April and Kelly looked through the dresses and pulled out several that they wanted to try on.
“Can you believe the prom is only one month from today?” squealed April. “I’m so excited! I’ve just got to find the perfect dress!”
April looked at Kelly. Quietly she said, “I think you’d look better in something like this.” She held out a long, loose fitting taffeta gown long sleeves.
Kelly sighed. “You’re probably right. I just don’t have the figure I used to. I don’t know why I keep gaining weight. I eat lots of vegetables.”
The girls shopped the whole afternoon, but neither one found the right dress. They decided to go to Kelly’s house and check another mall the next day. Once they got to the house, Kelly said, “Shopping makes me hungry. Want a snack? I’ve got licorice or potato chips.”
April frowned. “I want to look good for prom. Got any raw vegetables?”
Kelly searched the refrigerator. “Here’s some carrots, celery, and broccoli,” she called out. “I’ve got dip, too. Want some?”
April shook her head and watched as Kelly plopped a huge pile of dip onto a plate. She rolled each vegetable into the dip until it was covered. “Is that how you eat all your vegetables?” April asked.
Crunching a mouthful of food, Kelly nodded. “I hate plain vegetables and this dip is fat-free so it’s OK. In fact, most of the things I eat are fat-free. at s why I can’t understand why I keep gaining weight.”
Kelly isn’t the only one gaining weight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 25 percent of young people ages 2 to 20 are, or may become, overweight or obese, That figure has doubled over the last 10 years. A person is overweight when he or she has an “extra” amount of body weight–muscle, bone, fat, and water.
When someone has an “excessive” amount of body fat, he or she is considered obese. Obesity causes 300,000 premature deaths each year and increases the risk of potentially deadly health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and sleep disorders.
One potential factor in weight gain may be a shortage of dopamine in the brain. Researchers have recently discovered that obese people don’t have enough dopamine and need to eat lots of food to feel satisfied and full. While scientists don’t know why this happens, they think that physical activity increases dopamine levels.
Christie Andresen, 16, voices her thoughts on why there are so many teens who are overweight. She says, “Teens are gaining weight because they are unsure about their bodies. They see `perfect’ people on television and know that they’ll never look like them. They then begin to overeat, and become overweight.”
The simple fact of weight gain is: If you take in more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. All excess calories are stored as fat.
Whether or not you are currently overweight, the best approach to weight control is a sensible one. The pounds aren’t going to melt away magically. You put on pounds gradually; that’s how you need to take them off. First, talk to your doctor to make sure you are physically healthy. If so, try these tips to boost your metabolism and your health.
* An average of 30 to 45 minutes each day of physical activity will burn off as much as 200 to 300 calories. Simple activities such as walking the dog, climbing stairs, hiking, or biking regularly could help you lose two pounds each month, or 24 pounds in one year.
* Strength-training exercises twice a week build muscles. Strength-training such as weightlifting helps tone muscles and increase lean muscle and metabolism by as much as 10 percent. Increasing your metabolism means that your body burns calories more efficiently even when you’re resting.
* Eat balanced meals and healthy between-meal snacks. Skipping meals lowers your metabolism. Plus, when you allow yourself to get overly hungry, you risk overeating at the next meal. Follow a low-fat diet and watch your portion sizes. Remember: Low-fat foods may still be high in calories. Of course, if you eat too much of any food, you risk packing on the pounds. Fat-free and sugar-free foods still contain calories, so read the nutrition labels and be aware of portion sizes.
* Include calcium-rich foods to get at least 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily. Kathy Kaehler, fitness expert and personal trainer to Hollywood stars such as Drew Barrymore and Cindy Crawford, suggests that something as simple as drinking three glasses of fat-free milk each day can get you closer to meeting your weight goal. Recent research suggests a link between calcium intake and healthy weight.
* Choose foods that are high in fiber. Not only are high-fiber foods good for you, they fill you up. If you aren’t already eating fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, and whole-grain breads and cereals, now is a great time to start.
* Drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Water fills you up and helps your body work better. Think about water gushing into each cell of your body, flushing out waste products and leaving behind a clean, lean machine ready to function at its best.
Weight gain doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes time to get the pounds off. By eating right and exercising regularly, you will not only take off weight, but you’ll also have more energy and feel better. That’s worth a lot.
Rate Your Plate
Take a closer look at your current habits. Will they help you control your weight? or pack on pounds? Put a check in the column that best fits your style. Then, see how you rate.
Do you …
Usually Sometimes Never
1. Consider nutrition when you make food choices?
2. Try to eat regular meals (including breakfast), rather than skip or skimp on some?
3. Choose nutritious snacks?
4. Try to eat a variety of foods?
5. Exercise daily?
6. Eat at least six servings of grain products daily?
7. Eat at least three servings of vegetables daily?
8. Eat at least two servings of fruits daily?
9. Have at least three servings of low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese daily?
10. Limit your intake of higher-fat foods?
11. Go easy on sweets?
12. Drink eight or more cups of water daily?
Scoring: Usually = 2 points Sometimes = 1 point Never = 0 points
If you scored:
20 or more points–you seem to be in the habit of keeping fit already. Stick to a healthful eating plan and make a good thing even better.
12-19 points–you’re on track. A few easy changes could help you make your overall fitness plan even better.
5-11 points–sometimes you think about fitness, but not often enough to be your best.
0-4 points–for good health, you’d be wise to rethink your overall fitness plan. Take it gradually, step by step.
Whatever your score, make moves for healthful eating and exercise. Gradually turn your “nevers” into “sometimes” and your “sometimes” into “usuallys.”
Students will be able to list factors that can influence weight gain, and to access valid information concerning aspects of weight control available via the Internet.
* Review the conversations between April and Kelly. What are some of the possible problems with Kelly’s reasoning that may be contributing to her dissatisfaction with her weight? (Answers will vary but should include a recognition that Kelly compares herself to someone famous whose body type, age, habits, etc., may be very different from her own; tends to reach first for snack foods high in sweets, salt, and fats; is poorly informed in her belief regarding food labeled “fat-free,” which may still contribute to weight gain.)
* Explain the possible relationship between dopamine and weight gain. (Some research shows obese people don’t have enough dopamine and need to eat lots of food to feel satisfied.)
* Have students make a chart or graphic that explains some of the main theories presented in this article to explain weight-control issues. Their structures may vary, but all should identify and explain the role of dopamine, overeating, exercise, metabolism, and the influence of media representations and advertising.
* Assign students to identify and evaluate a resource Internet site that addresses the topic of weight management in a comprehensive way. Some possible starting sites are provided in the Teacher Resources section. Each student should present his or her Web site and explain why it seems credible, valid, and valuable. Then have the class identify the most important criteria for determining a good site.