When 13-year-old Micah Anderson’s mom, Tiffany, heard about the TEENS program, she successfully convinced Micah to give it try.Tiffany had been looking for a way to get them back into healthy routines as a family and TEENS was the perfect it.
TEENS – which stands for teaching, encouragement, exercise, nutrition and support – is a 4-month, group-based weight management research program for adolescents ages 12-16 and their parents.
See what Micah and Tiffany have to say about their TEENS experience
“When kids are younger, parents have significant influence over the foods they eat and activities they pursue,” said Dr. Melanie Bean, co-director of our Healthy Lifestyles Center, of which TEENS is a part. “However, as kids become teens, they have more independence and are making more of these choices on their own. The TEENS program is specifically designed for adolescents and parents during this developmental stage. It uses a family-based approach, so not only can parents and their adolescents learn and implement healthy strategies together, but they can begin developing habits that the teens can take with them into adulthood.”
Enjoyable, effective approach to developing healthy habits
Teens and parents meet with their coaches and other research participants weekly to learn about healthy eating, physical activity and goal setting as strategies for weight loss. Teens and parents are in separate groups (teens with other teens, and parents with other parents). There are some activities and sessions where parents and teens are together.
The sessions aim to include engaging and interactive ways to teach nutrition and exercise. Micah and her mom recalled the trip they took to Mise En Place with the group where they got to make and try different recipes, such as kale chips and cornflake crusted chicken tenders – all of which were very good, according to Tiffany.
Our personal trainers make sure the exercise part of the program includes its fair share of fun too. Micah was particularly fond of the days she got to choose the workout music.
“You get to work at your own ability level,” said Tiffany. “You’re going to be pushed, but you’re not going to be pushed too far. And the pushing is encouragement.”
The team takes into account each participant’s overall health considerations – such as Micah’s asthma – to make sure all approaches are safe and appropriate for their individual needs.
“Micah was a joy to have in our TEENS group! She was great about sharing her experiences with the other girls in the program. We loved seeing her progression in the gym AND her ability to make diet changes at home with her mom,” said Ashley Mendoza, registered dietitian with TEENS.
Pandemic pivot, same great TEENS programming
Amidst COVID-19, TEENS has shifted to a virtual format – but, with the pandemic changing the way many people have been shopping and eating, the programming is as important as ever.
“While we can’t have in person groups as we did before, we’re still doing all we can to make sure our new virtual format is fun and interactive for families,” added Ashley. “Online nutrition sessions are geared to helping families make changes to how they eat and cook at home. We talk about healthier alternatives and ways to include nutritious foods every day. All group visits and exercise training sessions have transitioned to a live online format, and families can also enjoy a virtual cooking class from their own home.”
One benefit of the virtual format is that there are fewer geographic restrictions around participation in the program.
“Families don’t have to factor transportation and travel time into their plans,” said Dr. Bean. “They simply need to log in with a willingness to learn, work hard and have a good time.”
There’s no cost to join TEENS and, because it’s a research program studying family-based healthy lifestyle interventions, participants are making important contributions to science by being part of improving care for adolescents.
Micah lost weight as a result of the changes she implemented during the program, and she’s maintained her weight loss with her new habits.