Q: I've tried every sort of diet -- and more than a few weight-loss gimmicks -- but I just can't seem to drop even a few pounds. I know I'm overweight. It's very discouraging and affects how I view myself. Do you have any ideas?
Jim: I hear you: The older I get, the further I stretch from the trim teenage athlete I once was.
There's a simple reason why most of us gain weight -- we take in more calories than our bodies can use. That's easier than ever to do in today's society, with larger meal portions, ultra-processed ingredients and fast food. And culturally, we're significantly less active than past generations.
So, obesity itself is fairly easy to understand. But so are the basics of balancing exercise and nutrition. Our activity levels need to increase, while we decrease our time sitting in front of screens. It can be as straightforward as just walking 30 minutes each day. Just get moving; exercise doesn't necessarily have to be strenuous to be helpful. Regarding nutrition, keep it simple and make food choices you can stick with over the long haul.
Still, all of this misses a bigger question: If good health is that basic, why is it so hard to lose weight? The answer is that changing bad habits is tough on your own. You need the support of other people. Research shows that those who have a strong community of support are more likely to lose weight and keep it off. Join an exercise class. Find a walking buddy. Enlist some friends to help you resist binging on unhealthy desserts.
The bottom line: My best suggestion for shedding those unwanted pounds is a recipe including a little bit of grit and a whole lot of encouragement from people you trust. Don't go it alone anymore.
Q: I've noticed my teen son's mood shifting this summer. What can I do to help him prepare for school this fall?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Having worked with teenagers for more than two decades, and now as a parent with teens, I know firsthand how often their moods and emotions can shift.
Summer's end and the beginning of a new school year present unique and challenging times for teens. As they return to school, they have to navigate and manage new demands, responsibilities and insecurities.
Here are some tips to help support your teen's mindset this school year:
1. Check in With Your Teen Regularly.
If you haven't already, establish a routine of checking in with your teen. This could be a weekly family meeting or conversation on walks, in the car or after dinner. Creating a non-judgmental and safe space can help them share their experiences and concerns without fear, criticism or rejection.
2. Look for Signs.
There are a few indicators to look for to see if your teen's mental health is off. For example, try to notice if there are unusual changes in their sleep, eating and/or interests. Take the time to listen and to ask questions. You can also say, "I'm worried about you. What's going on?" The key is noticing, being present and finding help if needed.
3. How to Share Feelings.
Some teens need coaching on how to share their feelings. Use open-ended questions like "How did that make you feel?", "Tell me more about ..." or "What I'm seeing tells me you may be struggling with something; tell me more." This especially applies for teens who generally use few words. Remember that all kids have unique communication styles, so it's important to be creative.
To learn more about building a mentally healthy home for your family, go to FocusOnParenting.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at jimdalyblog.focusonthefamily.com or at Facebook.com/JimDalyFocus.
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