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If you need to lose weight

Photo of a teenage girl deciding what to eat.

Lots of people need to lose some weight. If your doctor tells you that you are overweight or obese, it's important that you try to lose weight. You can ask your doctor and perhaps a dietitian about ways to lose weight. It can be a bit harder for some people to lose weight because of their genes or because of things around them, such as the food choices in their house. But with the right support and a good plan, you can get to a healthy weight. Learn more about losing weight:

Great ways to lose weight arrow top

You don't need a special diet like a low-carb or high-protein diet to lose weight. The best way to lose weight is to get the right mix of nutrients and energy your body needs. Here are some tips for losing weight in a healthy way:

  • Follow a food guide. It can be hard to know which foods to choose. Our MyPlate guide can be a big help. It will encourage you to eat whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. These foods are full of fiber, which can help you feel full. And keeping a record can help, so try this cool ChooseMyPlate tracking tool.
  • Cut back on fats. You need some fat, but even small amounts of fats have lots of calories. Read labels to see how much fat a food has. And try to cut back on fried foods and on meats that are high in fat, such as burgers.
  • Eat fewer sweets and unhealthy snacks. Candy, cookies, and cakes often have a lot of sugar and fat and not many nutrients. Learn about treats that are delicious and nutritious.
  • Avoid sugary drinks. Try not to drink a lot of sugary sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks. They can add a lot of calories. (There are about 10 packets of sugar in 12 ounces of soda.) Also try not to drink a lot of fruit juice. Water is a great choice instead. Add a piece of lemon or a splash of juice for more flavor.
  • Get enough sleep at night. Many teens stay up too late. Staying up late often increases night-time snacking and low energy the next morning (which you might be tempted to beat with some extra food).
  • Limit fast food meals. Studies show that the more fast food you eat each week, the greater the risk of gaining extra weight. So try to limit fast food meals to once a week or less.
  • Tackle hunger with fiber and protein. Don't wait until you are so hungry that it gets hard to make smart food choices. Instead, when you start to feel hungry, eat a small snack that combines a protein with a food that's high in fiber, such as a whole-grain cracker with low-fat cheese. These are filling but not packed with calories.
  • Be aware of how much you are eating. If you're not sure how much is considered one serving, you can learn how to read labels. You also may eat less if you use a smaller plate. Try not to eat straight from a big package of food — it's easy to lose track that way. And if you're at a restaurant, see if you can take home some leftovers.
  • Think about why you are eating. Sometimes we eat to fill needs other than hunger, such as being bored, stressed, or lonely. If you do that, see if you can think of some other ways to meet those needs. Consider calling a friend or listening to some great music. And if think you may be having emotional problems, talk to an adult you trust.
  • Get moving. One great way to lose weight is by being physically active. You should aim for a total of 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity each day. If you haven't been active in a while, start slowly. For more information, check out the Fitness section of girlshealth.gov.
  • Cut down on sitting around. This means less TV, Internet, and other forms of screen time. Instead, aim for your "hour a day of active play."

Bullying and weight

Kids get bullied for lots of reasons, including being overweight. Bullying is never okay, and you can learn more about how to deal with it.

Remember that losing weight is about making healthy changes in your life that you can stick with — and not just a one-time diet. 

How not to lose weightarrow top

It can be tempting to look for a quick fix if you need to lose weight. Remember, though, that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Avoid fad diets. Fad diets often allow only a few types of food. That means you are not getting all the nutrients you need. And these diets may cause you to lose weight for a short time, but then you likely will gain it back quickly. Learn more about fad diets.
  • Avoid weight-loss pills and other quick-loss products. Most weight-loss pills, drinks, supplements, and other products you can buy without a prescription have not been shown to work. And they can actually be very dangerous. If you are thinking about taking weight-loss pills or similar products, talk to your doctor first.
  • Don't eat too little. Your body needs fuel to grow and be healthy. If you eat fewer than 1,600 calories each day, you may not get the nutrients you need. And don't skip breakfast. Some research suggests that teens who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight.
  • Don't try to get rid of food you eat. Some people think they can lose weight by making themselves vomit or taking laxatives (pills that make you go to the bathroom). These are very dangerous steps and signs of eating disorders. Your body is too precious to treat this way, so get help if you think you may have an eating disorder.
  • Don't expect to lose weight quickly. Losing about one to two pounds a week is a healthy rate of weight loss. If you are taking extreme steps to lose weight faster, you will probably gain most or all of it back.

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Your emotions and your weight

It can be tough to need to lose weight. At times, you may feel frustrated, angry, and other emotions. That's normal. You can read more about dealing with feelings when you're overweight. While you're working to lose weight, remember to congratulate yourself for any successes. And forgive yourself for any setbacks. Also, try to appreciate your body for where it is right now. Chances are it looks good in lots of ways, and it probably does some pretty amazing things!

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Content last reviewed November 05, 2013
Page last updated January 13, 2014

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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