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Successful teen dieters reveal their weight loss strategies.

With over 12.5 million of our nation’s children overweight, we need to find creative ways to encourage young people to adopt healthy habits. But it's hard enough to get adults to take responsibility for their weight and health. How do you inspire kids who are also dealing with the tumultuous nature of being a teen to succeed at weight loss?

Overweight teens bear a heavy burden. They must cope with the teasing, social isolation, verbal abuse, and emotional torture that often result from being overweight, as well as their own negative self-images.

Wes Gilbert, son of registered dietitian Anne Fletcher and one of the teens who is profiled in Fletcher’s book Weight Loss Confidential, describes his anxiety and guilt about being overweight.

"I worried about whether clothes made me look fat, what others thought of me, and especially when old friends gave me the look when they noticed how much weight I’d put on," he says. When Wes finally lost weight, he says, "a huge metaphorical burden was lifted."

"Kids who are overweight have a quality of life similar to kids with chronic diseases like cancer," says Kerri Boutelle, PhD, LP, an adolescence and obesity expert at the University of Minnesota.

At her STAR (Service for At-Risk Teens) Clinic, she finds that overweight kids tend to have, or are at risk for, depression, poor self-image, and social isolation. They are also perceived as lazy and less attractive than normal-weight teens.

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