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5 Reasons to Toss Out Your Skinny Jeans

A reality check on body image and weight loss for teens.

1. You're missing the big picture.

First, you need to learn what a healthy weight is for you. This is based on genetic and environmental factors, says Jim Mitchell, MD, of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Talk with a health educator or your doctor about your family's weight history. "If you come from a family where people tend to be larger, what we call 'big-boned,' then a healthy body weight for you may be somewhat higher than it is for someone else," Mitchell says.

Then, work on appreciating your teen body. Maybe you have strong legs, but you’d like to have long, thin ones.

Shift your thinking away from what they look like to what they can do for you -- like haul you up the stairs with ease, or allow you to squat to see under your bed. That thinking shift will help you set goals to bring out the best in your body. Such goals may include choices like cutting out fast food and processed foods to help you do that.

2. Being a skinny teen isn't the goal: Being a healthy teen is.

Part of being a healthy teen is about reducing your risk for chronic problems and setting yourself up for a lifetime of good health, Tiongson says.

Don't just focus on the numbers on your scale. Talk with your health care provider about your body mass index (BMI). That's the number used to predict your risk of weight-related complications, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Like many of your teen peers, you may be under the impression that "health problems only happen to grownups" -- that you're too young to worry about heart problems, for example. But that's not true.

"You may not feel it now," Tiongson says, "but making changes now, when you're young, can have a big impact on the rest of your life." The great thing is that building healthy habits can pay off now and in the future.

3. You'll take control of your body.

You've probably heard a lot of "rules" for losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle: You have to be active for 60 minutes a day. You have to eat five vegetables and fruits a day. You have to get at least 8 1/2 hours of sleep a night.

"The reality is if you try to change too many things, the chances are you're going to fail, and then you're not going to try at all," says Stephanie Walsh, MD, a pediatrician at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "You can't change your whole life at once, but you can change one small part of it," Walsh says.

You have the power to decide what that first step will be. You can decide to cut out soda Monday through Friday. Or if you watch six hours of TV a day, you can choose to trim it down to two.

"That's a step for you," says Walsh. "Ask yourself: What are changes I can make that fit into my life now?"