Weight is often overly emphasized as the main determinant of health status- but in reality, it is just one of many things that can help evaluate your health. If you are classified as overweight or obese by body mass index (BMI), that doesn’t necessarily mean you are “unhealthy.” There are many things that you can do to improve your health, regardless of your weight!
A 17-year old girl at 64 inches tall (5 foot 4 inches or 163 cm) would be considered overweight at 147 pounds or higher (66 kilograms). A 17-year old boy at 69 inches tall (5 foot 9 inches or 175 cm) would be considered overweight at 169 pounds or higher (76 kilograms). Other heights and ages would be classified differently.
Based on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) classifications, “overweight” refers to a teenager that is above the 85th percentile when BMI is plotted on growth charts. However, these growth charts are more helpful as a tool to look at changes in weight over time, so one measurement should not be used to assess health status alone.
Read on for more information about what is a healthy weight for a 17-year old, why it is important to maintain a healthy weight, what factors determine your weight, when a 17-year old should lose weight, if a teenager should go on a diet, how many calories teenagers should be eating, tips for teens who want to maintain a healthy weight, and tips for parents who want to help their teens achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
What is a Healthy Weight for a 17-Year Old?
A 17-year old girl at 64 inches tall (5 foot 4 inches or 163 cm) would be considered a healthy or ‘normal’ weight between 100 and 146 pounds (45 to 66 kilograms). A 17-year old boy at 69 inches tall (5 foot 9 inches or 175 cm) would be considered a healthy or ‘normal’ weight between 120 to 168 pounds (56 to 76 kilograms). Other heights and ages would be classified differently.
Based on the CDC’s classifications, a healthy weight is between the 5th and 85th percentiles for BMI-for-age on the CDC growth charts. The CDC has determined that using growth chart percentiles, these would be the four classifications a child or teenager can fall under:
However, just going off of this chart means you will be missing out on lots of other important information determining a teenager’s health status. At the end of the day, weight is just a number on a scale, but the real interesting information is what habits you participate in on a daily basis!
A healthy weight is one where you feel good and feel energized. When you focus on nourishing and taking care of your body, you will naturally get to a weight that is healthy for you.
Why is it Important to Maintain a Healthy Weight at 17?
A lack of healthy habits often results in your body storing more fat than it really needs, which often increases your weight. Many health issues and conditions have been found to be associated with higher levels of body fat including:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Heart Disease
- Joint pain
- Fatty Liver Disease
- Breathing issues
Maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t make you immune to these conditions, but it does reduce the risk. At the same time, being at a healthy body weight doesn’t mean you will develop one of these conditions. Healthy habits are helpful in the prevention of disease, regardless of your weight.
What Factors Determine Your Weight?
Weight is a complex topic, and often more complex than we realize. Many people think that your weight is only related to eating and exercise habits, but that is simply not true! Let’s go through some of the things that can impact someone’s weight.
- Eating and exercise habits Most people know about this one. This is usually the area that you have most control over!
- Eating habits of others Remember that a lot of teenagers are reliant on a parent or caretaker to provide the majority of their meals and snacks, which means their eating habits are highly connected to the perceptions and habits of the one buying and preparing the food.
- Genetics You inherit so many characteristics and traits from your parents, and weight is included! This is one of the biggest reasons why we wouldn’t all look and weigh the same amount, even if we ate the same things and exercised the same amount.
- Emotional and mental well-being Stress, as well as conditions like anxiety and depression change the hormones in your body and can also affect how your body stores fat. Additionally, emotions often trigger us to overeat or undereat- depending on the person!
- Budget and food availability Shopping for healthy foods on a budget can be tricky! Weight can absolutely be affected by the types of foods you are able to purchase.
When Should a 17-Year Old Lose Weight?
Weight loss is not recommended for teenagers in most situations. If weight loss is ever recommended, it should be done under close supervision of a doctor and dietitian!
The reason for this is, weight loss is often achieved by some form of restriction and sometimes that restriction can have negative effects on the growing and developing body’s of teenagers. Most of the time, it is recommended to establish eating and exercise patterns that help to slow the rate of excess weight gain rather than trying to lose weight.
Need help from a registered dietitian nutritionist for your teen’s weight? Check out my newest ebook: Healthy Weight for Teens – the right way to lose weight. I’ve seen it all and this is the best way to develop healthy habits and a healthy weight.
