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Teens Lose More Weight Using Healthy Strategies

FRIDAY Dec. 4, 2009 -- Increased exercise, reduced soda consumption and self-weighing are among the most effective weight control strategies for adolescents, a new study shows.

Researchers surveyed 130 adolescents about their weight-control strategies and lifestyle habits. Sixty-two had succeeded in losing weight and 68 had not. The responses were grouped into four categories:

  • Healthy weight control behaviors, which included eating fewer calories, increasing exercise, eating less high fat and junk food, drinking less soda, drinking more water, weighing oneself, eating more fruits and vegetables and doing different types of exercise.
  • Unhealthy weight control behaviors, which included laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, smoking and fasting.
  • Extreme dietary changes, which included use of liquid diet supplements, the Atkins diet, a structured diet, fasting and increasing protein consumption.
  • Structured behaviors, which included eating a certain amount of calories, counting calories, recording food intake and working with a professional.

Overall, a higher percentage of participants who lost weight used six or more of the healthy weight control behaviors, compared to those who didn't lose weight. A minority of adolescents who lost weight reported using any of the structured weight control behaviors or extreme dietary changes.

"First of all, our findings provide a glimpse of optimism that adolescents can lose a significant amount of weight and maintain this weight loss," wrote Kerri Boutelle, of the departments of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, and colleagues.

"Second, our findings suggest that there are no magical solutions, and that behaviors such as eating more fruits and vegetables and eating less fat and decreasing sedentary time seem to offer the most promise for success... Self-weighing may be a helpful monitoring tool for overweight adolescents; in the current study, the largest percentage of adolescents who lost weight reported weighing themselves on a weekly basis, while the largest percentage of adolescents who did not lose weight reported weighing themselves less than monthly. Lastly, unhealthy weight control behaviors were not associated with being in the group that lost weight. Adolescents would benefit from hearing this information from dietitians and other health care providers to prevent development of unhealthy weight control behaviors. Findings from the current study have the potential to guide both future research studies and clinical interventions on obesity in adolescents."

The study appears in the December issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers weight control tips for teens.

Posted: December 2009


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