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Helping Your Teen Lose Weight
Five Steps to Healthy Teen Weight Loss Success

Step 1: Decide with your child whether or not he or she is going to attempt to lose weight and keep it off.

This decision must include very full participation by the child. It also would be wise to formulate a specific contract or plan for how this problem is going to be approached. This plan would include discussion of who will nag whom (preferably nobody nags anybody), participation in exercise, and the use of additional resources such as professional intervention (Weight Watchers or similar healthy weight loss programs).

Step 2: Attempt to modify eating and exercising patterns together.

Formulate an eating and exercise plan and try to live with it effectively in the family. This would include very low fat and very low sugar intake and a great deal of exercise. It would be most helpful if the entire family participated in this in a variety of ways to encourage your child's weight loss program.

Step 3: Use nonprofessional support weight loss programs.

The only two weight loss programs of this type that we recommend are TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), a self-help club that has some participation by children with their parents, and Weight Watchers. Most people do not stay involved in these treatments for very long (75% drop out by the 12 th week of any given episode of participation usually). However, these two weight loss programs provide good info rmation, seem less coercive, and are certainly less expensive than many of the available alternatives. Nonprofessional support could also come in the form of joining a health club or using a personal trainer at a health club.

Step 4: Obtain help from professionals with expertise in cognitive-behavior therapy and weight.

Many psychologists are trained in this sub-specialty and their approach has led to some excellent outcomes (including 10-year follow-up data) for many children and their families. These doctoral level, licensed psychologists provide services that are reimbursable by many health insurance companies. These individuals can be located by asking for referrals from physicians and pediatricians, or by contacting the psychology departments of major teaching hospitals or universities in your area.

Step 5: Consider sending your child to high-quality weight loss camps or residential weight loss programs.

Sometimes getting your child out of the home and school environment can give them the fresh start they need. There are many routines that can have triggers that make it difficult to stay on track during the first month or so of a new weight loss program. By putting your child in a safe, clinically appropriate environment, they can focus on learning how to eat and stay fit. Some of these weight loss camps do not teach children how to maintain their weight over the long term. Be sure to ask about the focus of the clinical program, if the child will be able to follow the eating plan when they return home (easy to follow without a lot of special diet foods that might be hard to find at home), and if the program helps a sedentary child safely begin a fitness program.

Excerpted from Dr. Dan Kirschenbaum's book The Nine Truths About Weight Loss.

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