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Health Issues

Losing Weight Safely, Sensibly, Successfully

Boys and girls who weigh 10 percent or more above their healthy weight may be candidates for a weight-management program. The teen years are a crucial time to slim down: Statistics show that for every twenty youths who are obese upon exiting adolescence, all but one will wear that excess weight for the rest of their lives.

How Much Weight Should My Teenager Lose?

Dr. Sigman advises targeting a healthy weight range as opposed to an exact figure. To begin with, our weight fluctuates naturally by anywhere from five to twenty pounds. But, too, “The ultimate goal is to get kids into the habit of eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly,” he says, “and letting their weight drift down to a level that is comfortable and realistically attainable.”

How Many Calories Should My Teenager Eat?

Low-calorie diets, which promise a weight reduction of three to four pounds per week, are doomed to failure, and not just because the majority of adolescents find them too restrictive to stick with for any length of time. At a mere 400 to 800 calories per day, these crash-diet programs provide less than one fourth the caloric requirements of the average teenage boy and less than one third the calories needed by the average teenage girl.

In response to this threat, the brain seeks to return the body to its ideal biologic weight, or set point. It acts like a thermostat, slowing down metabolism and increasing the proportion of excess calories stored as fat. The brain also sends hunger messages to its owner. That is why diets often seem to get off to a promising start, and then soon plateau. Most dieters, in fact, actually gain back more pounds than they lost.

A sensible diet plan seeks a gradual weight loss of no more than one to two pounds per week. Most youngsters should be able to reach this goal without having to drastically modify their diets. Fully grown teens need trim only five hundred 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. The focus, though, should always be on developing healthy eating habits, not on weight loss per se.

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Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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