MY TEENAGE SON IS ON A JUNK-FOOD DIET

Friday - - My Working Life -

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

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