ACES Publications

PubID: YHE-0158
Title: There's No Perfect Body Size For A Teenager
Pages:     Balance: 0

YHE-158, Revised July 1999. Barbara J. Struempler, Extension Nutritionist, Professor, Nutrition and Food Science, Auburn University

There's No Perfect Body
Size for a Teenager



That's right, you. It's no secret that you are changing. The way you look, feel, dress, even the way you think about things is probably different now from a year or even a few months ago. That's okay. In fact, it's absolutely, positively, perfectly NORMAL.

Discover how to be your best as your body grows and changes. Too many teenagers have unhealthy patterns of eating and inactivity as well as unrealistic body images; however, you can be healthy and attractive at the weight you are, while you are growing normally.

There's no one perfect body size--be proud and happy with who you are! Watch out for the dangers of dieting. Here are some weight control points to remember.

BE REALISTIC: This is the most important step. Be honest with yourself. Set a goal that is within your abilities but one that will also challenge you. Make small changes over time in what you eat and in the level of activity you undertake. Small steps work better than giant leaps.

BE ADVENTUROUS: Expand your tastes to enjoy a variety of foods.

BE FLEXIBLE: Balance what you eat and the physical activity you do over several days. Don't worry about just one meal or one day.

BE SENSIBLE: Enjoy all foods, just don't overdo it.

BE ACTIVE: Walk the dog, don't just watch the dog walk.

Get rid of the word "diet." Skipping meals or following weird, unhealthy diets can actually keep you from getting the nutrients you vtitruvian kid need for healthy growth. Trying to lose weight when your body is changing and growing isn't smart.

What should you do if you think you are starting to look a little chunky? For starters, remember that your body is programmed for growth not fashion. Some teens plump out before they shoot up. If you feel your weight is not right for you, talk to an adult you trust. Usually, your height eventually catches up with your weight, especially if you stick to a balanced, moderate eating plan and if you stay physically active.

How Much Should You Eat?

Eating smart is part of growing healthy! It's easy to be a smart eater if you use the Food Guide Pyramid. For good health, eat at least the minimum number of servings from all five major food groups each day. You need more servings from some food groups than you need from other food groups. Go easy on the foods at the top of the Pyramid.

What's a Serving Anyway?

A serving is a specific, measured amount of food such as the serving size given on a cereal box. The amount you heap onto your plate or pour into your cup is your helping size. Helpings may be bigger--or smaller--than Pyramid serving sizes. (The serving sizes on food labels may be different from Pyramid servings, too.)

Do you need to measure everything you eat? No. Instead, estimate Pyramid serving sizes to make sure you're getting a balanced variety of foods. Use this chart to compare actual Pyramid serving sizes with typical helping sizes.

How Pyramid Servings Stack Up

 Milk, Cheese,
and Yogurt

3 or more servings for teens
 FGPadjust copy

 Fats and Sweets

Eat or drink very little


3-5 servings

 Meat, Poultry, and Fish

2-3 servings

 Breads, Cereals,
Rice, and Pasta

6-11 servings


2-4 servings

 A Pyramid Serving  A Typical Helping
 1/2 cup rice or pasta  1 cup rice or pasta
 1/2 bagel or 1/2 hamburger bun  1 bagel or 1 hamburger bun
 1 chicken leg and thigh  1/4 chicken
 1 order (1/2 cup) French fries  large order (3/4 to 1 cup) French fries
 1/2 cup cooked red beans  big bowl (1 to 2 cups) chili beans
 1 cup leafy greens  large green salad (2 cups greens)

How Pyramid Servings Stack Up

 Serving size is a type of measuring tool. Knowing what an actual Pyramid serving is can help you estimate how much you're eating. This information can help you judge whether you're getting enough of different types of foods.
   The Food Group  How Much Is One Serving? Pyramid Serving



