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The FIT Connection for Teens

How all 4 elements of the FIT Platform affect each other -- for better or worse.
By Brenda Conaway
WebMD Feature

It's not easy to make sure you're tending to all four components of the FIT Platform -- FOOD, MOVE, RECHARGE, and MOOD -- at all times. For some people, emotions, habits, and even biology can lead to unhealthy eating and exercise choices. And if you are like most teens today, you struggle just to manage your daily schedule of school and extracurricular activities. The result is that good health habits take a back seat.

The Domino Effect of a Weak FIT Component

Unfortunately, when even a single FIT element -- FOOD, MOVE, RECHARGE, or MOOD -- is weak because you don't practice healthy habits, it can cause a downward slide that can affect all the other elements. Here's an example you may be able to relate to.

  • A teenager -- Sarah -- is under a lot of stress at school and at home. Sarah has trouble with math, she's been on the outs with her best friend, and her mom's been working extra hours.  The stress makes it hard for her to sleep a lot of the time.
  • Because she is getting less sleep, she doesn't have the energy to join her friends in their daily basketball game after school.
  • Lack of sleep just adds to her stress, and Sarah starts eating junk food to help soothe her anxiety. Every day after school, she has a handful of cookies and a soda. At breakfast on school days, she often gets an extra slice of buttered toast and adds chocolate to her milk.
  • Poor sleep, unhealthy food choices, and lack of physical activity all lead to weight gain. (Plus, Sarah's dad is overweight -- so she is already at risk for having a lifetime weight problem.) Within four months, she's gained 10 pounds, and it shows in a little pot belly that her mom thinks is cute.
  • The kids at school are less charmed by Sarah's excess weight, and they start teasing her, which makes her feels bad about herself. Ongoing lack of sleep and lack of exercise also work to bring down her mood and overall outlook.
  • Because she doesn't feel good about herself, she turns more and more to high-fat comfort foods and time in front of the TV instead of being physically active with friends.

If steps aren't taken right away, this downward spiral with Sarah's fitness will continue. And the longer it goes on, the harder it is to undo. However, by setting realistic goals and making just a few, small, consistent changes, Sarah and her parents can turn it around. Taking action in any one area will have a positive effect on each of the other FIT areas, which can help turn the tide toward a healthier way of living.

Do you identify with any piece of Sarah's story?

Building a Strong FIT Foundation

Strengthening one element of the FIT platform will positively influence the other elements. If you start fitting in 30 minutes of physical activity each day, you'll find that exercise can relieve stress, help you sleep better, improve your problem-solving skills and help you make healthier food choices. 

Even if you are late to the fitness game, it's never too late to turn things around. Experts recommend finding simple, easy ways to build healthy habits into your life. Using this FIT Teen site will show you how.

Reviewed on February 26, 2012