Your metabolism and the way your body processes food are a function of genetics. If you have overweight family members, you may have inherited a body chemistry that burns fat more slowly, but you also may have developed lifestyle habits that contribute to your weight problem. Regardless of the genesis of your weight issue, the only way to address it is through diet and exercise. If you remain overweight in your teen years, you're likely to struggle with weight throughout your adult life. But if you develop healthy habits now, they'll stay with you for a lifetime.
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The only ways to lose weight are to decrease your caloric intake or increase the number of calories you burn. The most effective approach is to combine the two. If you want to lose one pound in a week, you must eliminate 500 calories per day or increase your activity level to burn 500 more calories daily for a week, according to the website TeenGrowth.com. Or you can do a combination of the two — for example, cut back 300 calories a day and burn 200 in daily exercise. Weight loss of one to two pounds per week is a safe target. That means up to eight pounds in a month. If you try to lose weight more quickly, your body may not get the nutrition it needs to grow and stay healthy.
Fad diets are dangerous because they are not structured in a way that you can sustain them over the long-term. You may lose weight quickly, but as soon as you reach your goal, you’re likely to put the weight back on. Some rapid weight-loss diets focus narrowly on a certain food group and deprive your body of the well-rounded nutrition that you need, which may make you vulnerable to illness. A more measured weight loss program that incorporates sustainable nutrition and exercise habits will help you to lose weight and keep it off. Your goal should not be a time-limited diet. You need to change your eating and exercise habits for life.
You can cut hundreds of calories from your diet without making drastic changes. Most teens drink three cans of soda a day. If you eliminate just one can of soda or sports drink each day, you will save 150 calories, says TeensHealth from Nemours. Eat one chocolate chip cookie with your lunch instead of three and you’ll save a whopping 360 calories. If you have half a slice of pie instead of a whole slice, you’ll cut out about 200 calories. At breakfast, have a blueberry muffin instead of coffee cake or Danish and you’ll save 100 calories without feeling deprived.
It’s best to start exercise slowly and increase the duration and difficulty as you build strength. Start with something simple like taking the dog for a long walk of 20 or 30 minutes. Build up to 40 minutes of brisk walking four times a week or aim for 60 minutes daily for a greater weight loss impact. Sharing the activity with a friend makes the time pass faster and makes it harder for you to skip exercise. Find a friend to be your walking partner or sign up to take an exercise or dance class.
Strength training builds muscle and muscle tissue burns more calories, so on the days you’re not walking or playing sports, find something around the house you can use for weightlifting. For example, hold a can of soup or vegetables in each hand while your do arm lifts or hold a heavy book on your your thigh as you do leg lifts. If you have access to a pool, you can stand in the shallow end with your arms at your sides and move them away from your body and back to your sides again. Do the same with alternating legs. The water acts as a resistance force against your body and helps you build strength.
Most overweight teens have too much fat in their diets. Reducing your fat consumption will cut your calorie intake dramatically and will increase your energy, so you’ll feel more like exercising. Avoid fried foods, whole milk and dairy products and high-fat meats such as burgers, cold cuts, bacon and sausage. For example, a typical 4-oz. burger with a bun contains 445 calories and 21 grams of fat, while a roasted, skinless chicken thigh contains only 109 calories and 5.5 grams of fat. Beware of fat-free desserts and candy, though. They contain high amounts of sugar, which your body converts to fat.