If you're a teen who's overweight, you're certainly not alone. In the United States, the number of people who are overweight is dramatically increasing. In fact, the percentage of teens who are overweight has more than tripled since 1980. In 2004, almost one in five teens was overweight.
Studies show that approximately 95% of people who go on weight loss diets will gain all or some of the weight back within a year. In fact, some studies have found that after a period of five years, most diet programs are unsuccessful in terms of keeping the weight off.
In the past five years, research has shed light on the impact of strict diets on weight loss, and the findings have consistently held true: diets alone don't work. Sure, these diets can help you lose weight at first. Yet for most teens, one-third of this loss is muscle -- not fat. And lean muscle (as opposed to body fat) is what helps burn calories.
Studies show that each day, the body burns 2-3 calories per pound of fat -- and 35-50 calories per pound of muscle. The more muscle mass your body has, the more calories you burn all day, even while you are sitting around studying or surfing the Internet.
So, How Do I Lose Weight?
The best way to maintain or reach an ideal weight is to burn more calories than you take in. That means increasing activity and decreasing calorie intake -- but not severely.
The safest, most effective diet for weight loss is a healthful, balanced one including:
Fruits and vegetables.
Low-fat dairy products.
Lean protein such as chicken and fish.
Healthy oils, in moderate amounts.
Cutting out junk food, sugary sodas, and sweet, undiluted fruit drinks from your diet is an easy way to lose weight over time. For example, cutting out 10 potato chips a day saves 100 calories. Over a year, giving up those chips would translate into 10 pounds of extra fat lost.
Likewise, adding 20 minutes more of exercise (such as aerobic dancing, walking, jogging, biking, rowing, or swimming) to your current routine will burn an average of 100 calories of fat a day. Over a year's time, that extra 20 minutes of exercise should allow you to lose 10 pounds.
Portion control is also important when you're trying to lose weight. One problem many overweight teens have is that they underestimate how much they really eat. So stop super-sizing, and learn what a healthy portion looks like.
It may also help to eat more frequently. Six small meals per day appears to be one of the best approaches to eating, especially when you're trying to lose weight. Just remember these mini meals need to be small.
If you feel you are overweight, talk to your primary health care provider or a registered dietitian. There are plenty of medically supervised diets that work well for teens who need to lose more than 10 pounds. Just be sure to include exercise, or you'll find that the weight comes back as easily as it left you.