Question:

Hi! I am a sophomore in high school who has been interested in health and fitness since middle school. Within the past two years I have worked hard to lose a good amount of weight/fat, but I can’t seem to lose anymore. As a matter of fact, my only concern is losing the fat and maintaining my weight. I do plenty of weight training with machines, inclined running, and I even workout at school because I am on the dance team. I use the MyFitnessPal app to track my caloric intake, and even with the “weight loss” setting, I can’t seem to lose any more fat. I refer to myself as “skinny fat” because I am pretty long and slim, but my stomach has a good amount of fat to get rid of, and I want to look more toned. The past three months I have been pushing my workouts harder, and restricting my calories more. I can’t seem to get more results and I just don’t know what to do anymore. I am looking for fat loss, and a more toned look.

– Patricia S.

Answer:

Lots of physical activity for a teen certainly burns calories, though it may not translate to toning because the tissues are programmed to reach their genetic potential under the guidance of your maturing hormones. Granted, you may see some older girls with six-packs in the media, but they are typically fitness models and make up less than 1% of the population. Chances are your body is fighting to attain its adult female form while you are attempting to prevent it from doing so. Consuming less than 1600 calories also makes it difficult to get the nutrients you need, such as iron and magnesium.

Experts do not recommend restricting calories1, but rather making the most out of what calories you do eat. Be sure to get at least 25 grams of fiber and 8-10 glasses of fluid daily. Instead of sweetened beverages or diet sodas, drink water or iced tea. Include healthy fats such as omega-3s (from fish), oils, avocado, nuts and nut butters. Eat two to three calcium rich foods per day, 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and 6 ounces of whole grains. Include a little protein at each meal and snack. Meals should have 3-4 food groups, while snacks should have items from at least 2 food groups.

It’s important to maintain a positive body image. Focus on the health benefits of your good choices. Embrace the long and slim physique that exercise has brought you. Concern yourself with enjoying summer, developing healthy habits and staying on top of dance! You’re on your way to becoming a capable, strong woman of substance.

If you think you may worry too much about your weight or body image, or if thinking about these things is interfering with your happiness, tell an adult you trust, like a parent, coach, teacher or doctor.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

Sourced:

  1. Kids, Caring For. “Dieting: Information for Teens.” Dieting: Information for Teens – Caring for Kids. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2017.

Resources:

  1. KidsHealth.org
  2. GirlsHealth.gov
  3. Teen Dieting

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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