Ask The Expert
Teenage son is overweight and doesn’t care!
Dear Russell… Please can you help. My teenage son has changed so much. He has such a lack of focus and he has become very fat and what he eats is very unhealthy, he refuses anything that would be good for him. 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! It is a very upsetting situation.
Hi there, thanks for getting in touch. It 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 it’s as ‘simple’ as getting him active and sorting out his diet, but I suspect that there are actually several issues at play here. You say he has a lack of focus - I assume this is manifesting itself in a sense of lethargy about him and him not focusing on study or school work? How can I reasonably assume this? Well, I’ve worked with countless teenagers and this is not an uncommon position to say the least. 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 of junk is in effect starving him of energy and robbing him of his health. Hence this needs to be addressed.
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 center 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 behavior is a factor for youngsters who live in an action-packed virtual world but do nothing but eat in the real world!
Your son is still very young, and at his age it’s very hard to visualise the long-term effects his lifestyle might be having on his body. As adults, most of us are able to make mature and informed judgements on whether or not we are enjoying food in ‘moderation’. For a teenager however, the consequences of overeating junk food can seem irrelevant and a lifetime away. Your son 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.
Russell is an expert in social anxiety, confidence, concentration, perfectionism, laziness, gadget addiction, study focus, procrastination and time management.
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