Teenage Weight Loss Tips for Gen Y

“The number of kids affected by obesity has tripled since 1980, and this can be traced in large part to lack of exercise and a healthy diet.” –Virginia Foxx

When it comes to teenage obesity, we are dealing with a new phenomenon.

A few decades ago, obesity among teens pretty much didn’t exist and no one was writing about ideas for teenage weight loss. Today, it seems like teens are becoming heavier and just as susceptible to deadly, obesity-related diseases as their parents and grandparents. I believe the reasons for this are the same reasons for the increase in overall obesity: mainly lack of sufficient physical activity and a diet that consists of too much processed junk food. First, I’ll talk about the physical activity component because I believe that this is the most critical for teens.

This is a good example of what not to do for teenage weight loss.

I used to believe that you can’t outexercise a poor diet, but I’ve changed my stance.

When I was a teen, I had a terrible diet: I ate essentially whatever I wanted which usually included fast food almost every day, a ton of highly refined carbs, and hardly any fruits and vegetables. I still remained super lean and in fact struggled to gain weight because I played several hours of soccer every day. The combination of eating high-calorie foods and enormous amounts of HIIT elevated my metabolism to the max and kept me at a calorie deficit which essentially took weight gain out of the equation. The diet wasn’t optimal, but I’d still consider myself healthier than the chubby kid who ate slightly better than I did. This is because I am convinced that body fat is the ultimate barometer of health.

That’s right. I believe that a guy with an 8% body fat and a really poor diet is healthier than a guy with a 20% body fat who eats better. Most adults live a sedentary lifestyle and between working, commuting, and handling family responsibilities, they are lucky if they have a couple of hours a week to spare for exercise. Teens aren’t as constrained. At least a couple of hours of daily physical activity used to be standard for most teens and this was usually good enough to keep obesity at bay. However, today, the teen lifestyle more closely mimics that of a busy adult. With the social media boom, Gen Y teens are spending more of their free time in front of screens, whether it’s instant messaging, Facebooking, or playing video games, and less time outside running around.

The advice I’d give to a teen who has weight issues today would be to discover a form of physical activity that includes a social component and do it as much as possible.

Team sports based on high-intensity intervals such as soccer and basketball are great, but it doesn’t have to be structured. Activities such as rock climbing, surfing, or skateboarding are excellent also. Today, more so than ever before, people of all ages are participating in group fitness activities such as cycling or Zumba. With all the options available, it seems almost impossible for a teen today to not be able to find at least one form of physical activity that he or she would enjoy doing several times a week. The social component doesn’t have to be there, but it helps increase consistency because when you are doing an activity with your friends, it doesn’t seem like work or an obligation and you’ll want to do it more often.

Getting involved in sports can do wonders for teens physically and socially.

The diet part is a little trickier because teens usually aren’t the ones feeding themselves.

Therefore, this segment is directed more towards parents. If your teen is highly active, this is less crucial, but if he or she is sitting around all day, then more attention definitely needs to be focused on diet. My advice is simple. Incorporate more real food into your teen’s diet during the meals that you have control over. For breakfast, take the extra time to make eggs instead of feeding them sugary cereals. If they are using lunch money, they are likely going to buy whatever they want. But if you pack their lunch, opt for something like a turkey wrap with an apple and some Greek yogurt instead of chips and soda. Dinner is probably the meal you have the most control over so make it good with plenty of real whole foods like chicken or steak with vegetables or a salad. Remember, for inactive people, it’s best to minimize carbs, especially at night.

Being lean and fit will do wonders for teens’ physical and mental health.

I think it’s important to mention the mental component because teens are usually more conscious of social status and how others view them. Looking great will boost their self-image and raise their confidence. This in turn, will create less stress and stress level is a highly underrated component of staying lean and healthy. So it seems pretty simple. To me, the solution for teenage weight loss is the same as it is for adults. Be more active and eat better. If you can’t do both, start with one or the other, but try to make progress over time. Just like any other problem, teen obesity won’t fix itself overnight, but making strides in the right direction is the important thing.

