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What's Making Me Fat? What Can I Do?

There isn't any one cause of teen weight problems, but you can control some things.
By Joanne Barker
WebMD Feature

foot on scaleSometimes it doesn't seem fair. Why can some teens eat whatever they want and not get fat?

There are things that might cause a weight problem for you and not other teens -- like food, genes, and your family.

The good news is that some things are within your control. Here's a look at what you can do to improve your health and start losing weight.

Teenage Weight Problems: A Complex Issue

The good news: You and your parents don't get all the blame when you gain weight.

The bad news: You can't blame just one cause for excess weight or obesity.

"There isn't any one thing that causes obesity," says Jessica Rieder, MD, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Monefiore/Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "It's not just genetics, society, environment, or family. It's all of them."

Your Body and Your Weight

Recent studies say your genes have a connection with how quickly you feel full, how your body processes food, and the size of your fat cells. So yes, maybe you really do gain weight easier than the skinny girl who eats anything and everything.

And once you gain weight, losing it is extra-tough. "Fat cells are good at stocking up," says Daniel Kirschenbaum, PhD, clinical director of Wellspring. When you start losing weight, fat cells go into hoarding mode. This makes losing weight hard, but not impossible.

Losing weight and keeping it off takes a lifetime commitment. Kirschenbaum compares weight loss to athletic training. "Imagine a swimmer who gets up to train before dawn. Effective weight loss takes the same kind of focus and discipline," he says. You need to practice, focus, notice results, increase efforts, and keep at it -- often going above and beyond what the average person does. But in the end, your results are better than the average person's as well, and you'll probably feel pretty good about your efforts.

The Weight of Food

Let's face it: Food is more than just food. Eating triggers the pleasure center in the brain. So many people, both overweight and normal weight people, eat to feel good. Unfortunately, the eating sometimes gets out of control. Then, when you overeat, it doesn't feel good at all. You might start beating yourself up for eating something you didn't want to -- or at least not that much -- almost before you swallow.

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