The incidence of teenage obsity has increased dramatically, despite the fact that we live in a culture where thin is beautiful. In our present society, thin is the only acceptable way to be, yet over half of the population of countries like the United States and the United Kingdom are overweight, and indeed around 20% of that group fall into the obese category.
With so much emphasis on appearance, it is hardly surprising that young people, especially young women are self-conscious about their looks. Celebrities are in the news all the time and many magazines take great delight in pointing out their physical "flaws", particularly when it comes to weight.
This creates a huge problem for teenagers, especially girls, who are expected to have the perfect figure, yet are constantly exposed to junk food, advertised in the same publications which are criticizing stars for having put on a few pounds. Of course, being constantly bombarded with these messages is difficult for everyone who struggles with their weight, but for young people who are still growing and at the same time trying to establish their identify as adults, it can be overpowering.
Young people need to be aware of the fact that they are worth individuals, irrespective of their weight or looks. They also need to learn about healthy eating, which will help them to avoid the extremes of over-strict dieting and obesity. A lack of self-esteem and fear of putting on weight can lead to eating disorders and so young people should be encouraged to have a healthy attitude towards their bodies and food.
If you have teenage children and are concerned about their weight, it is important to set a good example, by teaching them to cook healthy yet tasty meals – and eating properly yourself. You should also refrain from criticizing their appearance and encourage them to develop their strengths and do the things they enjoy in life.
Teenage obesity often leads to adult obesity, so do not think they'll grow out of it.
© Waller Jamison 2007