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How Can I Lose Weight Safely?

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

Finding a Healthy Weight

Being healthy is really about being at a weight that is right for you. The best way to find out if you are at a healthy weight or if you need to lose or gain weight is to talk to a doctor or dietitian, who can compare your weight with healthy norms to help you set realistic goals. If it turns out that you can benefit from weight loss, then you can follow a few of the simple suggestions listed below to get started.

Weight management is about long-term success. People who lose weight quickly by crash dieting or other extreme measures usually gain back all (and often more) of the pounds they lost because they haven't changed their habits in a healthy way that they can stick with.

Tips for Success

The best weight-management strategies are those that you can maintain for a lifetime. That's a long time, so we'll try to keep these suggestions as easy as possible!

Make it a family affair. Ask your mom or dad to lend help and support. The goal is to make diet or lifestyle changes that will benefit the whole family. Teens who have the support of their families tend to have better results.

Watch your drinks. It's amazing how many calories are in the sodas, juices, and other drinks that you take in every day. Simply cutting out a can of soda or one sports drink can save you 150 calories or more each day. Drink water or other sugar-free drinks to quench your thirst and stay away from sugary juices and sodas. Choosing nonfat or low-fat milk is also a good idea.

Start small. Small changes are a lot easier to stick with than drastic ones. For example, give up regular soda or reduce the size of the portions you eat. When you have that down, you can make other changes, like introducing healthier foods and exercise into your life.

Stop eating when you're full. Pay attention as you eat and stop when you're comfortably full. Eating more slowly can help because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that you are full. Sometimes taking a break before going for seconds can keep you from eating another serving.

Try not to eat when you feel upset or bored — find something else to do instead (a walk around the block or a trip to the gym are good alternatives). Many people find it's helpful to keep a diary of what they eat and when and what they are feeling. When you have to write it down, you might think twice before eating cookies. Reviewing the diary later can also help them identify the emotions they have when they overeat.

Schedule regular meals and snacks. You can better manage your hunger when you have a predictable meal schedule. Skipping meals may lead to overeating at the next meal. Adding 1 or 2 healthy snacks to your three squares can help curb hunger.

5 a day keep the pounds away. Ditch the junk food and dig out the fruits and veggies! Five servings of fruits and veggies aren't just a good idea to help you lose weight — they'll help you feel full and keep your heart and the rest of your body healthy. Other suggestions for eating well:

  • choose whole-wheat bread and other whole grains, like brown rice and oatmeal
  • eat a healthy breakfast
  • keep portions under control

More Tips

Avoid fad diets. It's never a good idea to trade meals for shakes or to give up a food group in the hope that you'll lose weight — we all need a variety of foods to get the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Avoid diet pills (even the over-the-counter or herbal variety). They can be dangerous to your health; besides, there's no evidence that they help keep weight off over the long term.

Don't banish certain foods. Don't tell yourself you'll never again eat your absolutely favorite peanut butter chocolate ice cream. Making all treats forbidden is sure to make you want them even more. The key to long-term success is making healthy choices most of the time. If you want a piece of cake at a party, go for it! But munch on the carrots rather than the chips to balance it out.

Get moving. You may find that you don't need to cut calories as much as you need to get off your behind. Don't get stuck thinking you have to play a team sport or take an aerobics class to get exercise. Try a variety of activities from hiking to cycling to dancing until you find ones you like.

Not a jock? Find other ways to fit activity into your day: walk to school, jog up and down the stairs a couple of times before your morning shower, turn off the tube and help your parents in the garden, or take a stroll past your crush's house — anything that gets you moving. Your goal should be to work up to 60 minutes of exercise every day. But everyone has to begin somewhere. It's fine to start out by simply taking a few turns around the block after school and building up your levels of fitness gradually.

Build muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat. So adding strength training to your exercise routine can help you reach your weight loss goals as well as give you a toned bod. And weights are not the only way to go: Try resistance bands, pilates, or push-ups to get strong. A good, well-balanced fitness routine includes aerobic workouts, strength training, and flexibility exercises.

Forgive yourself. So you were going to have one cracker with spray cheese on it and the next thing you know the can's pumping air and the box is empty? Drink some water, brush your teeth, and move on. Everyone who's ever tried to lose weight has found it challenging. When you slip up, the best idea is to get right back on track and don't look back.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: June 2018