Obesity & Weight Loss
In today's hypercritical world, it seems that nobody is comfortable with his or her weight. Kids, and young girls especially, are bombarded by images of rail-thin models who appear to represent the norm. Celebrities appear to lose weight effortlessly and are able to keep it off easily.
Causes of Unhealthy Weight and Body Image
In reality, maintaining a healthy weight is difficult. Most of us don't have the exceptionally fast metabolisms that supermodels may have naturally (through genetics).
Fast food and desserts are temptations that most of us indulge in far too often. And many adolescents are not active outside and spend much of their time on sedentary activities like watching television or using the computer.
Developing a Healthy Lifestyle
Losing weight isn't fun. Many of us try unsuccessfully to diet our way to a healthy weight. But it is possible to lose weight at a healthy pace and keep it off. It often takes more than one attempt, so don't get discouraged if you don't lose weight the first time you try.
Every body is different, and each body responds uniquely to different foods. If you are serious about losing weight, you can find a health regime that works for you.
- Assessing Your Current Health
- Myths About Teen Weight Loss
- 10 Things Teens Wish Parents Knew About Weight Loss
- Are You Ready to Take That Step?
Assessing Your Current Health
We have created this page to help you achieve your goal. Before you begin, make sure you meet the criteria listed below.
- You truly need to lose weight. Many youth have a negative self-image and think they should lose weight when they are actually at a healthy weight. Bad body image can lead to anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders that are very unhealthy. If you are unsure about whether you would benefit from adjusting your eating and exercise habits, talk to your doctor or a trusted adult.
- You are committed to this goal. You must be willing to change your eating and exercise habits (at least slightly) for an extended period of time.
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Myths About Teen Weight Loss
Weight Loss Confidential by Anne M. Fletcher, M.S., R.D. (referred to as WLC below) challenges the prevailing thinking on teen weight loss, including many beliefs commonly held by professionals in the field.
Misconception: Teens who diet invariably fall prey to fads and have unhealthy eating habits.
WLC: The more than 100 teens that Fletcher interviewed lost a significant amount of weight without going to extremes. Their average weight loss was 58 pounds, and three-fourths of the teens lost 30 pounds or more. Many said they followed diets, but they were healthy diets.
Misconception: Teens who have tried and failed at losing weight many times before don't succeed.
WLC: Seven out of 10 teens lost and gained weight multiple times before finally succeeding.
Misconception: The methods used by adults to lose weight are inappropriate for teens.
WLC: A number of experts steer teens away from counting fat grams and calories, keeping food records, and working out, believing these things might lead to an unhealthy obsession with weight and food. Many of the teens Fletcher interviewed used these techniques, and their attitudes about weight and food are healthy.
Misconception: Teens are rebellious by nature, so efforts to help them will backfire.
WLC: A strong majority of the teens indicated their families' support was important to their success.
Misconception: Overweight teens from overweight families are unlikely to overcome the odds and lose weight.
WLC: Most of the teens said at least one parent was overweight.
Misconception: Teens who have been overweight since they were very young don't have much hope of losing weight permanently.
WLC: On average, teens reported becoming overweight at approximately 9 years of age.
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10 Things Teens Wish Parents Knew About Weight Loss
Also from Weight Loss Confidential by Anne M. Fletcher, M.S., R.D.:
- "Don't tell me my weight is OK." If your teen is overweight and says he or she wants to slim down, listen to his or her concerns and offer to help find some solutions. Don't minimize the problem.
- "Get off my back." Don't nag, preach, criticize, or try to coerce your teen into losing weight. Talk to your teen like a friend – not a disciplinarian.
- "Let me be in charge." It's up to the teen to decide if, how, and when he or she wants to lose weight.
- "Don't be a food cop." Comments like "you've had enough" and "you don't need that bowl of ice cream" will backfire.
- "Be there when I'm ready." Support your teen's choices and praise his or her efforts. Help find affordable ways to exercise or a program your teen would like to attend. Be a role model for healthy eating and exercise.
- Help me out; don't single me out." Create a healthy home food climate for the entire family, not just the overweight teen. Provide kids with healthy, appealing food choices without making them feel deprived.
- "Love me no matter what." Let your teen know he or she is loved – whatever his or her weight and whether or not he or she succeeds at slimming down.
- "Be patient." Understand that losing weight takes time, effort, patience, and often multiple attempts.
- "Help me be realistic." After losing weight, your teen may not be thin, but he or she will be healthier and happier.
- "Believe in me." Send the message that you know your teen can succeed and that you'll be there if he needs you.
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Are You Ready to Take That Step?
From Weight Loss Confidential by Anne M. Fletcher, M.S., R.D., here are some questions teens can ask themselves to see whether they are ready to take steps to lose weight.
How would you answer the following questions (Very, Sort of, or Not Very):
- How concerned am I about my weight?
- How much do I want to do something about my weight right now?
- How confident am I that I can do something about my weight?
- Do I think I can do something about the things that are getting in my way?
- How ready am I to change my eating habits?
- Is my family ready to support me in my efforts?
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Updated By: Priya Kshirsagar,
Reviewed By: Nancy Brown, Ph.D.
Last Reviewed: October 2013
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, EatRight.org.
Food and Nutrition Information Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Weight Loss Confidential: Book Review, Healthline: Teen Health 411.
Weight Loss Confidential: How Teens Lose Weight and Keep it Off – and What They Wish Parents Knew. Copyright (c) 2007 by Anne M. Fletcher. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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