Weight loss tricks for big and chunky teens?

Originally Published: April 5, 2002 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: November 4, 2011
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Dear Alice,

My friend and I are two oversized male teenagers. We have tried many diets, but cannot keep them for too long. Is there some kind of loophole or trick that is a lot easier? I bet you're in shape!

Love,

Big and Chunky brothers

Dear Big and Chunky brothers,

The big secret that a lot of people have been slowly learning is that most restrictive diets don't work in the long run. Being on a diet usually makes people hungry, tired, cranky, frustrated, depressed, deprived, annoyed, and anxious. Sounds like a recipe for failure, huh? The key to eating a balanced diet is to be mindful of what you are eating and how much you are eating. Aim to eat a generally healthy diet, but allow yourself to follow your cravings without guilt. Moderation is key.

So, what's a teen to do? First, take a look at your lifestyle. Are you sitting in front of a computer, TV, or video game system most of the time? You need to get up and get your body in motion! Having a friend with the same concerns is helpful, because being active is more fun with someone else. Make a list of things you could do together. Some ideas to get you started include:

  • Playing some sport — outside
  • Enthusiastic walking
  • Riding bikes
  • Blading
  • Walking up stairs
  • Getting off at an earlier bus or subway stop and walking the rest of the way

Second, identify your usual eating routine. For many people, it's almost automatic to snack while working and studying, reading, or watching TV. Calories from junk food add up much faster than calories from nutritious foods. Hunger doesn't even matter. This is an unhealthy pattern that's hard to break. Most of us can be more mindful of our eating. We could make a concerted effort not to snack while doing other things. Eat only when hungry, rather than for entertainment. If one is hungry (and it is okay and even helpful to eat between meals), take a few moments to sit and have a snack. Not unlimited food, but a set amount on a plate or in a bowl — nothing out of the bag, box, or container. Good snack ideas include vegetabels and hummus, an apple and an ounce of cheese, or a rice cake with nut butter. When you are done eating, move to the next activity.

Eating three regular meals a day can make a difference. If you're a breakfast or lunch skipper, you set yourself up to overeat at some point later in the day. Build healthy meals by:

  • Including at least one fruit (e.g., apple, orange, pear) or non-starchy vegetable (e.g., leafy greens, broccoli, carrots) at every meal.
  • Incorporating one food that is a good source of protein: low- or non-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese); soy (tofu, soy milk); lean meat, chicken, fish; legumes (beans, lentils, and split peas) or nuts.
  • Making whole grains at least 50 percent of your grains during the day (that's a minimum of one meal or snack), and including items such as whole grain breads or cereals, brown rice, or whole grain pasta.
  • Cutting down on fat. Although we need some fat in our eating plan to be healthy, it is a concentrated source of calories that can add up quickly. Making French fries out of a potato adds over 20 grams of fat and almost 200 calories, while a plain baked potato has less than one gram of fat and 220 calories. Choose fried foods infrequently and opt for baked, broiled, grilled, roasted, or steamed items instead.

The quantity of food you are eating is equally important in managing your weight. This doesn't mean that you have to go hungry. Rather, tune in to the portion sizes you are eating. Do you feel overly stuffed after eating? Are you truly hungry when you start eating? Perhaps you could be satisfied with smaller sized meals and snacks. Soft drinks are another source of excess calories for many teens. One can of soda pop has 150 calories, all from sugar. Drinking a liter a day could add over 3,000 calories to a person's weekly intake, or nearly one extra pound of weight. If this sounds like you, try cutting down, or switching to flavored seltzer or water. Look to whole foods to supply your meals and snacks as often as possible. Cutting down on processed foods, if that is an issue, should give you a good kick start.

Hopefully this answer has given you some "food for thought." Although there aren't any shortcuts to good health, increasing your awareness of your eating patterns is a good start.

Alice

April 12, 2002

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Alice, I am disappointed. Although the information you gave in your answer to the above question, you left out one VERY important thing... positive body image. It is entirely possible that "Big and...
Alice, I am disappointed. Although the information you gave in your answer to the above question, you left out one VERY important thing... positive body image. It is entirely possible that "Big and Chunky Brothers" are eating right, moving their bodies, and are generally healthy. Perhaps they are worried about their size because they have received so many negative messages about being "oversize" (whatever that means). By all means, include the information on healthy eating and fun body movement — but don't forget to include ways that people can learn to feel good about the bodies they have (which often do not fit into society's ideals). This can include anything from making sure to spend more time with people that appreciate you for everything about you and don't put you down for the way you look — to going for counseling if negative body image thoughts are making you depressed, or even leading to eating disorders or steroid use. Down with Body Phobia (be it fat-phobia or thin-phobia)! Sincerely, A concerned reader