Healthy Weight 



  Overeating is a habit.

Many kids ask, "How do I lose weight?"  The answer really is eating in moderation.  But if it is that simple, why do kids struggle so much?  What you eat is a habit.  It can be a lifelong habit.  You may have started overeating when you were just an infant.  Parents frequently use food as a way to soothe an infant ("Give her a bottle if she cries!").  Many parents continue to use food to comfort a child, or as rewards.  For example, if a child gets bullied at school, "Here's an ice cream cone to make you feel better.",  or  "If you are good, I will buy you a doughnut!"  Parents can easily overdo this, and the child becomes hooked on being comforted and rewarded by rich food.  Or kids themselves may seek comfort in food at any age and become hooked.  The amount you eat is also a habit.  If you typically receive large portion sizes in your family, as well as second or third helpings, then that becomes a habit as well.  Breaking a lifelong habit takes time and real determination, but it can be done, little by little.

  Do you find comfort in food?

A poll on our site shows that overweight kids eat for reasons other than hunger, such as for entertainment, and to comfort themselves from stress, depression, loneliness, rejection, and boredom. 

Age 13, female, 5'7", 223 lb.: "Everyone I know practically soothes emotions with food!"

If you find comfort in food, losing weight can be particularly hard.  You reach for the fridge or a bag of chips every time you have a bad day, or you are bored, or you are just depressed or stressed out for no real reason.  Some of us are stressed, depressed, or bored a lot of the time, so if pleasurable food is in front of us we typically eat it, not because we are hungry, but to make ourselves feel better emotionally.  This is what is called being a comfort eater or emotional eater.  Food companies are very aware that pleasurable food is comforting, and they advertise this and use slogans.  Fast food companies make sure that their food tastes great, so that it is comforting (numbs bad feelings).  In the short video clip at right a fast food magazine editor says, "...a lot of fast food's success is about the  comfort food level of it."  Fast food places have even been described as, "Drive through pain treatment".  Fast food drive-through windows are now open 24 hours a day, just like an ER. 

When we are particularly unhappy, we also may binge on food (eat a whole lot) to comfort ourselves, and then feel guilty afterwards.  Keeping a food-feeling diary can help.  Write down what you feel before, during, and after you eat something.

We eat to comfort ourselves until our stomach becomes overfull (stuffed) and we feel uncomfortable.  That is why filling up on water before eating and eating foods high in fiber helps.  Fiber fills your stomach up but does not make you gain weight.  Foods high in fiber include whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables.  Stomach stapling surgery makes the stomach very small, so that the uncomfortable stuffed feeling occurs after eating only small amounts of food, thus resulting in weight loss.  But stomach stapling surgery has high risks.

  Vicious circle of overeating.

Pleasurable food does comfort the pains of life, but only briefly.  Once the food is gone, the pains of life come back.  And you get into a vicious circle of feeling worse about yourself, and more rejection, so you overeat more for comfort, gain more weight, and so on...

From Brianna, Age 14 - 5/2/07 - Ht. 5'6", Start: 171 lb, Current: 171 lb, Goal: 120 lb - This is my first time here having to to write my wieght was very hard for I have very felt self confident until now I don't even like shopping any more. Every time I'm stressed I eat and my weight is making me stressed...

In order to lose weight and keep it off, you must break this vicious circle by substituting other comforting things for the comfort that food gives you (see below).

  Food addiction and "detox-withdrawal"

When kids and teens overeat and become overweight, they do not overeat non-fattening foods like fruits and vegetables or even dry toast... they overeat pleasurable high-fat, high-sugar foods like soda pop, ice cream, pizza, doughnuts, candy, etc. ("junk food").   It is the pleasure of eating that they are hooked on.  Food can actually be used like a drug to prevent oneself from ever feeling bad, just like a drug addiction.  Even though eating such foods does make you feel better briefly, it has the bad side effect that you become overweight, which can cause serious health problems and hurts your self-esteem.

Age 14, female, 5’, 178 lb.: “its so hard cuz its like an addiction. . i mean its not like crack or anything but its almost as hard to quit and it can kill u just as sure, slowly. ;.that's wat i think about when i want junk food or fast food. ”

All of us like the taste of rich food, and we may over-indulge at times.  But if you find yourself unable to resist rich food, even when you know it is causing you to be overweight, then you are likely using food to keep yourself from feeling unhappy or stressed.  You eat even when you know that you are not hungry, you feel guilty afterwards, and you feel that you can not control it.  

