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Learning About How Weight Issues Affect Teens

What's best for you?

A healthy weight requires getting enough, but not too many, calories through the day. You need a certain number of calories to fuel your activities and body needs. If you get more calories than your body uses, it stores them as fat.

The number of calories you need is unique to your body and lifestyle. Girls need fewer calories than boys. If you're active or play sports, you need more calories than if you don't move around much. In general, girls who are moderately active need about 2,000 calories a day, and moderately active boys need 2,400 to 2,800 calories a day.

The kinds of calories you eat are important for a healthy body. You get vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, milk, cheese, meats, and fish. Sweets like candy, soda pop, and cookies give you lots of calories but few nutrients.

And calories can really add up before you know it. Fast food is a good example. A large order of french fries can have 600 calories or more. So one meal with fries, a large burger, and a large soda might add up to a whole day's worth of calories.

Is your weight affecting your self-esteem?

Your weight can affect the way you feel about yourself. Many teens are unhappy with their bodies because they aren't as thin as people they admire. Overweight teens are often bullied or teased. This can make them feel isolated and depressed and have low self-esteem. Some teens then use food to soothe their emotions.

Your self-esteem is your core belief about yourself. But how much you weigh doesn't define who you are. What's more important is being healthy and having lots of energy for all the activities you want to do, like being in theatre, playing music, volunteering for community service, or playing sports.

How can you focus on your health?

The best way to reach a healthy weight is to be active and eat healthy foods. When you're active and eating well, your body will settle into a weight that is healthy for you.

  • Talk it over with your family. Ask them to make a plan to eat healthy and exercise with you. Start by making small changes and setting some goals. Get cookbooks with healthy recipes from the library. Talk about ways you can be active together.
  • Eat healthy foods. Try whole grains, such as whole wheat breads and pastas. Have lots of fruits and vegetables. Eat dairy products, such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. Have lean proteins, such as all types of fish, chicken without the skin, and beans. Drink water instead of sodas or fruit drinks.
  • Make your snacks healthy too. Keep healthy snacks with you at school or work, in your car, and at home. Try fruit, low-fat yogurt, string cheese, low-fat microwave popcorn, raisins and other dried fruit, nuts, whole wheat crackers, pretzels, carrots, celery sticks, and broccoli.
  • Exercise every day. Try to be active for at least 1 hour every day. A brisk walk, run, or swim will get your heart beating faster. So will shooting baskets, playing soccer, in-line skating, or climbing stairs.
  • Don't diet. Diets are temporary. Because you give up so much when you diet, you may be hungry and think about food all the time. And after you stop dieting, you also may overeat to make up for what you missed. Most teens who diet end up gaining back the kilograms they lost—and more.

Where can you learn more?

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