Overweight Teens Share Success Tips, New Study

teen weight lossAre you an overweight teen determined to not only lose excess weight, but keep it off? If so, you’ll want to know about a new study that takes a close look at how other teens did just that and what really motivated them to succeed.

The study

For this study, university researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 40 overweight teens enrolled in the Adolescent Weight Control Registry, a national program that tracks long-term weight loss in teens. In this group, about half of the teens lost between 10 and 30 pounds, while the others lost 30 pounds or more. More importantly, all of them successfully maintained a healthy weight for at least a year.

When asked WHY they wanted to lose weight, almost all of the teens – 38 out of the 40 – said they were internally motivated. A few said they wanted to lose weight to look better or fit in with peers. But overwhelmingly, the teens took action because they wanted to be healthier and have more self confidence for themselves, not for their parents, friends, coaches, teachers or other people.

When asked HOW they lost weight, most of the teens said they improved three specific behaviors: eating better, becoming more active and getting outside support. They were also energized by positive support from family and friends. Most importantly, they took one day at a time, adjusting along the way. Here’s the breakdown:

1. Aim for diet progress, not perfection

When it came to making dietary changes, most of the teens understood they couldn’t completely eliminate unhealthy foods. Instead, they aimed for progress, not perfection. They cut back on the amount of junk food they ate. “I ate more fruits and vegetables; I tried to cut out a lot of cheese and butter, sugar, stuff like that,” said one teen. They focused on controlling food portions and eating some foods in moderation. “I still have ice cream, cake and brownies,” said another teen, “I just have smaller portions of it and only eat it every once in a while and I feel fine.” Others said they brought lunch to school, limited fast food intake and bought healthier versions of old favorites.

2. Choose an activity you enjoy

Most of the teens reported increasing their physical activity, making it part of their regular routine. “Do something you love to do, don’t force yourself,” said one teen. Some participated in structured activities such as school sports, dance classes, or aerobic fitness classes. Others trained for the next community race. Still others opted to walk more instead of drive to places.

3. Don’t go it alone

Most of the teens reported using some type of outside support. For example, they had help from their doctors or dietitians. They enrolled in a school- or community-based program. They took nutrition classes or joined an online support group.

4. Take one day at a time

Most of the teens recognized that their road to a healthy weight required plenty of adjustments along the way. One teen summed up the challenge beautifully:

‘‘You’re going to have a bad day or a bad week or say you even go off for a whole month, you know. But that doesn’t mean you stop. You just get back on the next day. And you keep trying until it becomes more of a habit. You just always need to remind yourself that tomorrow’s another day.’’

5. Encourage friends and family to support you

Most of the teens said that supportive friends and family were critical to their success. The key work here is SUPPORTIVE. Negative influences from friends and family made it even harder for the teens to maintain their momentum. So ask your family and friends to support you. There are lots of ways to do this. Get rid of junk food. Prepare healthier meals. Join in on activities. Compliment positive changes. Even a simple text message can do wonders when done right (learn more at our post, Overweight Teens & Inspiring Text Messages).

If you’re ready to join the ranks of overweight teens who have lost 10, 20, 30 or more pounds … and kept it off … do as they do. For motivation that is sure to propel you toward success, look to yourself rather than to others. Find YOUR reason why and listen to your inner cheerleader. Then, take action, one day at a time.

Nutrition Nugget

Don’t forget to take a complete multivitamin every day to help fill any potential nutrient gaps between your diet and what your body needs.

Here’s to your success!

Kathleen Dunn, MPH, RD
Co-author of Eating for A’s

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PS – Teens, we’re here to help you on your quest to be the best you. If you have any questions or need additional information, just drop us a note and join us on Facebook. Take it one day at a time. Soon you’ll reach your goal.  Work hard, play hard, study hard, and have fun! Good luck, the EatingFor Team is cheering you on!