Attention High School Students: Back to School Weight Loss and Maintenance

It’s that exciting…er…dreaded time of year for many students, teachers, and parents: back to school time. Today, I am going to discuss some ways to maintain and lose weight once school starts. We also have a Weight Loss Tips and Ideas Page that contains more generally helpful weight loss ideas, most which would be effective in a back-to-school setting. You should consult a doctor before starting any weight loss plan.

When I was in high school, summer was pretty much the beginning of football season, but I did have a lot of control over my diet and activity level. Football got me into shape, and I ate pretty well at home, so the combination was good for weight loss and maintenance. My senior year, I ran a lot outside of football, so much, that I remember worrying that football would not keep me in shape nearly as well as my running would (maybe I should have joined the cross-country team!).  Either way, summer was full of good weather and possibilities, whereas once school started, I seemed to be locked into a tight and stressful schedule (more on this below).

In high school, I struggled to maintain my weight. I knew that it was a good idea to be in shape, especially if I wanted to get dates, but yet, gaining weight was so easy in high school. This was because a lot of my friends were naturally thin, with high metabolisms (not so anymore, by the way), and could eat whatever they wanted and not gain weight. I, on the other hand, had to struggle to keep the weight off. While I just mentioned that losing weight in the summer was pretty easy, once school started, I faced a lot of temptations that hurt my weight loss efforts:

Bad lunches – the cafeteria offered little in the way of healthy choices, which made bad eating the order of the day. Packing lunches required time and effort I didn’t always have (see below).

Stress – I got good grades in school, and enjoyed the social aspects of school as well. Nonetheless, when football was in season, school was pretty stressful for me. Basically I was busy from 7:30 AM-7:00 PM, which left a few hours in the evening to eat, catch up with family and friends, and squeeze in some alone time.  My natural response to stress was to eat more.

Social Pressure – Like most high school kids, my social life usually involved food. Where would we go after practice? The local greasy spoon. Where would we go after games? The local pizza joint. What did we do for entertainment on the weekends? Sit around and play Super Nintendo. Obviously, I enjoyed all of these activities, but if they weren’t reigned in, the result for me was weight gain.

Sitting Around All Day – Unfortunately, high school involves a lot of sitting, and even those among us without ADD sometimes struggle to focus when sitting still all day. We are asking kids who should be at their prime of physical activity to sit around all day.

The key to losing and maintaining weight, besides knowing *how* to lose weight is the effectively address hindrances to weight loss, i.e. situations and realities that may cause a mere lapse to turn into a relapse. So below are some ways to address the potential problems I have addressed, but obviously, each person will have different hindrances to weight loss, so be creative!

Bad lunches can be dealt with by packing a lunch. Yes, it takes time and effort, but the control you have over your lunches, both in taste and calories, is worth it. To make the job easier, I suggest planning your week’s meals before you get to the grocery story, and then buying enough food to last the entire week. This way, you aren’t scrambling each night to develop tomorrow’s meal.

Stress is rampant among all age groups. Fortunately, it is easy to deal with stress, if you are willing to try different techniques. This website has a bunch of stress relief ideas and techniques. Instead of immediately eating when you are stressed, try some of these ideas.

Social Pressure is difficult to deal with, because nobody wants to be known as the guy (or gal) who can’t ever just go out and “have fun.” First, I think it is important to realize that if being in shape means a lot to you, then you may have to sometimes not do what everybody else is doing. Fortunately, most restaurants offer healthier menu items, and if all your buddies have around is a bag of chips, then you can always limit yourself to a handful and say you just ate. Second, if you are generally doing well regarding your health plan, then allowing yourself to go off isn’t bad, and might even rev up your metabolism. People don’t get fat by going off their plan once a week; they gain weight because they go off all the time.

Sitting around for 8, 40-minute, periods is not a great way to burn calories, but there are ways to burn calories while sitting. Tapping your feet, clinching and releasing muscles, etc, all burn more calories than sitting alone. In fact, studies show that thin people tend to fidget more than fat people, so the extra little movements while sitting probably do make a difference in our daily calorie burning!