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Health motivates teenagers to lose weight

New York: Overweight teenagers begin weight-loss exercises not to impress their friends or on parents' advice but for health reasons, finds a study.

Most parents have the view that their teen is largely influenced by other people's perceptions of them.

"Our findings suggest that teenagers have motivations that are more intrinsic. One implication is that parents should help to focus their teen on healthy behaviours for the sake of being healthy more than for social acceptance," said Chad Jensen, psychologist at Brigham Young University.

Jensen and his students looked in-depth at the success stories of 40 formerly obese or overweight teens.

On average, the participants shed 30 pounds, moving them from the obese to the normal weight category. They also maintained their healthier weight for a full year.

More than 60 percent described their health as the primary motive while about 43 percent identified peer acceptance as a factor.

Nearly all the teenagers emphasised that it was their own decision to lose weight.

According to them, parents provided the most help simply by modelling healthy behaviours and providing healthier options for meals and snacks.

There were some periods like a transition to high school or to college where researchers saw groups of teenagers who lost weight in those important periods.

"It is sort of an opportunity to re-make yourself. There is a lot of change going on, so some teens decide to make a change to be healthier," Jensen added.

The report appeared in the journal Childhood Obesity.

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