How to Lose Weight Safely for Teens

By Nathan Fisher
Because of concerns over their appearance, teens sometimes try too hard to lose weight.
Because of concerns over their appearance, teens sometimes try too hard to lose weight.

Late-night infomercial spiels, fad diets, special meal plans and extreme exercise routines might lead to weight loss, but many weight-loss programs take a physical and psychological toll, and weight gain often is inevitable once the faddish weight-loss efforts are discontinued. The only way for teens to lose weight safely is through a series of steps that will allow your teen to shed excess pounds naturally.

Help your teen modify her behavior. Before any lasting result can occur, the behavior that led to your teens weight gain must be corrected, including poor dietary choices and lack of exercise.

Teach your teen to make healthful food choices. Most processed snack foods are high in simple, or “bad,” carbohydrates. Foods full of simple carbohydrates, such as cookies and crackers, digest quickly and lead to surges in blood sugar levels, which in turn cause cravings when blood sugar levels drop suddenly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that food composed of complex, or “good” carbohydrates, such as whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, digest more slowly and therefore do not cause blood sugar levels to bounce around. Choosing foods with complex carbohydrates is particularly important in the evening, when your teen is less active and not burning calories from activity, and especially for a bedtime snack.

Work out a meal plan with your teen that has her eating smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day. While much discussion has centered on the thermic effect of food, which is the portion of the energy, or calories, in each meal used for digestion, increasing weight loss, the theory is not universally accepted. However, eating smaller portions more often throughout the day does help maintain blood sugar at a more constant level, preventing cravings that often lead to binge-eating. Remember that for your teen to lose weight safely, smaller meals must be planed carefully so that she is still receiving the needed nutrition.

Encourage regular exercise. Have your teen walk or ride a bicycle to school, her friend’s house or the store. Resistance exercises, such as weight-training, not only helps to burn calories while preforming the exercise, it also increases muscle mass, which will help your teen burn more calories even while she is sleeping.

Help your teen chose enjoyable exercises. Activities that will promote weight loss don't have to be strenuous and boring. The exercises that will help your teen drop the pounds most effectively are the ones she will enjoy doing, every day. Get one of her friends involved or do something with you teen yourself. Yoga or kickboxing classes a few times a week are options, or just go for a walk or ride bikes in the park after school and work.

Look at the numbers. The safest, and least painful way, for your teen to lose weight is through a combination of reducing the amount of calories she consumes while also raising her calorie expenditure by increasing her daily activity. For example, for your teen to lose 1 pound of body fat, she must create a deficit of 3,500 calories. This would mean reducing her caloric intake by 250 calories a day, which is the approximate equivalent of two slices of bread, and burning an additional 250 calories per day through exercise, such as walking for one hour at brisk pace -- approximately 3 1/2 miles per hour, according to the Weight-control Information Network, a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Encourage your teen to set realistic, and safe, weight-loss goals. While she might be impatient to see results, dropping just 1 pound per week will add up to nearly 13 pounds in just three months, and losing weight faster than 5 pounds per week can lead to health issues, such as fatigue and loss of lean muscle mass.


Improper weightlifting techniques can damage the growth plates in the bones of teens, preventing them from reaching their full growth potential. For safety, consult a professional before allowing your teen begin a weight-training program.