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How To Help Obese Teens

The phrase, "like father, like son", may be no truer than the case of "Dr. Phil" McGraw and his son, Jay. This fall, Dr. Phil began a national campaign against obesity on his syndicated TV show and in a recent book.

Now, Jay McGraw joins the campaign with his new book, "The Ultimate Weight Solution For Teens."

He offers the following parenting tips:

Understand Teen Motivation

McGraw points out on average kids who diet lose an additional two pounds per year. If parents put them on a diet, they are going to do the opposite.

He says, "By nature, we, as young people, rebel. So this is not a diet book, it's a lifestyle book. And one of the things in teenager's lifestyle is they're going to go out to fast-food restaurants and eat. So what I've done is I put in the back of the book a list, a menu for each of the fast-food restaurants to say when you go, because you are going to go, here is the best choice you can make."

Provide Good Information

Body image is a concern of McGraw's. He says for his book he asked teens, "Let's not just talk about how you want your body to look, but how you feel about your body. If you think that Britney Spears and Barbie are the ideal, then have you a skewed perception of reality and you may have a skewed perception of what you think you look like."

Don't Nag Or Dictate

McGraw says, "One of the biggest issues teens have with their parents is that parents will tell you what to do and not why it's important to do it. That approach doesn't give kids any way to problem-solve. You have to give kids information so they can problem-solve on their own. You have to meet kids where they are, rather than dictate to them."

Read an excerpt.


Hi, my name is Alison and I am SOOOO sick of being the fattest girl in my class! I am 5 feet 2 inches tall and I weigh 211 pounds. I hate it and I hate being me. I have always been fat, and I feel like it is not my fault, but I have no idea what to do about it.
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My name is Gina, and I am 14 years old. I weigh 180 pounds, and I am really interested in this guy at school. My weight has never really been an issue to me, but now that I am interested in guys, I hate being fat. My friend is so skinny and so beautiful, and I just want to be like her. I cry myself to sleep at night, because I just want to be different, but I don't know what to do. I am even thinking about throwing up after I eat. I figure that will probably make me thinner.
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I always hide in my bedroom and just bawl my eyes out because I am always the fattest one. Every time we go anywhere no one even acknowledges that I exist. I know they see me because I am so big, but they just ignore me. Would someone please tell me how to lose weight?! I am desperate. I feel like a horrible person, but I really just have no idea what to do. Please help me!
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I have been throwing up my food for almost a year now, trying to be skinny. It's working, but I'm afraid that I'm going to hurt myself. I'm scared that my mom is going to find out, but at the same time I want someone to catch me. I can't stop, but I need to. Would someone please help me?!
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I'm on the cheerleading team, and I love it, but I'm constantly worried that I'm going to gain too much weight and get kicked off of the team. I'm always dieting. I just want to eat cake at my friends' birthday parties, but I hate myself if I do. Even when I do diet, I still don't lose any weight. I really wish someone would tell me what to do and how to do it. It seems weird that everyone loves my body except me. How can I be the only person at school that thinks I am fat?
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What's up? I'm Jay McGraw, and what you just read are examples of some typical web postings. Since you're reading this book, I'm guessing you relate, at least in some way, to what the people above have to say about their weight, their bodies, and their appearance.

Maybe you feel like they do. You want to lose weight. You want to feel better about your body and the way you look. You want some control over your life.

But you probably don't have any idea what to do about it. Well, I have some good news. Actually, I have some great news. By picking up this book, you've finally found the answer. This book you're holding in your hands is one of the most complete and accurate answers you will ever have for figuring out how to get yourself in shape—and without being obsessive about it.

As a young person, I know how hard it is to get people to take us seriously and give us the information we want and need. So I decided to find the information myself. I did a huge amount of homework for this book — more than I've ever done before, because I know how important is to all of us to finally have a real, serious answer. With this book, I'm giving you exactly that.

So, that means it is time for you to take a deep breath and get ready, because starting right now, you have the information you need to learn to accept yourself and get the body you've always wanted. As you make your way through this book, you will learn there are seven keys to a healthy mindset and a body you are proud of. At times, the process will be fun; other times it will be tough. But no matter what, if you read, understand, and apply these seven keys, I promise you, the result will be worth it. This plan will work — but only if you commit yourself to following it.

You're about to start feeling good in your body and feeling good about your body. With the solutions you'll learn and put into action in this book, you'll get more freedom and more control over food, your weight, your body, and your entire life than you can ever imagine. Just count on it!

Excited? Great. Me too. I'm going to be there with you the whole way. Right about now, you're probably thinking "Who are you?"

Fair enough. I am a 24-year-old law student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Before law school, I got an undergrad degree in psychology from the University of Texas and wrote two other books for teens — and before that, well, I was in high school, just like you are now. I make no claims to be a therapist. I'll leave that to my dad (You know him better as Dr. Phil, the guy with the talk show, but you can just think of him as "Jay's dad.")

And speaking of research, I put together a team, including doctors, nutritionists, and psychologists to advise me about what's in this book. I read every scientific article I could on teen weight issues (and you thought Shakespeare was bor-ring!). I also designed and conducted a survey that was supervised by the Department of Rehabilitation, Social Work, and Addictions at the University of North Texas, in Denton, Texas, one of the best departments in the nation in terms of eating disorders and related addictions.

In the survey, I questioned more than 10,000 teens on how they feel about weight and food — plus tallied up the results myself. With these results, all of the articles that I have read, and the info I gathered from my team, I feel very confident that I know what you need to learn from this book.

OK, so why did I write this book, anyway? I wrote it because I've talked to thousands of teens all over the country about what's going on in their lives. And I know that weight issues are a big deal with teens. I know that a lot of you are feeling pretty bad about yourselves because you think you're fat or unattractive. I want to help you change that, but not just on the outside. That's a tiny part of it. I want to help you change on the inside so you can learn to love yourself and treat yourself better.

If you want to know more about me, check out or Both of these Web sites will tell you a lot about who I am and what I do.

Get psyched, because you are about to begin one of the most life-changing experiences you'll ever have. Let's go!

An Important Message to Parents
According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), if you have a child or teen who follows a restrictive diet, your child may actually gain more weight over the long term, compared to other young people who do not go on diets.

In their study of boys and girls ages 9 to 14, researchers reported that restrictive diets are hard to stay on and can lead to binge eating and cycles of jumping back and forth between dieting and overeating — all factors that could be responsible for the weight gain. The study suggests that a better approach, if you have an overweight child, is to encourage changes in lifestyle, including regular exercise, and to stay away from any diet that severely restricts calories.

This book provides guidelines and strategies to help teens avoid extremes — and, as a result, help them make healthy, positive changes in their weight and in their lives.

This book will do two things for you as parents. First, I not only outline the healthy lifestyle that this study talks about, but perhaps more important, I tell you how to implement it into a busy teenage life.

Second, this book has been written for teens; what you as parents can learn from that is how to talk to teens about this topic. It is virtually impossible to teach someone something when they don't understand what you are saying and why you are teaching them. This book solves that problem for you. The Ultimate Weight Solution for Teens is written in a way that teens understand the material presented. If you as parents read this, you will then be able to communicate the material to them in a way that they see the value in your message. This book will allow you to create a plan and a lifestyle that is safe, healthy, and effective both now and in the long term.

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