How To Lose Weight As A Teenager

The teenage years are a time of the trifecta of changes physical, hormonal, and emotional and these changes can present many challenges for a teen. They are interacting with peers, attending school, and trying to find out who they are and who they want to be. Many of these kids just want to fly under the radar screen and fit in but this can become problematic when they struggle with obesity.

Teens who are overweight often suffer from depression and a low sense of self-esteem. They often eat as a way to manage stress or depression. Many times they are singled out and picked on which exacerbates the situation causing it to spiral downward until they are overwhelmed. Usually, they understand that if they lose weight they will feel better, and it will improve their physical and mental health but they have no idea how to get started.

As a parent, you may wonder how can I help my teenager lose weight or if you should attempt to intervene at all. You may consider a teenage weight loss program nearby or possibly even look into weight loss surgery for your teenager. Knowing which option is best can be challenging.

Knowing what options are available may help you determine a safe and acceptable weight loss plan for your teenager.

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What Is The Best Way To Lose Weight As A Teenager?

The best way for a teenager to lose weight will depend on that particular teenager and many different factors. Everyone is different and obesity can become an issue for several different reasons. There is no “one size fits all program” The good news is that there are different weight loss options available for teens so the key is finding the best fit. Some options for teenage weight loss include:

  • Teenage Weight Loss Programs – Some health insurance plans will cover or partially cover the cost of teenage weight management. Speak with your insurance carrier to find out what programs or assistance may be available;
  • Doctor’s Office – Often this would be a program through a doctor’s office and may include access to dieticians and behavioral therapy;
  • Hospital-Sponsored Children’s Weight Management Center or specialty center. They would offer similar programs as offered in medical offices and often include access and support of a variety of experts;
  • Weight Loss Immersion Camp Programs are not the old school “fat camps” that come to mind but rather a supportive immersion experience that teaches kids how to make behavioral changes that will last long-term. The idea is to teach kids how and why to eat healthier and to incorporate exercise into their daily routine. The teaching is done through fun age-appropriate activities and they get a jump start on their weight loss as they learn. These behaviors become habits and can then be maintained when they get back to their “normal lives”;
  • Commercial Programs – Some commercial programs that are available online or through a phone app such as Weight Watchers will accept kids as young as 10 into their program at a doctor’s request. Some insurance carriers will cover commercial weight loss programs such as weight watchers;
  • Weight Loss Medication – There is currently only one prescription medication that is FDA-approved for adolescents ages 12+. Saxenda is a daily injection and is meant to be used as part of a teenage weight loss program that includes a healthy low-calorie diet and exercise;
  • Weight Loss Surgery – Although weight loss surgery for a teenager may seem like a drastic measure it may become necessary in some cases to prevent a more serious issue such as liver failure. Some types of bariatric surgery permanently alter the patient’s digestive system requiring them to take lifelong supplements. It has been argued that most teens are not mature or responsible enough to be diligent in taking these supplements and risk serious risks such as malnutrition;
  • Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty is a non-surgical procedure that reduces the size of the patient’s stomach by reshaping it and strategically stitching it together. The smaller stomach prevents the patient from eating too much during one meal and helps them feel full longer. Since there are no incisions and the procedure is not surgery, it does not require a hospital stay and recovery is fairly quick. Patients can expect to lose about 20% of their total body weight in a year and most continue to lose weight and maintain their weight loss long-term.

15 Key Weight Loss Tips For Teenagers

Losing weight for a teenager can mean improvements in their health, self-esteem, and general quality of life. It is usually easier to lose weight as a teenager than as an adult due in part to metabolic differences. It is beneficial to achieve and maintain a healthy weight as a teen and carry it forward into adulthood.

Sometimes there are easy ways for a teenager to lose weight such as simply cutting out soft drinks or increasing their physical activity level.

Following are some weight loss tips for teenage girls and boys that may appear simple but often small changes yield big results.

1. Set Goals For Yourself That Are Realistic And Wellness-Minded

Trying to become healthier by losing weight is a great goal but remember the main objective is to become healthier. Don’t focus as much on the number on the scale but make decisions based on how what you are eating or doing is affecting your overall health.

Set short-term goals such as “Walk for 10 minutes” and Long-term goals “Work up to 20-minute walks by this time next month” and then make a plan to achieve that goal. Keeping a written record or using a phone app can help you stay focused and motivated.

