Are you thinking about going on a diet to lose weight? After all, it seems you can’t open any magazine without reading about the latest fad diet — whether low-carb, low-fat, or low-calorie.
The reality is, diets are like fashions. They come and go; some work, some don’t. And while many teens lose weight on diets, not so many keep the weight off.
Studies show that approximately 95% of people who go on weight loss diets will gain all or some of the weight back within the first 5 years. In fact, some studies have found that after a period of 5 years, most diet programs are unsuccessful in terms of keeping the weight off.
In the past five years, research has shed light on the impact of strict diets on weight loss, and the findings have consistently held true: diets alone don’t work. Sure, these diets can help you lose weight at first. Yet for most teens, a lot of this loss is muscle — not fat. And lean muscle (as opposed to body fat) is what helps burn calories.
The more muscle mass your body has, the more calories you burn all day, even while you are sitting around studying or surfing the Internet.
So, How Do I Lose Weight?
The best way to maintain or reach an ideal weight is to burn more calories than you take in. That means increasing activity and decreasing calorie intake — but not severely.
The safest, most effective diet for weight loss is a healthful, balanced one including:
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Low-fat dairy products.
- Whole grains.
- Lean protein such as chicken and fish.
- Healthy oils, in moderate amounts.
Cutting out junk food, sugary sodas, and sweet, undiluted fruit drinks from your diet is an easy way to lose weight over time. For example, cutting out 10 potato chips a day saves 100 calories. Over a year, giving up those chips would translate into 10 pounds of extra fat lost.
Likewise, adding 20 minutes more of exercise (such as aerobic dancing, walking, jogging, biking, rowing, or swimming) to your current routine will burn an average of 100 calories of fat a day. Over a year’s time, that extra 20 minutes of exercise should allow you to lose 10 pounds.
Portion control is also important when you’re trying to lose weight. One problem many overweight teens have is that they underestimate how much they really eat. So stop super-sizing, and learn what a healthy portion looks like.
It may also help to eat more frequently. Six small meals per day appears to be one of the best approaches to eating, especially when you’re trying to lose weight. Just remember these mini meals need to be small.
If you feel you are overweight, talk to your primary health care provider or a registered dietitian. There are plenty of medically supervised diets that work well for teens who need to lose more than 10 pounds. Just be sure to include exercise, or you’ll find that the weight comes back as easily as it left you.
Healthy Habits for Weight Loss
There are several habits that serve as healthy ways to lose weight. They include:
1. Eat breakfast.
Breakfast helps give you staying power throughout your day, and can even increase school performance. Studies show that eating breakfast may help keep you from binging later in the day. No need to eat a lot — fruit and cereal or an energy bar and some milk is all you need to get going. If you’re running late, just munch as you walk to class.
2. Don’t skip meals to “save” calories. You’ll likely make up for the skipped meals by snacking later on junk foods, which are high in calories, sugar, and trans fats (harmful fats found in many commercial snacks).Some recent findings show that junk foods make up nearly one-third of the total calories in the typical American diet. Remember, several small meals spread out through the day is a great approach.
3. Eat more lean protein to control your appetite. Go for low-fat dairy; eggs; skinless chicken and turkey; fish; lean cuts of beef, pork, and veal; legumes; soy foods; and nuts and seeds. Avoid animal foods that are high in saturated fats (such as fatty cuts of beef and high-fat dairy).
4. Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans (including soy). Studies show that these plant-based disease-fighters make up only 10% of the calories in the American diet. Plant-based foods are high in water and fiber and essential vitamins and antioxidants, yet very low in calories. Diets high in plant-based foods play a key role in the prevention of diseases, including obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.