Weight is a sensitive subject for teen girls — and one that must be handled with extreme care. Both eating disorders and obesity are on the rise among teens. Helping the teen in your life make healthy exercise and diet choices is important, but you should also help her define smart weight goals and recognize her ideal weight, considering her frame, lifestyle and body-mass index.
Body Mass Index
Body mass index, or BMI, is one means of assessing healthy weights or healthy weight ranges. BMI charts designed for adults are not appropriate for teens. Teens should use a chart with percentile lines to assess weight and growth patterns. Teen girls below the 5th percentile are considered underweight. Girls who fall within the 85th percentile to 95th percentile are overweight, while girls above the 95th percentile are obese, reports KidsHealth.org. Extremely athletic girls with significant muscle mass or girls with a larger body frame may find BMI measurements inaccurate.
Development plays a significant role in weight during the teen years and the weight range in pre-teen and teen girls reflects this. Girls typically enter puberty with around 16 percent body fat, but have approximately 27 percent body fat as young women, according to the Lambton County Community Health Services in Ontario, Canada. Most girls gain height before they gain weight during puberty.
Lifestyle, including diet and exercise, plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy weight for teen girls. Teens should get a full hour of physical activity each day, including vigorous aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening exercises and bone strengthening exercises, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teen girls should eat a low-fat, well-balanced diet with three meals a day, plus healthy snacks. Parents can take the lead by making healthy choices themselves, offering healthy foods and encouraging opportunities for fitness alone or as a family.
Sensitivity is essential for teens dealing with concerns about weight. Parents should avoid discussing or commenting on their daughter’s weight or food choices. If a teen girl struggles with her weight, addressing it in terms of health rather than body image can be helpful. Encourage positive language, focus on her strengths and help her to see herself as a complete person, rather than as a number on the scale.
If you have serious concerns about your teen’s weight, an appointment with her pediatrician can help you formulate a healthy plan to avoid further weight gain, manage inadequate weight gain, or address possible eating disorders. Your doctor can consider her future height, stage of development, body frame and other factors to assess both her weight and overall health.