By: Jodie Shield, RD
Currently one out of every three U.S. teens is battling obesity. In my opinion, this is a big deal because research shows that obese teens have a 70% chance of becoming obese adults. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association has identified key strategies that seem to play a major role in helping teens lose weight and keep it off. The study investigators surveyed 130 male and female teens of various ethnic backgrounds – – 62 who had been successful in losing weight and 68 who had been unsuccessful. They asked the teens and their parents, to fill out a weight loss questionnaire that covered topics such as: what eating strategies or diets they used to lose weight, how often they exercised, how much time they spent being inactive (watching television or playing video games), and how frequently they weighed themselves. After analyzing each groups’ answers, they found that compared to the unsuccessful teens, the successful teen losers:
- Exercised more
- Drank less soda
- Walked more and climbed stairs
- Weighed themselves more often – weekly or daily
- Ate fewer calories – about 250 less
- Watched 4 hours less television/videos per week
Some other healthy weight control behaviors successful teens reported helped them lose:
- Eating more protein
- Eating less high-fat junk food
- Drinking more water
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Participating in different types of exercise.
Keep in mind that this was only a pilot study with a fairly small sample size. So it would be premature to call their findings the “magic weight loss bullet” for teens. But as a Registered Dietitian, and the mother of teenagers, I find the common sense conclusions of this study both harmless and helpful. It’s the first study that looks specifically at how teens successfully lose weight and keep it off. Plus, it validates what we as parents have been telling our teens: watch what and how much you eat and turn off the tube and move! What did surprise me was the importance of awareness and accountability: successful teens need to know how much they weigh and weigh themselves frequently. So does your teen have access to a body fat scale? If so, should your teen step on it and weigh everyday?
The article is, “Weight Control Strategies of Overweight Adolescents Who Successfully Lost Weight” by Kerri N. Boutelle, Heather Libbey, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, and Mary Story. It appears in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 109, Issue 12 (December 2009), published by Elsevier.