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Overweight Teens

Can Being Overweight Harm My Health?

When your doctor says you are "overweight," you are at higher risk for serious illnesses, such as heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Overweight teens are also at higher risk of psychological problems, such as depression. Also, being overweight and having increased abdominal fat is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, which has increased dramatically in teens.

Being overweight is associated with early onset of sexual maturity in girls and delayed sexual maturation in boys.

Am I Overweight?

Everyone is different. Your best friend may be the same height as you and weigh 10 pounds less. Yet you both may be at your best weight, depending on factors like your bone structure and genetics.

Most teens' weights vary as they hit growth spurts during puberty. For example, over a period of 18 months, a teen boy might go from a 5-foot, 141-pound eighth grader to a 6-foot-2,165-pound high school sophomore. Sure, he was chunky in eighth grade. But look at him now!

Usually it's obvious when you're overweight, especially when you look at your body in a full-length mirror after getting out of the shower. You might be able to pinch a lot of fat at your waist, belly, underarms, or thighs. You might notice that the number on your bathroom scales is a lot higher than it used to be. Or your clothes may become way too snug and are hard to button or zip.

The problem with being overweight is that it's unhealthy. The more excess weight you carry around, the higher your risk of serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

How Can I Lose Weight?

Studies have shown it again and again: Strict diets alone don't work. Strict dieting restricts calories and nutritious foods. This can cause you to feel deprived and result in bingeing or overeating.

The most effective way to reach an ideal weight is to burn more calories than you take in.

All teens should get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily, according to current recommendations. Not only does exercise help you burn calories, but you'll also increase your cardiovascular endurance. And here's another benefit: Gaining muscle can help you burn more calories all day, even while you are sitting around. Muscle mass is metabolically active tissue, meaning it is the tissue that burns calories.

If you already get 60 minutes of exercise daily, you may need to add 30 more minutes. If you don't get 60 minutes a day, start today. If you haven't been exercising and are overweight, it's a good idea to check with your doctor before you start a vigorous exercise program.

Eating a balanced diet is the other component of weight loss. As you plan your daily menu, choose more servings from the plant groups (legumes, tofu, nuts, fruits, and vegetables). Choose moderate servings of low-fat dairy, and pick fewer servings from the animal groups (meat). Then, choose fats and sweets very sparingly. Eliminate junk food, sodas, chips, and other foods that are low in nutrients and high in calories and fat.

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