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FIT Connection for Teens: Healthy Weight

How eating, exercise, mood, and sleep all affect weight.

Cope With MOOD to Manage Weight

When stress becomes chronic, it can lead into a downward spiral of poor health habits -- and even weight gain. A recent article that reviewed studies evaluating the link between being overweight and depression found that overweight adults are more likely to become depressed. The study revealed that the reverse was also true: People who are depressed are more likely to become overweight or obese. The risk extends to children. One study found that children who identified themselves as overweight or obese were more likely to be depressed as adults.

"It's a two-way street," says David Ermer, MD, child psychiatrist with Sanford Health. "Sometimes when people feel that they're overweight, their self-esteem is lower, maybe because they are not happy with their appearance. They might be teased or bullied because of their size, and that can be stressful and lead to mood symptoms.

"Conversely, if your mood is down, part of depression can be overeating, isolating yourself, and not being as physically involved," says Ermer. "It can go both ways."

Depression isn't something to ignore. "If you have significant depression, you stop caring -- you have low energy, low motivation, you're not really as concerned about your appearance or healthy living," says Ermer. "In those situations you need to get some help." Talk with your doctor, a counselor, or spiritual leader.

How to RECHARGE to Manage Weight

When you don't RECHARGE with sleep, you are more likely to gain weight. You may have noticed that lack of sleep and weight gain often seem to go hand-in-hand. It seems to make sense -- when you are tired and stressed out, you are less likely to exercise and eat healthy foods. Researchers aren't sure exactly what it is about a lack of sleep and being overweight, but there definitely seems to be a connection -- especially for kids. One study found that kids who don't get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight by the time they reach 6th grade. And a survey of sleep studies found that too little sleep was a major risk factor for overweight and obesity -- especially for children.

Can fixing sleep problems actually help you lose weight if you don't do anything else? Not really. The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in, and while getting enough sleep may help you control your appetite, it doesn't help you burn more calories.

Keeping Everything in Balance

So where should you start? When it comes to following the FIT Platform, "I would try to emphasize a sense of balance," says Tiongson. "You can't overemphasize one thing more than another."

Look over the four FIT pillars and see what the problem areas are for you. Perhaps you already eat healthy foods and you are active. But maybe you are stretched a little thin from being involved in so many activities. Your temper may flare, or you may cry easily. Your emotional resilience may be at a low. Take a step back and set small, achievable goals.

Prioritizing each aspect of the FIT Platform is worth the effort. Because as Linda Bartholomay, LRD, a nutritionist at Sanford Health, says, "Fitness means more than having a healthy weight. Fitness is a feeling of overall wellness, where you have the ability and desire to do the things that help you have of the quality of life you desire."

Reviewed on February 13, 2012