Poor eating habits, including more fast food consumption and food on the go, have contributed greatly to the fact that teens in our society are becoming overweight or obese. Add to that a more sedentary lifestyle of sitting in front of a television, computer, or playing video games, and we discover a growing problem. Excess teen weight can not only result in many negative health factors, it can lead to teasing/bullying, feelings of being a social outcast, and a negative self image. It has been shown that at least 50% of obese girls and 35% of obese boys go on to become obese adults.
Teens need to keep in mind that there are certain things that they cannot control when it comes to weight gain and loss. One of those things is puberty. Generally, puberty causes muscle weight gain in boys while body fat increases in girls. This is a time of growth, and one cannot control it. The other factor that cannot be controlled is genetics. What can be controlled, however, is what is eaten and what sort of activity one chooses to participate in.
The following tips can help teens to control weight gain and can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a healthier outlook on life in general:
- Get enough sleep. It has been shown that getting less than 8 hours of sleep can contribute to weight gain. Turn off the television, computer, and cell phone. When these things are left on, your mind is more likely to be distracted, causing you to find it hard to fall asleep.
- Make a list of foods that are always okay to eat (healthy choices), occasionally okay to eat, and never okay to eat. Having a plan and sticking to it will help. In addition, don’t beat yourself up if you slip. Just let it go and do better. Don’t dwell on it.
- Limit your stress if possible. I know this is hard when you are a teenager!
- Always eat breakfast. This will not only help you concentrate better at school before lunch, it will keep you from over eating at lunch. Three healthy meals a day with healthy snacks are a must.
- Watch your portion sizes. Generally, one serving is about the size of the palm of your hand. Try to fill you plate half full of vegetables and salad. Split the other half evenly with lean meat and carbohydrates. Stop eating when your body says you are satiated. Don’t eat until you are uncomfortably full. If you get to this point, you have eaten way more than you should. Listen to your body!
- Don’t eat in front of the television, computer, or while you are on the phone. This is distracted eating, and your body doesn’t acknowledge it as well as sitting at a table and concentrating on exactly what you are doing.
- Steer clear of liquid calories. Soda pop, sweetened, sugary drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks with less than 50% real fruit juice are absolutely loaded with calories.
- Finally, get up and move. A teen should get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily. That means if you are trying to lose weight, you need to do a bit more than that hour. Walking is great exercise. Walk around the mall a few extra times, walk your or the neighbor’s dog, walk to the store with your friends. Work your way up to a higher impact activity once your energy level has improved through your added walking.
It is hard enough to survive the normal angst of the teen years. It is important to eliminate weight issues from the stressors that you endure during this particular time of life.