When you try to change a lifelong habit of eating for comfort, you will feel "antsy", nervous, and irritable, and have intense cravings for a certain period of time, although usually only about 2 weeks, until your body gets used to being off the large amounts of rich food.  It is similar to coming off a drug, which is called "withdrawal" or "detox", but it will get better.

From randi, Age 15 - Ht. 5'10", Start: 211 lb, Current: 209 lb, Goal: 150 lb - just to tell everyone if u can have enough self control and stay off the sugar for two weeks you stop craving sugar completly and some sugar free sweets that you might not have liked before taste really good

Taking it in baby steps is the way that works for most people.  Pick one thing you want to cut out, like soda, junk food, fast food, second helpings, or large portions.  Then stop the thing you picked.  Stop drinking soda or stop eating candy, TOTALLY.  Expect to feel antsy and have bad cravings for about two weeks, which will then disappear.  Then pick something else to cut out.  You will feel antsy and have cravings each time you cut something out, but it will pass in a week or two.  If you are able to cut out just a few junk foods, you will start to lose weight.  But, of course, you must substitute a distracting activity or a healthy food like fruit and not another junk food, or you will gain the weight back.

  Make a plan

A poll on this site shows that when kids and teens ask "How do I lose weight?", they usually know that they have to eat less and exercise more.  What they are really asking is, "How do I cut down on pleasurable food, so I don't lose the comfort, and how do I get through the antsy feelings and cravings of withdrawal?"

Make a plan, so that you will have distracting things to do when you feel antsy, like take a walk with your dog or a friend, ride your bike, work on a hobby, shoot basketball, go dancing,  take a course, decorate your room, or call a friend.  Or just having sweet apples or baby carrots in the fridge to eat or flavored ice water can relieve the cravings.  Squeezing your hands really tight together also helps you get through cravings and the antsy feelings. 

From anne, Age 16 - 8/22/03
 - IP#:
   - i read the blubberbuster advice for cravings and it said to hold your hands together. i was like yeah right! that is not going to work for me! but last night i watched my boyfriend eat a reeses sunday and i didn't have a single bite. as simple as it sounds- it works, hey- if you don't have your hands free then you won't grab and eat stuff.


Cutting out just one soda a day, for example, is a way to start your plan.  Eating only half a desert, and putting the other half away for tomorrow, is another. 

From anne, Age 16 - 9/24/03 - IP#:  - i know you're not going to take this seriously- but just squeeze your hands together like this website says after you've already had half of your regular meal and when you're not suppose to eat so your hands aren't free and think of something else...

Getting support from a health professional like your doctor, and from friends and family, is also really important.  Looking at life as a glorious adventure and remembering that life is too important to be taken seriously can help decrease stress.

Why do you want to lose weight?

Focus on why you want to lose weight: So you won't be teased?  So you won't get diseases?  So you can attract the opposite sex?  So you can move faster in sports? So you can wear more clothing in style?  Which is more important to you: these reasons that you want to lose weight... or being entertained and comforted by food?  Each person has to decide that for themselves.

If you are angry about being overweight, use your anger to help you lose weight.  Show them all!!  Use this energy to cut food in half, or cut out candy, and to exercise.  While you are doing this think about how happy you will be when you reach your goal.   Make small goals, like just not gaining any more weight for a month, to start with.  After you reach that goal, then you can set more small goals like losing 2 pounds the next month, and so on.  Look at it as a job.  It is like a job that you get paid for later.

  Get rid of temptation

Many of us can not resist the temptation of having comforting foods in front of us.  So... try to not put them in front of you.  Empty your house of junk food.  Stock your house with stuff like fruits and veggies for snacks.  Stay away from fast food restaurants.  That way the temptation is less.  Go shopping with your parents and buy low-fat, sugar-free foods to comfort yourself and healthy foods like fruits for snacks.  Have fun with it... smoothies anyone?

Get out of the house.  But don't put yourself in front of a bakery or a McDonald's.   Go for a walk with your dog or a friend.  Go for a bike ride, or rollerblade, or go on a hike, or visit a museum, or the library, or visit lonely pets at the ASPCA.  If you eat with your friends, share the food with one of your friends, or cut it in half, put half away for later, and then really enjoy the half that is left.

  Overeating is like nail biting.

In another poll on our site, 80% of kids voting say they think overeating is like nail biting.  They mindlessly chew on food when stressed out, or if food is simply in front of them, just like they mindlessly chew on their nails when stressed out, or if they just see their nails in front of them.  How do kids stop biting their nails?  They cover them with gloves or bitter nail polish, and they learn other ways to relax and deal with stress.  The same is true for overeating.  Hide the junk food, which you mindlessly eat when it's in front of you, and learn ways to relax and deal with stress that don't involve food, or chew on fruits and veggies.

