Weight loss is a sensitive issue for anyone, but it doesn’t get much more delicate than when you’re dealing with teenagers.
Teenagers, especially teenage girls, face a lot of pressure surrounding their perceived attractiveness – it’s a huge problem, and something we should work harder to address.
Hormonal weight fluctuations are normal, but they can be very distressing. They can certainly be made worse when combined with bad diets and limited exercise. Poor self image, or self confidence, can also lead to bad eating habits. It’s actually a pretty ugly cycle, and one that’s important to break.
On the flipside, following unrealistic fad diets is not only unhealthy physically, but also mentally, and teenagers are especially susceptible to eating disorders during this time.
The best thing you can do for your teen is to get them to embrace these six easy steps which promote both healthy weight loss and a healthy way of life:
Don’t skip meals
Unfortunately, skipping meals is not part of a magic formula for weight loss. Yes, you may cut a load of calories during lunchtime, but you’ll be so hungry by dinner that you’ll end up consuming twice as many then. But more importantly, your body will rebel. If your brain registers that you are starving, it goes into “red alert” mode, sending out a message to start storing every calorie available. This may also cause you to begin craving high-calorie foods to keep you alert and alive. Meal skipping may also disrupt insulin and glucose levels, and affect body fat percentages. 1,2
Find an exercise routine that you’ll keep
Physical exercise is not only important for the body but we now know that it’s also critical for mental health. Some teens are naturally athletic and are part of more sports teams than their parents can keep up with. Others just haven’t found their love of, or confidence in, physical activity. So the key for teens is to find something that they love, or at least can find some enjoyment in. Because, no matter if you’re a child, a teen, or an adult, if an exercise doesn’t interest you, you won’t stick to it.
Walking to and from school (where possible) can make a big impact. Or you could walk as a family around your local area after dinner each night. There are so many fun options available today in terms of staying fit: dance classes, small friendly gyms, yoga, cycle classes, swimming, or just a regular walking routine. If you can’t implement physical activity every day, aim to exercise four times per week consistently.
Drink plenty of water
Soda is the enemy of all weight loss. It’s just one huge health hazard. Soda’s sugar content is not only highly addictive, but it’s toxic to the body, and very easily leads to weight gain. Unfortunately, the teen years are when many people begin their long-term relationship (addiction) with soda. The other common “bad guy” here is fruit juice. Seemingly healthy – “Hey, it’s just fruit!” – but literally liquid sugar. You should aim instead to eat fruit whole so that you get all of the fruit’s fiber and far less sugar in one hit.
Water is the only liquid that truly hydrates the body, and that’s because up to 60 percent of the human body is made up of water. It is part of who we are, and we need it to survive. As an added bonus, water also flushes toxins from our bodies. Sometimes, when we think we are hungry and reach for an unhealthy snack, we’re actually just dehydrated. If you’re hungry, try drinking some water first to see if you really are actually hungry.
Herbal teas are also a great choice when trying to lose weight safely.
Cut out processed foods
A great way to lose weight is to eat a diet rich in fresh vegetables. Unfortunately, processed foods rule the world, because they provide quick and easy alternatives for snacking. Most people love chips, french fries, cakes, and cookies. And the more we eat them, the more we crave them. That is the addictive power of sugar. No matter how good they may taste, processed foods are high in unhealthy saturated fats and sugars (with zero nutritional assets). Consuming these foods leads to weight gain and high cholesterol.
In order to function at a healthy weight, you need to put your focus on healthier alternatives. The more you start to eat plant-based foods, the more you will also crave them. Try healthy, tasty snacks like carrot sticks with hummus or almond butter, a handful of unsalted almonds, cottage cheese, or plain low-sugar Greek yogurt topped with berries.
Nix the fad diets
All diets are fad diets. You don’t want to diet. Ever. You want a lifestyle change – something that is easy to stick to and that will help you to lose weight on a long term basis. Any eating plan should allow for treats every now and then, and it should lean heavily toward a plant-based diet without excessive amounts of animal protein. Everyone is different. Some foods play havoc with some people, and not others. You’ll soon find what works for you – and if you need help coming up with a healthy eating plan, you can always consult a nutritional professional.
Teens require adequate nutrients to meet their body’s growth requirements during puberty. You may get results from a juice or lemon-detox diet – but not only do you risk nutritional deficiencies, you can’t survive on lemon and cayenne pepper for the next 80 years. Any diet that promises quick-fix for weight loss is only going to result in the pounds returning.
Don’t snack after dinner
Snacking after dinner is a bad habit, but like all habits, you can change it. Usually, your body is not actually hungry – you’ve just gotten used to having dessert or a snack each night. Switching to something like green tea (or other caffeine-free herbal teas) after dinner may help curb cravings and prevent you from taking on extra calories right before you sleep. When you sleep, you are sedentary, so you can’t burn those excess calories that you just ate. Lying down on a full stomach can also lead to reflux.
A healthy, balanced diet with plenty of exercise not only helps with healthy weight loss, but it also shows in our skin, and in our mental outlook. Change is never easy, but bad habits very quickly become good habits – and by following these six quick and easy tips for healthy teenage weight loss, you’ll be surprised how quickly your body can adapt.
Most importantly, a healthy lifestyle begins in the family home – so make sure that you’re supporting your teens progress by being an equally healthy role model.
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