As you continue to grow and develop, even through your teenage years, doctors will keep track of your weight. However, they should be asking you lots of other questions about your health and your habits to really determine where you are at from a health standpoint because weight alone is not the best measurement of health. Although people often classify your weight as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese, remember that those classifications do not define your worth as a person or even your health status!
A 13-year old female who is 5 foot 1 inch (155 cm) and weighs above 118 pounds (54 kg) would be considered overweight and a 13-year old 5 foot 1 inch (155 cm) male that weighs above 115 pounds (52.7 kg) would be considered overweight based on BMI-for age percentiles. This is just one example based on average height at 13. Different heights, ages, and sizes will have different classifications.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “overweight” is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than the 85th percentile when plotted on their growth charts. BMI only takes into consideration a person’s height and weight, and doesn’t give us enough information on its own to determine how healthy someone is. Doctors will often use growth charts to track growth over time so that they can see any concerning changes in your growth pattern!
Read on for more information about what is a healthy weight for a 13-year old, factors that impact a teenager’s weight, why maintaining a healthy weight is important, if 13-year olds should go on a diet or count calories, eating and exercise recommendations for teenagers, and tips for parents on how you can help your teen maintain a healthy weight.
What is a Healthy Weight for a 13-Year Old?
A 13-year old boy who is 61 inches tall (5 foot 1 inch or 155 cm) would be considered a normal or healthy weight between 82 to 115 pounds (37 to 52 kg).
A 13-year old girl who is 61 inches tall (5 foot 1 inch or 155 cm) would be considered a normal or healthy weight between 81 to 118 pounds (37 to 54 kg). Other ages and heights would be classified differently.
Based on the CDC growth charts, a 13-year old would be in a healthy weight range from the 5th to 84th BMI-for age percentiles.
Based on BMI and growth charts, these are the classifications that your doctor will be using to classify your weight:
Although there are CDC classifications for underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obese, they aren’t always the best indicator of your health status. For example, many athletes fall into the overweight or obese category based on BMI because it doesn’t account for their muscle mass that weighs so much more than fat does. According to their eating and exercise habits, they may be in a really healthy state, even if their BMI and percentile classification doesn’t seem to match up.
Aside from body composition, there are many other things to consider when determining if you are a healthy weight. If you cannot maintain your weight without restricting your calories, that is likely not a healthy weight for you! You should be able to honor your hunger and fullness cues and nourish your body fully to maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise habits are also an important part of your health and if you are exercising regularly, but not overdoing it, this will help you maintain an appropriate weight.
Pay attention to how your body feels. You might be surprised that you can determine if you are at a healthy weight for you, just based on how you feel! Pay attention to your energy levels, how well you are sleeping, your mood, and other indicators that can help you know if you are at appropriate weight.
What Factors Impact a Teenager’s Weight?
I think most people know that eating and exercise habits play a big role in weight, but did you know that there are actually a lot of other factors that play a role?
- Stress levels Higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol can actually change how your body stores fat. In many people, stress affects appetite as well, causing some to lose their appetite, while others eat more!
- Medications Weight gain or weight loss is a common side effect with different medications.
- Medical Conditions There are tons of medical conditions that affect weight directly or indirectly and should always be considered when evaluating someone’s health.
- Food availability How close you are to a grocery store and the access that you have to healthy foods can impact your weight.
- Food budget How much money you have to dedicate to your food budget can also impact weight. A lot of healthier food can be more expensive and eating healthy on a budget can be very overwhelming if you haven’t had much instruction on how to do it.
- Social Atmosphere The habits that your family and friends have become very much an integral part of who you are. A lot of times teenagers don’t have much control over the foods they are eating and it is very dependent on the choices of those around them.
Why is Maintaining a Healthy Weight Important at 13?
There have been many connections found between high body fat levels and risk for certain diseases and conditions including diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver, gallstones, heartburn, cardiovascular disease, and joint and breathing issues. However, there are also correlations found between having high body fat levels and having poor nutrition and exercise habits.
Your weight alone does not automatically mean you will get one of these conditions, and sometimes your weight is out of your control. This is why focusing on establishing healthy habits is the best thing you can do for your overall health.
Should 13-Year Olds Go on a Diet?
I don’t recommend dieting for people of any age, but especially not for teenagers. As a 13-year old, you are in a major phase of growth and development. Since diets tend to be restrictive, they often don’t provide enough of the nutrients that your body needs during this time of development which can have really bad implications!
Diets are also not super helpful for weight loss. In fact, most people that go on a diet will regain the weight they lost, plus more! This is often because dieting is counterintuitive to what your body wants and needs. Your body needs nourishment and consistent energy, but diets often don’t do a good job of providing that!
Instead of dieting, it is much more beneficial (and sustainable) to focus on establishing healthy habits to slow excess weight gain. Weight loss is not recommended for teenagers because of the negative effects it can have on their growth and development.