  Binge eating.

"Binge eating" is rapidly eating a very large amount of food, and may be done in secret.  Binge eating is generally due to suddenly being really stressed out (birthday party video at right).  The food eaten is not actually enjoyed, but is simply wolfed down in a desperate attempt to relieve the stress.  Relaxation techniques, such as slow deep breathing, closing your eyes and concentrating on humming sounds such as "mmmm" over and over, or squeezing your hands together really tight, then relaxing them, can help relieve the stress and prevent binge eating.

  Change your way of looking at food.

To obtain and keep a healthy weight you have to change the way you look at food. You must look at food as something which your body needs for fuel and growth, rather than as something that makes you happy. Find other things to make you happy, that don't cause you to be overweight. Learn to eat only when you're really hungry and not just for pleasure.

From Laura, Age 19 - 4/25/06 - IP#:, Ht. 5'6, Wt. 125 - I was once overweight and know exactly how it feels to be the fat person. I know what it feels like to be emotionally addicted to food; but now food only means something nutritional that I need to put in my body. I want to give you all the best of luck in making your lives healthier. You have to start somewhere...although it isn't easy... it is worth it in the end. I promise!

  Replace food with other pleasurable things.

A lot of things in life are fun but are dangerous to your health, if you do too much of them.  Driving 90 miles an hour down the highway may be fun but obviously risks your life.  Smoking is pleasurable to many people but has well known health risks.  Overeating is similar.  As a matter of fact, overweight is now causing more health problems than smoking.  

If food is your main comforting thing, you will have to give up some of that comfort in order to obtain a healthy weight.  But you also must then replace it with something else just as comforting, so that you will stick with it.  The trick is to replace junk food, etc. with other fun things that don't risk your health, like pets, hobbies, music, dancing, biking, books, non-competitive sports.   Joining a church or a volunteer group  also helps many teens.  Break the vicious circle.  Substitute low-fat and sugar-free foods as comfort foods.  When you feel a craving, squeeze your hands real tight until the craving passes, and do something fun that gets your mind off of food, like taking a walk with your dog, dancing to music in your room, reading a cool book, or working on a fun hobby or project (needlepoint?).  How about learning to play a musical instrument?  Guitar, piano, keyboard, drums, join a band?

From beth , Age 14 - 11/20/05 - IP#:, 
Ht. 5ft 9, Wt. 204 Goal 150/160
- I found a way to stop you eating when you're not hungry, take up a musical instrument.It doesn;t have to be expensive, just one you always wanted to play... once you get your hands on one and you REALLY want to sound good, the more you practice, the better you get, AND the less unnecessary food you'll binge on when your bored.  :D

Make a list of things that you like to do and pull out that list when you are stressed out or bored.  Any physical activity involving other kids is the best thing to help prevent comfort eating.  Here again is the tip on dealing with stress.  Get help with your problems - talk to a school counselor, a teacher, a minister, or your doctor.  If you are depressed, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant or recommend a support program that will help you.  

Work on your self-esteem.  Be your own best friend.  Write down all the things that are good about you.  Take out that list whenever you feel down about yourself.

From Isabella, Age 13 - 1/30/07; GREAT MOTIVATIONAL POSTING: -
Ht. 5'5", Wt. 166 - (Was: 184, Now: 166 Goal: 145-150) - I've also learned to look at more positive things about your body and flaunt them! I realized that I have shiny hair, great calves, and muscular arms, so I work it out! And having hobbies and friends to support you really helps. Look for inner beauty as well. Focus on things, have big dreams, set goals, be a better student, learn something new, who knows! Remember: you're not just a number on the scale, a pant size, measurements, the number of zits on you face, a shirt size. You're a person with brains and feelings and talents. For real. This might sound cheesy, but when you start to smile at yourself and be your own best friend, you'll be able to nurture your relationship with food as fuel, not a form of entertainment or comfort. Look only at positive aspects of your life. YOU ROCK; NOW SHOW IT!!!! Love, Isabella (a.k.a. Izzy)

Helping other people also helps you.  If you are able to lose even a little bit of weight, helping other kids just starting out is a win-win for both of you.
From anne, Age 16 - 12/21/03
 - IP#: 
...helping others helps me put things into perspective that i need to work on also.

  It's your decision...

Which is more important to you: being entertained and comforted by food or preserving your health, looking good, and feeling good?  Each person must decide that for themselves... 

Robert Pretlow, MD, MSEE, FAAP - April 28, 2005

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