Helping your teen lose weight safely, successfully, and sensibly
Children who weigh more than 10% above their healthy weight may be candidates for a weight management program. Studies show that for every 20 children who are obese when they exit adolescence, 19 will have that excess weight for the rest of their lives. This makes the teen years a crucial time to slim down!
How much weight should your teenager lose?
Instead of targeting an exact figure, a healthy weight range should be the goal. Our weight fluctuates naturally by up to 20 pounds, so the ultimate goal should be for kids to be in the habit of eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly. You can let their weight “drift down to a level that is comfortable and realistically attainable.”
How many calories should a teenager eat?
As many adults have discovered themselves, low-calorie diets are often doomed to failure. They promise weight loss of 3-4 pounds a week; however the majority of adolescents find them too restrictive to stick with over a length of time. These low-calorie diets may advocate for a mere 400 to 800 calories a day, less than 1/4 the caloric requirements of the average teenage boy, and less than 1/3 the calories needed by the average teenage girl!
The brain treats this kind of crash-diet programs as a threat, and seeks to return the body to its ideal biologic weight or set point. It acts like a thermostat, slowing down the metabolism and increasing the proportion of excess calories stored as fat. It also sends out hunger messages! That’s why these diets seem to get off to a promising start and then soon plateau. Most dieters actually gain back more pounds than they lost in the first place.
A sensible diet plan seeks a gradual weight loss of no more than one or two pounds per week. Most youngsters should be able to reach this goal without drastically modifying their diets: fully grown teens need trim only 500 calories a day. Boys and girls who are still in puberty can reduce their caloric intake by half that amount and shed pounds without stunting their growth.
Remember: the focus should always be on developing healthy eating habits, not directly on weight loss.
Obesity statistic source: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm