Teen Girls can Safely Lose Weight

Weight loss intervention program helped teenage girls begin living healthier lifestyles

(RxWiki News) There is hope for the nearly one-third of overweight or obese teenage girls in the U.S. - a properly focused intervention program can help them lose weight and live healthier.

A six-month intervention program involving weekly meetings and behavioral counseling led to successful weight and nutrition management and better self-esteem for a group of adolescent girls in a study by Kaiser Permanente.

"Ask your pediatrician about weight loss programs."

Lynn DeBar, Ph.D., MPH, a senior investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, led the study, which included 208 girls living in Oregon and Washington during the 2005-2009 study period.

All the participants, who ranged from age 12 to age 17, were diagnosed as overweight or obese based on standards by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their average weight was 190 pounds with an average body mass index in the 97th percentile.

Half the girls received standard care from their doctors, and half participated in the intervention program. After the six-month study, the girls receiving standard care were in the 96th percentile, and the girls in the intervention program were in the 95th percentile.

The girls in the regular care group received informational packets about healthy lifestyle changes but no other information or meetings.

Those participating in the intervention program tracked their food an exercise in a daily diary, which they discussed during weekly group meetings with a behavioral counselor for the first three months. For the last three months of the program, meetings occurred every other week.

Among the topics discussed at the meetings were ways to cope with teasing from family and peers, ways to avoid overeating or engaging in unhealthy eating patterns, and how to avoid being negative with themselves.

Program goals included decreasing portion size, drinking water instead of drinks with sugar, eating less fast food and less high-calorie food and increasing the number of fruits and vegetables the girls ate.

The program emphasized the importance of setting regular routines for meals and having more meals with their family. Each girl worked with a primary care provider to establish one or two behavioral goals that the provider helped them track during the program.

The intervention program also included recommendations to exercise 30 minutes to an hour for five days each week and to limit their screen time to two hours daily.

Parents also attended separate weekly meetings that emphasized ways they could support their daughters.

Parents were regularly updated on their children's progress and their health, eating and exercise habits.

Overall, the intervention program emphasized lifestyle changes instead of calorie-counting, which was downplayed in the program.

"Our study shows that intervention programs can help these girls achieve long-term success managing their weight and also learning new habits that will hopefully carry over into their adult life," said DeBar.

The authors of the study said the weight loss in the girls was notable but not huge compared to other weight loss programs.

However, they state that the teens were extremely obese at the start of the study and may have been resistant to treatment because of other weight loss programs they may have participated in.

"Girls in the program gained less weight than those who weren't in the program, and they reduced their overall body mass index, improved their self-image and developed healthy lifestyle habits, so all of these are successes," said Dr. Phil Wu, M.D., a pediatrician who co-authored the study.

The study was published online February 13 in the journal Pediatrics. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health.