Obesity has become America's #1 health problem. More than 15% of American teenagers are overweight. You are overweight if:
Obesity is defined as a weight per height ratio (body mass index or BMI) that is above the 95th percentile.
The tendency to be overweight is usually inherited. If one parent is overweight, probably half of the children have the potential to be overweight. If both parents are overweight, most of their children will be overweight. If neither parent is overweight, the children have a small chance of becoming overweight.
Heredity alone (without overeating) accounts for most mild weight problems. Moderate weight problems are usually due to a combination of heredity, overeating, and underexercising. Some overeating is normal in our society, but only those who have the inherited tendency to be overweight will gain significant weight when they overeat. The family environment (how much TV is watched, how much your family exercises, and foods that are served) is equally important.
Less than 1% of obesity has an underlying medical cause. Your healthcare provider can check whether your obesity has a physical cause with a simple physical examination.
There are health risks as well as social problems that may occur when you are overweight. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea from severe snoring, exercise intolerance, lower self-esteem, and depression.
Losing weight is very difficult. Keeping the weight off is also a chore. The best time for losing weight is when a teenager becomes very concerned with personal appearance. A self-motivated teenager can follow a diet and lose weight regardless of what his or her family eats.
You can increase your motivation by joining a weight-loss club such as TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) or Weight Watchers. Sometimes schools have classes for helping teenagers lose weight.
Pick a realistic target weight based on your bone structure and how overweight you are. The loss of 1 pound a week is an attainable goal. However, you will have to work quite hard to lose this much weight every week for several weeks. You should weigh yourself no more than once each week; daily weighings generate too much false hope or disappointment. When losing weight becomes a strain, take a few weeks off from the weight-loss program. During this time, try to stay at a constant weight.
Once you have reached the target weight, the long-range goal is to try to stay within 5 pounds of that weight. Staying at a particular weight is possible only through a permanent moderation in eating. You will probably always have the tendency to gain weight easily and it's important that you understand this.
You should eat three well-balanced meals a day of average-sized portions. There are no forbidden foods. You can have a serving of anything family or friends are eating. However, there are forbidden portions. While you are reducing, you must leave the table a bit hungry. You cannot lose weight if you eat until full. Eat average portions instead of large portions and avoid seconds. Shortcuts such as fasting, crash dieting, or diet pills rarely work and may be dangerous. Liquid diets are safe only if they are used according to directions. Calorie counting is helpful for some people, but it is usually too time-consuming. Consider the following guidelines on what to eat and drink:
Most overeating is due to bad habits. To counteract the tendency to gain weight, you must learn eating habits that will last you for a lifetime.
Daily exercise can increase the rate of weight loss as well as the sense of physical well-being. The combination of diet and exercise is the most effective way to lose weight. Try the following forms of exercise:
The more outside activities you participate in, the easier it will be for you to lose weight. Spare time fosters nibbling. Most snacking occurs between 3 and 6 PM. Fill after-school time with activities such as music, drama, sports, or scouts. A part-time job after school may help. If nothing else, call or visit friends. An active social life almost always leads to weight reduction.
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