Teenager Wants to Lose More Weight

Our expert advises a teenager to try exercise, rather than dieting.
I am a 16-year-old girl who has lost about 25 pounds in the last 4 months. I am 5 feet 9 inches tall and I now weigh 135 pounds. I've been overweight my entire life until now. I still have a small amount of fat on my lower stomach by my belly button and I have love handles that will not go away! Do I need to lose more weight?
Congratulations on getting your weight under control. It is very difficult for people who have been overweight for a long time to successfully shed pounds and keep them off, so you should be proud of yourself. The important thing now is to make sure you have healthful eating habits and appropriate exercise routines.

You do not need to lose more weight. A weight of only 135 pounds is actually at the low end of the range for someone as tall as you are. A healthy range for someone 5 feet 9 inches tall is 130 to 160 pounds, depending on bone structure, muscle mass, body type, etc.

It's common for people who have lost a lot of weight to have areas of "flab" left over. You can help to tone and tighten this "flab" by doing specific exercises that focus on the various abdominal muscles. Losing more weight will not take care of it. A physical therapist or a trainer should be able to help you determine what types of exercise would be best.

I realize that the images presented to girls in our culture may make you think you should have an absolutely flat stomach with no visible fat on your body, but that is not a realistic nor even a healthy way to think. Some young women get caught up in thinking that they should do anything possible to look thin, and this can unfortunately lead to eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

Exercising regularly (four to five times per week) is probably the most important thing that you can do to maintain a healthy weight that you will feel comfortable with.

You should also look at your eating habits and make sure that your diet provides you with the proper nutrition while not giving you extra calories that your body doesn't need. Make sure you get good amounts of calcium, protein, B vitamins, folate, and iron, which are very important at your age.

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

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