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Teens and Adolescents

Support for teenagers living with obesity

Obesity as a teenager can be hard to understand. Learn about the link between obesity and genetics, and how to speak to a healthcare professional.

5 min. read

You are not alone

Obesity is a disease and there are over 157 million children and teenagers living with it around the world­. Despite this, a history of misunderstanding across society has caused many teenagers to not understand their own condition, the causes and how to get support, which can feel isolating.

More to obesity than we realise?

It is important for teenagers who live with obesity to understand there may be more behind their weight than just their relationship with food and exercise. Did you know that between 40-70% of all obesity is related to genetics? This means that many teenagers living with obesity have inherited a higher chance of developing this disease during their lifetime.

How can genes affect someone’s weight? Genes can influence:

  • How much food is consumed in a sitting
  • How someone responds to the sensation of fullness
  • How much enjoyment is received from certain types of food
  • How much energy is needed to run a body’s basic functions
  • How and where excess calories are stored as fat in a body

We now know that these things might have less to do with our personalities and lifestyle choices and more to do with our genes.

If you would like to know more about how genetics contribute to your weight, you can read our article ‘Is obesity genetic?’ here.

Additionally, if you would like to find out about how your hormones affect your weight, you can read our articles ‘How hormones steer our appetite and eating behaviour’ here.

Obesity and your health

If you are struggling with your weight, you can talk to your healthcare professional or doctor about it.

It is the responsibility of a healthcare professional to help teenagers to manage their health and to recommend the best treatment options. These may include a variety of methods, from lifestyle changes through to medical treatment. Finding a solution to help manage obesity is not simple and may take multiple visits to healthcare professional to work out the right way to proceed.

Teenagers may feel nervous about speaking to a healthcare professional. Some may benefit from discussing their feelings or concerns with a parent or caregiver first, who also may have experienced obesity themselves. Some teenagers may find that their friends and family can provide helpful support when taking the first steps towards managing their own weight.

You can get support

If you are ready, reach out to a healthcare professional for support.

Below are some simple steps to help you talk to your healthcare professional about your weight:
Step 1

  • reach out to your local healthcare professional to book an appointment – you may want to ask your parent or guardian to do this for you

Step 2

  • Your healthcare professional may ask what your day-to-day routine looks like, so a couple of weeks before your appointment make a note of your day, including any activities you are involved in, and what you eat
  • This will help you explain to your healthcare professional about your lifestyle and will also help your doctor recommend the best approach for you
  • The conversation with your healthcare professional should be balanced and in no way imply any blame

Step 3

  • Make sure you feel comfortable discussing your weight with your healthcare professional. In some countries, you might have a short appointment time so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get to talk about everything immediately
  • Try to identify the key priorities or main points that you want to discuss and take a note of them with you, so you don’t forget once in the clinic

Step 4

  • Persevere! If you leave the appointment feeling dissatisfied, do not give up. There will be other healthcare professionals ready to help you. If you need additional support, there are many patient organisations who can provide this, some have been listed below

Patient organisations

ICPO Irish Coalition for People Living with Obesity

Obesity Action Coalition

For further information about obesity, please explore the rest of this site, where you will find useful articles and resources.

  • World Obesity. World Obesity Atlas 2022. Available at: https://www.worldobesity.org/resources/resource-library/world-obesity-atlas-2022. Last accessed: April 2022.
  • Waalen J. The genetics of human obesity. Transl Res. 2014 Oct;164(4):293-301.
  • Freedman DS., et al. Cardiovascular risk factors and excess adiposity among overweight children and adolescents: the Bogalusa Heart Study. J Pediatr. 2007 Jan;150(1):12-17.e2.

February 2024; IE23OB00222

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