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Comments

  1. says

    Obesity is far too common these days. It’s interesting that you mention body fat as a health indicator. I recently read a study that showed fitness level was actually more important than BMI when it came to death risk. In other words, it’s more important for people to be active than to necessarily eat right and watch their weight.
    Dave – Not Your Average Fitness Tips´s last blog post ..Visual Impact Muscle Building Results: Phase 1

  2. says

    @ Dave,

    I read that study also. That’s interesting because it seems there is a lot of focus on diet these days and less on people’s fitness levels. I think that is about to shift though with things like MRT and HIIT becoming mainstream. With a heightened activity level, eating right really does become less of a worry.

  3. says

    I definitely spent too much time sitting on my butt playing video games when I was a kid. I definitely agree that it’s important to start kids with the habit of being active at a young age. Unfortunately with gym and recess being the first classes to get the axe in our society, it’s probably getting more and more important for parents to push their kids to be more active.
    Darrin´s last blog post ..The Kitchen Hacking Manifesto

  4. says

    @ Darrin,

    A lot of it is on the parents. Unfortunately, here in Northeast Florida, some of the high school sports programs are getting cut also due to budget issues.

  5. says

    @ Keith,

    Yeah some people may not buy into it, but the guy with 8% bf and poor diet probably has better cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and health stats in general than the obese person who eats healthy.

  6. says

    Alykhan,

    As a father of 2 young boys I can see the influence my training and way of life has on them. Whilst all my oldest boys friends now have their own Nintendo DS consoles, my boys are more interested in getting outside and running around and bike riding. It’s usually no surprise to see overweight adults have overweight children, parents are the biggest influence in their children’s lives during their formative years. As adults we need to pick up our act and in turn it will flow onto our children.

    Niko
    niko – noeXcusefitness´s last blog post ..Niko’s Weekly Dose # 10 | Follow My Weekly Fitness Plan

  7. says

    @ Srdjan,

    I can also see the difference between now and when I was growing up. I agree that technology has a lot to do with it. Youngsters still have more opportunities to be active than adults, though, so hopefully the trend doesn’t continue.

    @ Niko,

    Good point. I know I was definitely more active as a kid because my dad got me into soccer. Adults need to shoulder a lot of the responsibility, especially for younger children.

  8. says

    Hey Alykhan, it is sad to know that a lot of teenagers are getting overweight. At this stage, there are still growing so there should not be a reason to be obese at this age. But, you’re right that the solution remains that same as those for adults.

    Parents definitely need to be more conscious of what they feed their kids and get educated on this topic. Nutrition not only affects their children’s health but also their energy levels and academic performance.

    I’m glad you bring awareness to this topic with this post.

    Anna D.
    Anna Dornier´s last blog post ..Never Let Go: A Philosophy of Lifting, Living, and Learning

  9. says

    @ Kelly,

    It’s kind of crazy that parents these days actually need to enforce physical activity, but it’s great that you are taking responsibility for your kids’ well-being. I guess that’s just the society we live in today.

    @ Anna,

    I agree that there is no reason for teens to be obese at such a young age. They should be out and about burning plenty of calories, but unfortunately that’s not the case. We can only hope the trend does not continue because on top of the immediate effects of teen obesity, there are also much more severe consequences a few years down the road.

  10. says

    It is quite shocking how these kids look nowadays. I work as a part time lifeguard sometimes and see the state of these kids physiques. The boys have massive breasts and have the figure of women.

    I honestly don’t know how parents can allow this to happen to their kids. The majority of the time they are responsible for what goes in their mouths and if you can see that it is having such negative consequences I don’t know these parents don’t do anything about it.

    Btw not sure what football team you support but Man Utd are back on top woohoo.
    Michael @ somebodylied.com´s last blog post ..Reverse Pyramid Training Using A 3 Day Workout Split

  11. says

    @ Michael,

    For younger kids, in particular, I agree the parents are responsible. A lot of the time, they are overweight themselves so it’s not too surprising that they let this happen. When they take it on themselves to make positive lifestyle changes, these changes will often translate to the rest of the family.

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