk food on display: lolly and biscuit jars for example. No one needs biscuits with coffee.
  • Encourage the 50:50 plate for dinner ie. half vegetable or salad. A whole plate of rice or pasta and protein is around 900 calories – too much for most people.

I know change is not easy and we are all over loaded and stressed these days but these are the first generations to experience this issue and they need some guidance by example. The junk food & alcohol advertisers targeting young people don’t seem to be helping the cause.