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Dr Russ Blog - Teenaged and Overweight
Teenaged and Overweight
Created on 11/12/2010

Those of us who are older look back on our teen years with a mix of joy and seriousness - joy because we discovered so many wonderful things about life during those years; but there were challenges, too. These days one of the more common challenges facing teens is overweight and obesity.

J writes in to say he is 16 years old and overweight. He has been eating well and exercising but the weight isn't coming off, and he's wondering what else he can do.

J also made a very good decision to meet with his primary care doctor. Sometimes weight gain can be due to previously unrecognized medical issues that your doctor can identify and help treat. In addition, your doctor's office is often a good place to get credible information about safe and healthy weight reduction.

Before going forward, J, there are at least 2 very important things to keep in mind:

1) Even at age 16 you are likely not done growing and so may get taller, and

2) Diet and exercise remain the keys to maintaining an appropriate weight for height

Regarding #2 specifically, remember that the difference between calories in (eaten) and calories out (burned) needs to be 3,500 calories to lose one pound of weight. In other words, if you eat so that you take in 250 calories less each day while also exercising enough to burn 250 calories more each day you will lose one pound of weight in 7 days.

This equation is somewhat simplistic, but largely true.

Taking in 250 calories less per day is not that hard; neither is burning an additional 250 calories through movement. The key is sticking to it - that's what can be hard.

And the idea that maintainable weight loss is typically slow and steady - aim for an average of 1-3 pounds of weight loss per week.

By the end of 6 months you will have lost over 20 pounds by changing your diet and lifestyle in ways that not only help you get to an appropriate weight for height, but also help keep you healthy.

Remember, also, that not all calories are created the same. In other words, 100 calories from fried or fast food is likely to wreak havoc on your weight and your health, whereas 100 calories from fresh produce will likely benefit both your weight and your health. One good idea - meet with a nutritionist who can devise a personalized tasty and healthy meal program for you.

As far as movement goes, you could start as simply as taking a brisk walk every day, enough to break a sweat, progressively and slowly increasing the time walked each week. Simply wearing a pedometer can help. If affordable, you could work with a trainer for a few weeks to gain access to a personalized fitness regimen.

Losing weight as a teen is doable - it takes a commitment - a commitment to be kind to your self.

Kindness is the key - losing weight is not easy, but you can do it if you offer kindness in the form of:

- congratulating yourself on setting reasonable weight loss goals 
- committing to a program of reaching those goals
- understanding that reaching for that extra snack bag or dessert actually is not being nice to your self; nor is foregoing your daily exercise because you're feeling tired
- getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night (getting less can contribute to weight gain)
- working with someone to help you be held accountable - a family member, a friend, your doctor or fitness trainer - someone to check in with on a regular basis

Being nice to your self, in the kindest and healthiest ways, can help you achieve appropriate weight loss.

Is it easy to lose weight?

No.

Can you do it?

Yes. And when you do you'll learn a valuable life lesson -

If you set your mind to it, anything is possible.

Good luck, J. And be well.
Dr. Russ
** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **


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