2. Avoid Beverages Full Of Sugar

One sneaky source of empty calories that can cause unwanted weight gain are sugar-laden beverages such as sodas, sweet tea, energy drinks, and juices.

Studies have shown that adding all this extra sugar to a teenager’s diet can lead to obesity and increases their risk of serious conditions including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes.

3. Deliberately Schedule Daily Exercise Or Physical Activity

If the gym is not your thing, go hiking, hula hoop, roller skate, play volleyball, shoot some baskets, anything that gets you moving and gives you some cardio. Find something you enjoy doing so it is fun and you look forward to doing it. It does not have to be “sports” related, it can be gardening, volunteering at a dog rescue walking the dogs, etc.

It is important to get some type of exercise on a daily basis. If you are just starting maybe try a short walk around the block with the dog and increase your distance or pace every couple of days. If it is raining or you can not go to the gym, an inexpensive jump rope is an excellent tool to help get in your exercise.

As you increase your daily physical activity you will build muscle mass which helps your body burn calories faster and more efficiently. Additionally, exercise produces endorphins which are known as the “feel-good-brain-chemicals” so they trigger positive thoughts, boost your mood, and combat depression. Win-Win.

4. Choose Healthy Foods That Will Keep You Satisfied Longer

Don’t concentrate as much on the calorie content of food but on the nutritional value such as the minerals, fiber, and vitamins the food provides. Teenagers need more nutrients than adults because of the rapid growth and development that is occurring at this time in their lives.

Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains contain fiber that helps keep us feeling full longer, and consuming the right kind of protein and healthy fats can promote weight loss.

Research has historically shown that most teens do not consume the recommended amount of fruits and veggies every day. Learn about the best nutrient-rich foods and be deliberate in including a good selection in your daily diet.

5. Swap Unhealthy Fat Sources For Healthy Ones

Teenagers have growing, developing, bodies and minds and require a higher fat intake than adults. While we normally cut out all sources of fat when we are dieting, it is important that teens understand the different types of fat and the appropriate ones to include in their healthy balanced diet.

For example both bacon and avocado contain fat. Bacon increases the “bad LDL cholesterol” while consuming an avocado each day reduces the levels of LDL cholesterol. Some other examples include:

Chart: Fats To Avoid And Include In A Teenage Diet Meal Plan

Bad Fat
Increases Bad LDL
Good Fat
Decreases Bad LDL
Coconut Oil, margarineExtra virgin olive oil
Processed foods, fried foods, fast food, deli meats, baked goodsNuts, chia seeds, avocados, eggs, dark chocolate
Red meat, dark chicken meat, lamb chops, processed meats like hot dogs, hamburgers, baconAvocados, cheese, eggs, salmon, mackerel, trout, herring sardines, white meat chicken

Cutting out junk food, snacking on sugary baked goods, and substituting healthier choices such as nuts, seeds, cheese, etc will help foster healthy weight loss.

6. Avoid Food With Added Sugar And Processed Foods

Most of us love sweets but they are full of added sugar and do not provide any nutritional value. Foods such as cookies, sugar cereals, candy, and other processed foods have added sugar and are low in protein and fiber.

They may taste good and satisfy you at first but then they often increase your appetite and cause hunger pangs for the rest of the day. A small study discovered that when young women consumed a sugar-laden beverage in the morning they felt an increased amount of hunger pangs and ate more food at lunch than the control group who consumed a low-sugar breakfast drink.

Another study revealed that there is an association between a healthy diet and school performance. The study looked at how often the teens ate fast food, instant noodles, and sweets as well as when they ate their meals and if they skipped breakfast.

The results showed that teens that consumed healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, milk), ate breakfast, and had consistent meal times did better academically than those who skipped breakfast, ate instant noodles, and maintained a diet of processed or fast food.

7. Choose Healthy Safe Ways To Lose Weight

Stay away from “fad” diets. Many teens try the latest and greatest, often celebrity-endorsed diet and they do not understand that these types of diets can be dangerous and rarely work for long-term weight loss and maintenance.

Also, our bodies were designed for survival so our metabolism will speed up or slow down to adjust to our intake of food. Not eating enough calories will inhibit weight loss efforts. Focusing on eating healthy whole foods, avoiding sugars and processed foods, and getting plenty of exercises will, over time, result in healthy weight loss.

8. Make Sure To Eat Vegetables Every Day

Antioxidants protect our cells from damage and eating veggies helps provide our bodies with these powerful “good guys” along with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Research has proven that eating the recommended daily amount of vegetables can help teens reach and sustain healthy body weight. The fiber contained in veggies also helps keep the hunger pangs at bay and creates the feeling of “fullness”.

