I currently train two 15-year-old male clients who have excessive bodyfat. Both clients will need to lose from 50 to 75 pounds to achieve a healthy and proportioned body type. Both of my teenage clients are having a difficult time losing any weight. I have addressed the issue of calories numerous times. As for training, I see them three to four times per week. Do extremely overweight teenagers have any particular factors that would generally lend to stubborn or slow fat loss? What suggestions would you have? Would lipotropic and/or pyruvate supplementation be of benefit even at their age? Are there any special caloric adjustments?
All those who ate properly as a teenager, let me hear you scream! Chirp-chirp (sound of crickets).
Prevalence of overweight and obesity in children, with the accompanying health consequences, is on the rise. It is estimated that one in four children are overweight with 11 to 13 percent classified as obese. Lifestyle diseases that normally occurred over one's lifetime are now occurring in children. It is becoming more common for children as young as 12 to 14 to have hypertension, high blood lipids and even type II diabetes (I guess they will have to drop the “adult onset” moniker).
Children really have a tough time of it when it comes to weight. They rarely have consistent control over the food they eat, and when they do, energy-dense foods such as fast food, pizza, chips, soda and candy provide a significant portion of their caloric intake. In addition, a lot of adolescent and teen eating occurs in a social environment, leading to pressure to conform as well as increased caloric consumption. It is a rare teen indeed that can eat a healthy dish while his friends are gorging on pizza or fried foods.
The above issues affect a teen’s energy consumption, but how about his activity level? When I was a kid, life revolved around the playground at school and the vacant lot in my neighborhood. Parents were lucky to get kids to sit still. Heck, if there was still light outside, you would finish off a game of football or baseball. Today, movement at school is not promoted. Physical Education classes are an easy target for the budget slashers and are therefore the first to go. Kids today have a bewildering array of entertainment options that require very little physical movement. Even if kids wanted to go outside, parents fear for their safety.
There are so many factors at work that a simple solution is hard to come by. Beyond the obvious of decreased physical activity and increased availability of junk food, there are emotional factors. An overweight child grows up with a lot of pressure. Negative comments from other children, family members and others can take there toll on a child’s body image and self confidence. We are all surrounded by the non-stop images of physical perfection in the media, adding to the pressure to achieve the “ideal.”
Why do I bring this up? Someone that constantly struggles with weight and is constantly in the spotlight because of it can develop secretive and destructive eating habits. Strict dieting can have the same effect as taking a drug from an addict. Cravings occur, leading to binge eating episodes, guilt and more secretive eating. This can set up a vicious cycle.
Okay, now to the point of your question. You are dealing with teen clients who are failing to see results. You are administering proper caloric and exercise recommendations that admittedly work well when followed by your adult clients. One of two reasons exists for this. One, your teenage clients are not complying with the dietary portion of your program (for any of a number of reasons listed above), or two, their bodies defy the laws of science.
Let’s assume that the first option is true. What can be done to get these clients to follow your plan? Getting the parents involved can be a big help. It is vital that they provide a supportive environment for their child by buying and cooking proper food choices, encouraging and even participating in physical activity with their child. Find out what motivates them. Behavioral intervention may be necessary. Finding a Registered Dietitian or a psychologist that works with overweight children may prove helpful as well.
Getting honest answers from clients that are overweight is always a challenge. That your clients are teens makes it worse. I am of course assuming that portion sizes, measuring, etc. have been discussed in detail with the clients. The supplements that you mention may offer some benefit, certainly no harm. However, they will not address the problem you are having with your clients, which is non-compliance. In the event that I am making more of this than I should, you could always play the calorie game.
Knowing that few people are able to accurately record caloric intake, you must give up your reliance on the numbers you are getting from your clients. If your clients say they are eating 2,000 calories, it is really 2,500 to 3,000 calories. So, just keep taking away food until weight loss occurs, about 200 to 300 calories at a time. If after two such adjustments the client’s weight fails to change, the only explanation is non-compliance. But the issue of why they are not complying still remains. Good luck.