Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Lose Weight?
“BEING fat is the single most horrible thing that could happen in a teenage boy’s life.” So lamented a teenage boy named Judd. If you are overweight, you may know just how he feels.
However, excess body fat can do you far more harm than simply detracting from your appearance. Obesity can put you at risk for a host of health hazards—joint problems, respiratory ailments, and diabetes, as well as killers such as heart disease and colon cancer that can afflict you later in life.a
Of course, if you are a bit on the stout side, this does not necessarily mean you need to lose weight. Some of us have simply inherited a stocky build; we look heavier than we’d prefer even at our ideal weight.b But if your doctor has determined that you have more body fat than is healthy, a number of other factors may be involved. Says the book The Healthy Adolescent: “Malfunction of endocrine glands such as the pancreas, thyroid, and adrenals has . . . been associated with obesity in some people.”
In many cases, obesity is simply the result of poor nutritional habits and a lack of exercise. Young Judd recalls: “Since my mother had to go to work to support us, my brother and I . . . fed ourselves. We ate packs of candy bars, washing them down with two-liter bottles of [soda].” Sound familiar?
For other youths, though, eating is not so much about hunger as it is about satisfying a need for nurturing and comfort. Such youths may overeat in a misguided attempt to alleviate stress, such as parental divorce, the death of a loved one, or some other trauma.
The problem of overeating is often aggravated by a lack of exercise. A Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders and Obesity observes: “Television not only requires physical inactivity, but its program content and advertisements also promote eating . . . and eating . . . and more eating.”
The Snare of Starvation Dieting
Some claim that 1 out of every 4 Americans is on a diet of some sort. Yet, over 90 percent of the people who lose weight by dieting gain it back. What goes wrong?
Your body is like a furnace; your brain is the thermostat. When you eat, your metabolism burns the food to release its energy. When more fuel is taken in than the body needs, it is stored as fat. Now, if you starve yourself to shed pounds, you will lose weight—initially. But your body quickly shifts into ‘crisis mode’ and lowers your thermostat by slowing down your metabolism. You begin gaining weight again, even on a starvation diet, and much of what you eat is stored as fat. You gain back every pound you lost and then some. In frustration, you go on another diet. But the more you lose—the more you gain.
So you can see why diet gimmicks simply do not work. Diet pills may curb your appetite for a while, but the body quickly adjusts to them and your appetite returns. Or your metabolism slows down and you gain weight anyway. Not to mention the side effects some have experienced, such as dizziness, high blood pressure, anxiety attacks, and addiction. The same can be said for pills that eliminate water or that speed up your metabolism. Dr. Lawrence Lamb bluntly puts it this way: “There is no such thing as a safe, effective pill to cause you to lose body fat.”
As a young person, your body needs a fairly hefty dose of calories and nutrients every day. A starvation diet can literally stunt your growth. Consider, too, what the Bible says about King Saul at 1 Samuel 28:20: “There happened to be no power in him, because he had not eaten food the whole day and the whole night.” Similarly, according to one physician, youths who try to starve themselves can suffer “fatigue, . . . depression, chilliness, poorer performance in school, constipation, anxiety, amenorrhea [abnormal suppression or absence of menstruation], and mental sluggishness.”
Safe Weight Loss
The safe way to lose weight begins with a thorough checkup by your family physician. He can check for any health problems that might defeat a simple diet plan. He can also help you set a reasonable weight-loss goal and plan a strategy to meet that goal within a reasonable time frame.
The Bible says: “With a man there is nothing better than that he should eat and indeed drink and cause his soul to see good because of his hard work.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24) So a diet that deprives you of the joy of eating is not likely to work in the long run. Besides, it is overeating that the Bible condemns. (Proverbs 23:20, 21) Here, then, are a few suggestions to help you to be “moderate in habits” in your eating.—1 Timothy 3:11.
Don’t skip breakfast! “Hunger and a feeling of deprivation get the best of you,” warns The New Teenage Body Book. “You’ll tend to load up on food—and calories—late in the day.”
Drink a large glass of water before each meal. This will fill your stomach. Drinking adequate amounts of water also appears to play a role in reducing body-fat deposits. Doctors therefore recommend drinking at least eight glasses of water a day.
Don’t eat and watch TV. Says Dr. Seymour Isenberg: “If you are busy watching TV . . . , you [can] begin eating like a machine.”
Pray before you eat. Remember: “God created [foods] to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who have faith and accurately know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:3) Keeping in mind his close relationship to the Creator, the God-fearing youth will not want to indulge in overeating to the point of making himself sluggish in thought and action. Prayer can strengthen your resolve to eat moderately.
Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to signal the brain that it is full. Eating slowly will thus help you to “eat to satisfaction,” but no more!—Leviticus 25:19.
Find healthy alternatives to eating—especially if you have been in the habit of eating whenever you are bored, tense, lonely, or depressed. Talk to someone you trust. Go for a walk, or exercise. Work on a hobby. Listen to music. Better yet, try satisfying your spiritual appetite. (1 Peter 2:2) After all, food does not build faith. (Compare Hebrews 13:9.) But reading the Bible does, and this may help to keep your mind off your appetite.
Changing Your Diet and Your Life-Style
Changes may also have to be made in what you have been eating. The Mosaic Law prohibited the eating of fat. (Leviticus 3:16, 17) Although this was for religious reasons, avoiding fatty foods—such as cheeseburgers or foods fried in fat—makes good dietary sense. Sugary soft drinks and pastries are likewise low in nutrition and high in calories. And though a lot of salt on a lean piece of beef may taste great, it causes your body to retain water.
Most dietitians agree that enjoying a little of your favorite foods once in a while won’t hurt you. But if you really want to lose weight, you must develop a taste for healthier foods such as fruits, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables. “Eat a variety of foods to keep from getting bored,” recommends one dietitian. You don’t do the cooking in your family? Then talk to your mom and see if she can help. Really, the whole family will benefit if healthy changes are made in the daily menu.
While eating right is important, you will not shed pounds unless you turn up your brain’s “thermostat.” How? By engaging in moderate aerobic exercise for about 20 minutes at least three times a week. (1 Timothy 4:8) Something as simple as a brisk walk or stair climbing may suffice. Exercise helps you look leaner and trimmer no matter what your weight or body type. As it turns up your metabolic furnace, you burn calories, and you burn fat. Through exercise you can alter your body chemistry. You can increase your muscle mass, and muscles burn calories even when you’re sleeping!
With persistence and determination, you can win your battle against excess weight.c Granted, losing a few pounds will not solve all your problems, but you may look and feel better. You may even begin to feel better about yourself.
a About 80 percent of obese youths remain obese as adults.
b See “Young People Ask . . . Why Am I So Fat?” in the April 22, 1994, issue of Awake!
c Individuals with serious eating disorders may need professional help to cope with their distress.
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Exercise and balanced, nutritious meals are the key to safe weight loss