9. Avoid Skipping Meals

It sounds like skipping meals would help someone lose weight but it actually backfires. Research revealed that teens who skipped breakfast were more likely to become obese than those who ate breakfast on a regular basis. This same study also pointed out that they were lacking in their intake of fruits and vegetables.

Skipping a meal such as breakfast or eating a quick snack full of sugar causes individuals to be hungrier during the day and then they tend to overeat. Another study revealed that a breakfast rich in protein reduced the amount of ghrelin that was secreted each day. Ghrelin is a hormone that is produced in our stomach and sends signals to the brain that we are hungry.

10. Avoid Prepackaged Foods And Those Labeled As “Diet Foods”

Prepackaged foods are full of ingredients that are not healthy and no one can pronounce. Many foods sold as “diet” foods contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose that have been associated with adverse health issues.

Prepackaged “diet” foods traditionally do not contain the vitamins and minerals that are needed to fuel the body and it is much more healthy to purchase whole foods that are unprocessed and create your own meals and snacks. A handful of almonds and a banana is a much better snack than a diet bar that is full of artificial ingredients.

11. Create Good Habits That Foster Mindful Eating Habits

This can be tough for teens and busy families but trying to have meals together at the table helps to develop good eating habits as well as avoid excessive snacking.

Busy families and teenagers all too often eat on the go or while watching television or being distracted doing something else. This can lead to overeating because we are not paying attention and we are forming unhealthy habits such as every time we watch TV we have to eat a snack etc.

12. Drink Enough Water – Stay Hydrated

Drinking water is one of the most underestimated health-promoting practices. It is so easy to do and yields a plethora of benefits.

Studies show that consuming an adequate amount of water aids in regulating the appetite and maintaining a healthy weight. It also can reduce snacking between meals. Research has also associated drinking enough water with academic and athletic performance.

Drinking water instead of sugary beverages will offer many health benefits and foster healthy weight loss.

13. Get The Sleep Your Body Needs

This is another area that is often neglected and an important factor in losing and maintaining a healthy weight. Research has shown that an adequate amount of sleep (at least 8 hours) plays a role in the weight regulation of an adult.

Experts recommend that teens get at least 9 to 10 hours of sleep each night in order to function at their best. Best practices for restful sleep include a dark room, and avoiding television, phone, or screen use for at least one hour before bed. Reading a book (not on a tablet) can often help individuals to relax so they can fall asleep.

14. Be The Best YOU And Do Not Compare Yourself To Others

This is most likely one of the hardest things to do for a teenager in today’s fast-paced social media-crazed society. When trying to improve your health concentrate on using yourself as the only benchmark.

Everyone is unique and will lose weight and experience body changes at different rates. Your progress in getting healthier will be best measured against where you started and where you are.
Setting realistic and achievable goals will help you move forward in a positive way. As you become healthier you will begin to feel more confident and you will have a more positive outlook.

15. Learn Strategies For Stress Management

Managing stress is a balancing act for adults and teens alike. Stress produces a hormone in our bodies called cortisol. Cortisol is not our friend, especially when we are trying to lose weight. It increases our feelings of hunger and encourages our bodies to hold onto unwanted fat deposits.

Finding ways to manage our stress levels will help increase our health and promote our weight loss efforts. Activities such as exercising, yoga, hiking, or just going for a walk can help decrease stress levels and promote relaxation.

Unfortunately, most of us are never taught stress relieving techniques or the correlation between stress and our health but it is very important to find a good balance. A licensed therapist or psychologist is a good resource for support and learning techniques that will help relieve stress.

How To Help Your Teenager To Lose Weight

As parents, we can support and promote healthy weight loss in our teenagers in a few different ways including:

  • Have a good supply of healthy foods readily available at home;
  • Plan and participate in regular physical activity with your teen: taking a daily walk, tennis, shooting baskets, going to the gym together. You can benefit as well as your teen;
  • Cook healthy meals together and eat as a family;
  • Make your own treats and baked goods from scratch Although they are calorie-laden and contain sugar, they are much healthier than processed ready-made options. For example making cookies with whole wheat flour, almond butter, and dark chocolate pieces;
  • Provide positive affirmation without focusing on weight and more focused on “healthy”.

Learning to make healthy choices which include diet and exercise are essential skills that teenagers need to master and will last them a lifetime.

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