What is Teen Obesity?

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  • Written By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 14 February 2019
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Teen obesity refers to the problem of very overweight teenagers. Obesity for a teenager occurs when his or her body mass index (BMI) is more than 95 percent greater as compared to other teenagers of the same gender and age. A 15-year-old girl who is 5 feet, 4 inches (about 1.6 meters) tall would be obese once she hit 169 pounds (about 77 kilograms). A 15-year-old boy who is 5 feet, 8 inches tall (about 1.7 meters) would be obese at 179 pounds (about 81 kilograms).

The term "obese" is commonly used by doctors when a person's weight can negatively affect their health. Obesity can be caused by genetics and habits such as eating unhealthy food and not getting enough exercise. Consuming more calories than are burned results in an excess fat stored in the body.

Many health experts believe that teen obesity has become a serious problem. Seventeen percent of adolescents between ages 12 and 19 had a BMI of 95 percent or greater in 2006, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). There are even more overweight teens — teenagers with a BMI at or greater than 85 percent. The same data reports that 34 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds were overweight in 2006.


Teen obesity can lead to several health problems. Obese teens are at greater risk for developing health complications such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If they remain obese into adulthood, these teens can also increase their chances of developing heart disease. Acquiring asthma, arthritis or sleep apnea is also more likely.

In addition, there can be many psychological effects of teen obesity. Some experts believe there is a strong link between obesity and self-identity. If obese teens are treated poorly or ignored by their peers, they may internalize those responses. This can lead to low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, and in the worst cases, suicidal ideation or behavior.

Health experts recommend several ways to curb teen obesity. The most common suggestions are eating balanced meals with enough fruit, vegetables and protein in addition to getting 60 minutes of exercise daily. Eating a good breakfast, watching portion sizes and avoiding empty calories in drinks such as soda can also help, according to some doctors.

Doctors typically suggest that teens avoid trying fad diets and instead learn how to make lifestyle changes. Some experts also recommend engaging the entire family in healthier habits to make the obese teen feel less alone. Parents can also avoid talking about healthy weight in terms of just "fat" and "thin" and instead relay that each person's ideal size is different.


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Post 4

@Subway11 - I think that sometimes kids become obese because they are dealing with really stressful events in their lives and that is the way it manifests itself. Moving and changing schools when you are in high school is devastating because this is the time that friends mean everything.

This happened to me. I moved from New Jersey, where I was born and raised, to Florida when I was 16. I started my junior year in high school at a new school in a new part of the country and not only was I in culture shock, but I really missed my friends.

I gained a few pounds which were not enough to make me obese, but it did

effect my weight. I also think that a divorce or a death of a family member could really put a teenager at risk for obesity if they use food as their major source of comfort.

These are difficult issues of adults to handle and compound that with all of the issues that teens are experiencing and you can just imagine the level of stress that the teen is under.

Post 3

@Moldova -I know what you are saying but sometimes the obesity could be a result of a medical problem. There are teens that are obese that have problems with their thyroid and are unable to lose weight.

In fact, my sister has this problem and she had to get medication in order to jump start her metabolism so that she could lose weight. If you have this condition you are also tired and lethargic all the time so you are not going to go out and exercise either.

After my sister got on medication, she was able to exercise daily and avoided sugary foods which her doctor told her would lower her metabolic rate. I know that this

is a small percentage of teens that have this type of problem, but it does exist.

I also think that certain medications lead to weight gain because they increase your appetite. I think you really have to look at each teen differently because there are a number of reasons why they could be obese.

Post 2

It is really sad when teens are obese because this is a difficult time period in their lives already and to have to be saddled with the problems of being obese as well is probably overwhelming.

Some kids this age can be cruel and many obese teens have limited social lives because a lot of them get excluded from activities. I think that this leads to depression and a lot of kids seek food for comfort. Being a teenager is hard because you are really looking for acceptance and you feel that the rejection will last forever.

I think that many of these kids developed poor eating habits over the years and it eventually led to the

obesity problem, but I think that in order for these teens to lose weight they really need to understand why they overeat.

Some people overeat out of habit and others are more emotional eaters. I think that attending a support group for overweight people that addresses healthy eating options should help because here these teens will see that other people also have the same problems that they have and everyone is learning new ways to cope with it.

Post 1

I wanted to add that I think that a huge part of the problem is the lack of exercise. Many schools have cut or limited their physical education classes and many of these kids come home and get on their computer or play video games.

This is really different than when I was a kid. Everyone I knew was active and on a squad or played sports at school. While there are still active kids out there a growing number are not.

Today we are really starting to see the effects of living a sedentary lifestyle as a kid. A lot of these kids just need daily exercise and their weight problem will go away. We really

should make physical education mandatory in schools because not only does it help kids maintain their weight it also helps them focus more.

In fact, I read that in Japan they start their school day with physical education and their nation not only does well in standardized testing but they also have the lowest incidents of obesity. I read that the percentage of American teens that are obese if about 17%, but in Japan that figure is closer to 3%.

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