 Fats, Oils, and Sweets  These foods add extra calories and provide little or no nutrients. Use them in moderation to add flavor to other foods.  use sparingly
 Eat Enough  Milk Group  1 cup milk or yogurt; 1-1/2 ounces natural cheese, 2 ounces processed cheese  3 servings or
more for teens
 Meat Group  1/2 cup cooked dry beans, 1 egg, or 2 tablespoons peanut butter count as 1 ounce of meat. 2-3 ounces cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish count as a serving.  2-3 servings
 Eat More  Vegetable Group  1 cup raw leafy vegetables; 1/2 cup vegetables (cooked or chopped raw); 3/4 cup vegetable juice  3-5 servings
 Fruit Group  1 medium apple, banana, or orange; 1/2 cup fruit (canned, cooked, or raw); 3/4 cup fruit juice; 1/4 cup dried fruit  2-4 servings



 Bread Group  1 slice bread or tortilla; 1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal; 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta; 1/2 bagel, 1/2 hamburger bun, or 1/2 English muffin  6-11 servings

What Do You Eat?

Find out what--and how much--you eat by keeping a Food Diary. On a sheet of paper make a Food Diary as shown here. Write down what you eat for several days. Don't forget bites you eat while watching TV and cooking.

Compare the actual helpings of food that you ate with the recommended Pyramid servings. Remember, the Food Guide Pyramid is your daily guide for healthful eating. Regardless of your weight, eat at least the smallest number of servings from all five major food groups each day. Easy does it when eating foods from the top of the Pyramid.

* How did your diet compare to the Food Guide Pyramid?

* Did you eat at least the minimum number of servings from the five major food groups?

* What food groups were lacking?

* Did you eat sparingly from the food at the top of the Pyramid?
* What changes can you make in your eating?

Move It!

You know it's smart to be physically active, but how much activity is enough? Each day try to work in about 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as walking or riding a bike. Or, at least three times a week, challenge yourself to 15 to 20 minutes of more intense activities, such as jogging or one-on-one basketball. Whatever activity you choose, make every day an active day.

 Physical Activity Diary  Date:
 Weekday  Physical Activity   How Long?

* Did you move enough?

* Did you get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity each day?

* Did you get at least 15 minutes of more intense activity three times a week?

* Do you think you're getting enough physical activity? Why?
* How can you fit more regular physical activity into your life?

How Much Do You Move?

Find out how active you really are -- keep a Physical Activity Diary.

10 Ways To Get Physical

Pick and choose your own ways of becoming a better you. Consider these fun ways to put more action in your life.

1. Take Your Feet

Forget about asking your folks for a ride. Put your feet to the ground and start walking. Your feet will thank you, your heart will thank you, and Mother Nature will thank you for helping to cut down on air pollution.

2. Try In-Line Skating

Fun, fast, and easy to learn, in-line skating is a great way to spend a day outside with friends. Remember to wear the gear (helmet, plus knee, wrist, and elbow pads). You wouldn't want to be put out of action on your first time rolling.

3. Take the Stairs

Forget the elevator. By simply taking the stairs every opportunity you have, you'll get a workout without even thinking about it.

4. Walk the Dogs

Whether you volunteer or get paid, dog walking is a fun way to be physically active.

5. Turn Up the Music

Shake, rattle, and roll to your favorite tunes. It doesn't matter if you do the tango or the twist as long as you move as you groove.

6. Bike There

Mountain bikes are in! They go wherever you take them. So grab a friend and hit the trail. Of course, wear a helmet.

7. Earn Extra Cash

That's right, make money while helping your body. Try mowing lawns, weeding gardens, raking leaves, and cleaning garages.

8. Baby-Sit

It may sound silly, but if you've never kept up with a toddler you're in for a surprise. They move--and they move fast. Keeping your eye on a tot can challenge even the quickest babysitter.

9. Lap It Up

Swimming, diving, even water polo are all great activities and a real splash to do with friends. So don't be a drip, learn to do a flip.

10. Play One-on-One Basketball

Talk about a total body workout--first person to 21 wins!
Source: YourSELF, U.S. Department of Agriculture & Food and Nutrition Service, 1998.

For more information, contact your county Extension office. Visit or look in your telephone directory under your county's name to find contact information.

Published by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), an equal opportunity educator and employer.

If you have problems loading this document, please email for assistance.

Publications Homepage | ACES Homepage