Focus on what you can ADD rather than what you need to TAKE OUT. Maybe you can go outside and play for a few minutes a day, or get 30 extra minutes of sleep, or add a fruit or a vegetable to your meals. There are lots of ways to go about being healthier, but none of them include dieting!
Need help from a registered dietitian nutritionist with your child’s weight? Be sure to check out my newest ebook- Healthy Weight for Teens. The right way to lose weight for teenagers!
Should 13-Year Olds Count Calories?
Most of the time, I don’t recommend that teenagers count their calories. Counting calories can lead to a very restrictive mindset about food, and it often leads to listening to your calorie tracking app more than listening to your body.
Tracking every calorie that you consume can become excessive and cause you to hyperfixate on food, to a point that it becomes more harmful than helpful. Thinking about food constantly throughout the day and worrying about what you are eating and how much you are eating is not healthy.
Plus, your body needs a different amount of calories every single day! In fact, the number on your calorie tracker is just an estimate anyways and your body might need something totally different!
So then how do you know how much to eat? This is where mindful eating comes into play. Being able to listen to your body and give it what it needs is one of the best nutrition skills you can develop. Your body is extremely smart, you just have to learn how to listen!
- Should a Teenager Count Calories? Ask a Dietitian
- How Much Should a 13-Year-Old Eat?
- What is the Best Diet Plan for a 13-Year Old?
- What is a Normal Weight for a 13-Year Old?
- Should I Tell My Teen They Need to Lose Weight? Tips from a Dietitian
Eating and Exercise Recommendations for 13-Year Old’s
If you are wondering what healthy eating and exercise habits you can implement, here are some of my top recommendations for teenagers who want to improve their health and maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat regularly throughout the day and avoid going long periods of time without food. Eating something is better than eating nothing! If you let yourself get extremely hungry, you are much more likely to overeat.
- Eat a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat each time you have a meal or snack. This will provide your body with sustained energy, stabilize your blood sugars, and help you feel more satisfied for longer.
- Remove distractions while you eat. It is much easier to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues when you aren’t distracted by TV, phones, and other things. Make eating a full experience where you can be present and listen to your body.
- Exercise should be fun! Get creative and try new ways of moving your body. Maybe you enjoy skateboarding, dancing, shopping, hiking, skating, kickboxing, lifting weights, swimming, playing a sport, or jumping on the trampoline. Exercise can be more than just going for a run!
- Try to include some sort of physical movement an hour each day. It doesn’t have to be done all at once and it can include a variety of different things. Take breaks from sitting to get up and move!
- Eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups! You can look at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for more specific details about what your body might need. As a general guideline, for teenagers needing around 2000 calories, it is recommended that they consume the following on a daily basis:
- 2.5 servings of vegetables per day
- 2 servings of fruit per day
- 3 cups of dairy per day
- 5.5 oz of protein per day
- 6 oz of grains per day
How Can You Help Your Teen Maintain a Healthy Weight?
We all want what is best for our kids, especially when it comes to their health. Although taking the wrong approach when talking about weight and health can have negative impacts on kids and how they view food and how they view their bodies. Here are some of my tips for parents who want to help their kids be as healthy as possible!
- Don’t comment on your teen’s weight and definitely don’t compliment weight loss or scold weight gain. Even getting complimented for being at a lower weight can have negative impacts because they can begin to associate their worth with being at a lower body weight.
- Set a good example of eating for your children. Talk about food in a positive way and include all foods as part of your diet. Avoid dieting and make eating a pleasant experience for you and your teen!
- Don’t talk poorly about your body. Focus on the amazing things that your body can do and practice body respect. Your teenagers will pick up on the comments you make, even if they aren’t directed at them.
- Have healthy foods available and easily accessible. One of my favorite ways to do this is by having fruits and vegetables cut up and in little containers so that they can be grabbed when your child is on-the-go.
- Include your teen in the planning and cooking processes. Teach them about planning healthy meals but let them have some say in what your family eats! They are also more likely to eat healthy foods when they have helped plan and prepare them.
- Pay attention to the other things going on in your child’s life. Watch for signs of emotional and mental distress and get your child the help they need early.
- Encourage an appropriate bedtime for your teenager. Sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy weight because it is a time for you to rest and recover.
- Serve less nutritious food (AKA treats or sweets) regularly. This might seem counterintuitive, but it actually helps your child to feel less restriction around food. When they are available more frequently, your teen likely will be able to eat them mindfully without having to worry about not having it again for a long time.
Focusing more on habits than on weight is a better way to address your 13-year old’s health status. Support your child as they make small changes for their health and then help them recognize the benefits that those habits bring!
- Easy Things for a 13-Year Old to Cook
- What Should 13-Year-Olds Eat Every day?
- Can a 13-Year Old Lose Weight?
- How Many Grams of Fat Does a 13 Year Old Need Per Day?
- What is the Best Diet Plan for a 13-Year Old?
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. BMI for Children and Adolescents. Eatrightpro.org. Published August 26, 2015.
CDC. Childhood Obesity Causes and Consequences. Cdc.gov. Reviewed March 19, 2021.
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