MY TEENAGE SON IS ON A JUNK-FOOD DIET
Q My teenage son has changed so much. He lacks focus and has put on a lot of weight because he eats a lot of unhealthy food. When I question him he says he doesn’t care that he’s overweight and that he loves junk food more than being healthy and fit.
AIt can be extremely concerning for a parent to watch their child gaining large amounts of weight over a relatively short period of time. It can also stir up a great deal of mixed emotions – I suspect you may even be blaming yourself?
On the face of it, some people may argue that it’s as ‘simple’ as getting him active and sorting out his diet, but I suspect there are actually several issues at play here. You say he lacks focus – I assume this is manifesting itself in a sense of lethargy about him and him not focusing on schoolwork? I’ve worked with countless teenagers and this is not an uncommon position.
However, I’d like to flip the lack of focus as being an effect and not the cause. By this I mean if his diet solely consists of junk food then I’m not surprised he’s got no energy. His bloated, unhealthy diet is starving him of energy and robbing him of his health. As someone who works under the all-encompassing umbrella of ‘change’ I can attest to the adage that ‘it’s never too late’. Please bear in mind that your teen is, in effect, still very young, so there’s more than ample time for him to regain his focus and get back into shape. He is underdeveloped emotionally and he’s stuck in a rut. The cycle of junk food and inactivity is self-perpetuating – as he becomes bigger his desire for more and more calories increases, his ability to be active decreases and so it goes on until the net result is he could become very unwell.
You don’t mention his exact age but I do feel compelled to ask where is he getting the money to spend on only eating unhealthy junk food? I assume that all family meals at home cannot consist solely of junk food. So, he’s getting the resources to fuel his unhealthy addiction from somewhere. This is your first challenge; you need to curb his access to junk food funds.
He will hate it of course, but you must hold firm to your actions. He clearly is not able to make sensible decisions for himself and you should not be complicit in allowing him to continue down that path. Family mealtimes must take centre stage from now on – focus on health, taste and family togetherness. His response to not caring about being overweight is sad and emotionally immature – of course he cares, and of course he’d rather be in a different situation. He just doesn’t know how to turn things around. He’s painted himself into a corner without an obvious escape route. In cases like this, his restricted diet is something he can control, therefore he must claim that he’s in control of the inevitable results.
You don’t mention if he’s got a wide group of friends or if he spends extended periods alone, maybe gaming? Often this isolating behaviour is a factor for youngsters who live in an action-packed virtual world but do nothing but eat in the real world.
It’s very hard for your son to visualise the long-term effects his lifestyle might be having on his body. As adults, most of us are able to make mature judgements on whether or not we are enjoying food in ‘moderation’. For a teenager however, the consequences of overeating junk food can seem irrelevant. He still has enough time to change his lifestyle and start making smarter choices with his diet. It’s a case of exercising more authority as a parent, and changing the way he sees food in general.
But before he can change his appearance, first he needs to change his attitude.
Your son’s RESPONSE to not CARING about being OVERWEIGHT is sad and EMOTIONALLY immature – of course he does CARE, and of course he’d definitely be in a DIFFERENT situation