In the six months after her parents' divorce, 13-year-old Caroline (not her real name) gained more than 20 pounds. Feeling sad and alone, she consoled herself with food -- and lots of it. Day after day, she was binge eating.
"I remember the night my dad left, I went into the kitchen and devoured a dozen glazed doughnuts and a quart of milk," Caroline said. "Still feeling hungry (but really sad), I took a bag of chips up to my room and ate them in the dark while sitting on my bed, crying."
Studies show that approximately 95% of people who go on weight loss diets will gain all or some of the weight back within the first 5 years. In fact, some studies have found that after a period of 5 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, a lot of this loss is muscle -- not fat. And lean muscle (as opposed to body fat) is what helps burn calories.
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.