Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


September 15th, 2014

Obesity is a major public health problem in the United States, and I applaud First Lady, Michelle Obama, for leading the charge to educate the public about childhood obesity. As I stated in my last blog, there are a lot of reasons for obesity in children and teens. In some rare cases, obesity is caused by a physical condition, but more often it is simply caused by overeating that is often the result of an underlying emotional problem. An important first step is helping a child recognize the problem. So, what do you do if your child is overweight?

  • First, schedule a visit with your child’s doctor to make sure that there is no underlying medical condition that is causing the problem. Then educate your teenager about the importance of healthy eating. Understanding portion size, calorie intake and the value in making healthy choices about what they eat are most important.
  • Make sure to provide a good example of healthy eating for your children. Leading by example is much more powerful than lecturing. You must walk-the-walk.
  • Never criticize or put your teen down for overeating. Remember that there are almost always emotional problems underlying their urge to overeat. Open up the channels of communication to encourage your teen to talk to you about it.
  • Consulting with a nutritionist provides a great source of information on healthy eating and can be an aid in helping you to formulate a healthy eating plan with your teen.
  • Make sure that you reinforce the message to your teen that eating healthy is about better overall health, and not about turning them into a magazine model. Those images are often unrealistic, photo-shopped and just add to the anxiety your child already feels. The goal is that by eating healthier your teen will become happier with themselves.
  • With the new changes implemented in school cafeterias this school year, make sure that you understand and talk with your child about the advantage to making healthier choices. Just because the healthier food is offered it doesn’t mean they will choose it.
  • Lastly, if the obesity is severe you should meet with a medical professional.

There are some wonderful references on the Internet to help you plan healthy meals. There are apps for tracking calories and for recommending better choices. Also, visit First Lady Michelle Obama’s website Let’s Move Program for ideas and support. Changing one’s diet is not something that happens overnight. Look at eating better as a lifestyle change – one that you and your child will have for a lifetime!

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.

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