PUBLISHED: 3:30 PM on Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Book helps teens lose weight, keep it off
There is no question that obesity has become a serious problem facing Americans. People are finding they have less and less time to focus on eating healthy and exercising. To make the situation worse, every fast food restaurant offers quick and easy meals of hamburger combos with the "supersize" option and many people are taking that option just to keep going.

This unhealthy lifestyle is taking its toll on many, especially teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.4 percent of adolescents (ages 12 to 19) are overweight and 15.5 percent are obese. Results from a recent study at Northwestern University show 30 percent of all teenagers are overweight or obese and one-third of U.S. teens would not pass an 8-minute treadmill fitness test.

The question is, how can teens lose weight and keep it off? A new book attempts to offer insight. "Lighten Up: Stay Sane, Eat Great, Lose Weight" gives teens ways to lose weight and keep the pounds off.

Charles Stuart Platkin, a nutrition and public health advocate and doctoral candidate in public health, as well as author of the nationally syndicated column, "The Diet Detective," tackles every reason teens can think of not to diet. Covering topics from slow metabolism to disappointment from failure of past diets, Platkin offers a 10-step program that encourages teens to make small changes in their eating, thinking and day-to-day activities that will create big changes in their weight.

"Before I figured out the steps given in this book, I spent way too much time being overweight," recalls Platkin. "I know only too well that if you've never been thin, it's hard to imagine it's really possible and it's hard to visualize how much better life can be with a thin, healthy body."

Platkin recalls his experiences with dieting: "From my 10th birthday on, I was trying every diet out there. Some of the diets seemed foolproof, at first. Lots of them helped me lose weight, for a while. But the weight always came back, over and over, like the world's most depressing diet yo-yo."

With this book, Platkin explains the diet trick that worked for him: "Build a diet that is automatic. I built a diet that fit me. I lost the weight and kept it off for good."

In "Lighten Up," Platkin outlines what diet traps to avoid, how to blueprint a diet plan and how to overcome the excuses not to lose weight. He explains why people don't succeed using fad diets.

"Everyone who goes on a trendy diet ends up gaining the weight back sooner or later. Believe it or not, most of these diets aren't even meant to last," he says.

Platkin stresses that with trendy diets, much of the weight a person is losing is often not fat, but water and lean muscle. When one loses muscle, the metabolism slows down, which will cause weight gain to occur again very soon. According to Platkin, another reason trendy diets don't work is "because they're created by somebody else, someone who doesn't even know anything about you."

"Lighten Up" provides many of Platkin's secret diet tricks to losing weight. "Never eat anything with more than 200 calories, without taking five seconds to decide if it's really worth it," says Platkin. "Even the smallest food choices matter more than you might think."

Another factor critical to losing weight and keeping if off is eating breakfast every morning.

According to research by the University of Colorado, 78 percent of successful weight-loss maintainers eat breakfast every day of the week. However, people who skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely to be overweight.

As much as dieters hate to hear it, exercise is an important factor in losing weight. To a number of people, exercise represents a long, agonizing and possibly expensive task. The truth is physical activity is as simple as taking a walk. Walking is one of the most important life-changing physical activities there is. Strength training is another way to jump-start an exercise program. One advantage of strength training is for every pound of muscle tissue one gains through strength training, they burn an additional 30 to 50 calories per day. That's 18,250 calories per year, or about 5.2 pounds.

According to Platkin, "The one surefire way to lose weight and keep it off is to make the kind of eating choices you don't even have to think about. To get the body you want, you have to change the way you think about eating."