Though my regular job is helping adults achieve a healthy weight, I also work with teens. Sadly, the epidemic of teen obesity means I can find them anywhere -- even here in Napa. One year, I flew to the Midwest to consult with a group of obese high school students.
I found many common threads between the teens and the adult contestants on The Biggest Loser. Initially, both groups:
- Had absolutely no idea how many calories their body really needs (and how many more they are actually taking in)
- Frequently skipped breakfast
- Ate very few fruits or vegetables
- Ate too much white stuff -- white flour, white pasta, white sugar, white rice, simple carbs
- Didn't exercise enough (if at all)
- Often had enough calories in their beverage intake (mostly soft drinks) alone to meet their daily calorie requirement
Just like the adults with whom I've worked, many of the teens had also developed a variety of weight-related health issues including diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and early symptoms of heart disease.
The fact that most of them didn't exercise was enforced by the presence of a television or computer game device in their bedrooms.
As if that's not enough bad news, I noticed another troubling pattern in the younger group. Like many adults, most of the teens were not getting enough calcium in their diet. While calcium plays a key role in muscle functioning, the nervous system and promoting heart health, adults need calcium (and weight-bearing exercise) to maintain strong bones. Teens, on the other hand, are still building bone. Their calcium intake is even more crucial for their developing bones and to ward off the onset of osteoporosis.