The National Parenting Center

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Helping Your Underweight Teen

While many teens worry about being overweight, a sizable minority worry about being too skinny. What can your teen do if this is a problem for him or her?

1. Consider your teen’s age, state of development and body type. If your teenager is in the rapid growth stage of development, he may fill out as growth slows. Some people are genetically inclined to have lean, angular body shapes, but can add muscle definition with weight training.

2. Encourage your teen to keep a food diary to pinpoint eating habits. Make sure he is getting enough to eat, that he finishes meals, and has nutritious snacks like bread and peanut butter, or fruit and granola, instead of sugar-laden cookies or cakes. However, if snacks before meals spoil his appetite, eliminate snacks and encourage him to eat larger meals.

3. Encourage him to be active — and to like and accept his body, whatever its weight. Some sports, as well as weight training, can build muscles.

Time helps too. Many young people reach the average weight for their height when their growing years are over!

Dr. Wibbelsman, M.D., is an award-winning author and former “Dear Doctor” columnist for Teen magazine. Chair of Adolescent Medicine for the Permanente Medical Group, Northern California, he is chief of the Teen-Age Clinic at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School. Dr. Wibbelsman is the news anchor for a Bay Area television series, “Medicine in the Nineties”.

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