Should a 17-Year Old Go on a Diet?
Dieting is not an appropriate weight loss tactic for people of any age and that includes teenagers! In fact, teenagers should never attempt weight loss on their own. Losing weight is usually not recommended in the teen years, especially when attempting it without guidance from a doctor and dietitian.
Diets often work by restricting calories, restricting eating times, or by cutting out certain foods or food groups. This often results in malnutrition, where your body is not getting all of the nutrients it needs. During this time of growth and development for teenagers, not getting those nutrients to help in that process could have detrimental results.
Dieting is also, perhaps surprisingly, linked to weight gain. Yep, you heard me right! After restricting for a long time, your brain ultimately will override the system and likely overeat to compensate!
Dieting can also lead to obsessive thoughts about food and unhealthy behaviors such as binging, purging, over-exercising, and feeling guilty and worried about food. None of these are good for your health!
I suggest just getting rid of the diet mentality and sticking to sustainable, healthy habits instead!
See also: Should I Tell My Teen They Need to Lose Weight? Tips from a Dietitian
How Many Calories Should a 17-Year Old Be Eating?
Calorie needs will be different person-to-person, and on top of that, your calorie needs will also be different day-to-day! Gender, body composition, and physical activity levels are the main contributors to how many calories you burn during the day. If you have no idea how many calories your body needs during the day, the charts below show an estimate based on gender and physical activity level.
However, keep in mind that the best way to know how many calories your body needs is to listen to it! Honor your hunger and fullness cues and pay attention to how your body feels as you eat. As you do this, you will be able to regulate the amount of food you are eating, even when your needs differ day-to-day.
Tips for Teenagers Who Want to Maintain a Healthy Weight
It is much better (and healthier) to focus on habits rather than weight. The cool thing is that you don’t have to change everything all at once- even a few small changes can make a big difference in your health over time! Here is a list of my best tips for teenagers who want to be healthy (including reaching and maintaining a healthy weight).
- Start your day with a healthy breakfast! Aim to eat at least within 30 minutes of waking up to give your body the energy to get the day going.
- Don’t go long periods of time without eating. Schedules get crazy and things don’t always go according to plan, so keep healthy snacks with you at all times so that you can still eat something to hold you over until you can get to your next meal.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables! Try a smoothie or dipping them in peanut butter or hummus if you have a hard time eating them.
- Include carbohydrates, protein, and fat each time you eat. While carbs are your body’s favorite source of energy, protein and fat have important roles as well, including helping to slow down your digestion and sustain your energy a little bit longer.
- Put away your phone while you eat! Being distracted by screens all the time can make it really hard to listen to your body. Take time to really pay attention to all five of your senses as you eat and try to figure out when your body feels satisfied.
- Don’t ignore hunger signals, even if you don’t think you should be hungry quite yet. Some days you just might need more energy and that is okay! You don’t need to question your body- just listen and be mindful as you eat.
- Include some physical activity on a daily basis. It is recommended that teenagers get an hour of physical activity, but if you aren’t used to exercise, just start small! Going on a walk or doing some jumping jacks might be an easy place to start.
- Do exercise that you enjoy. If you hate running… you don’t have to run! Try dancing, playing a sport, skateboarding, ice skating, skiing, bodyweight exercises, or playing outdoor games with friends.
- Focus on getting enough sleep. It might not sound super appealing to go to bed a little bit earlier, but your body will thank you when it has the time to rest and recover from a long day of taking care of you!
- Take time to unwind and take care of your mental health. You might enjoy doing yoga or meditation, or maybe taking a warm bath and listening to your favorite song might do the trick. Remember that mental health is a big part of overall health!
See also: The Right Way to Lose Weight for Teenagers -Meal Plan and Tips from a Dietitian
How to Help Your Teenager Achieve a Healthy Weight
If you desire your child to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, there are some things you can do that will be more helpful than others. Parenting is a learning experience, so if you don’t feel like you have done the best job of helping your child stay healthy so far- it is totally okay! You can start right now!
- Avoid commenting on your teen’s weight. Chances are, their weight is going to fluctuate through their teen years, and hyperfocusing on weight is really not helpful. Even making seemingly positive comments about weight or weight loss is not helpful for your child’s mental health in the long run.
- Talk about the wonderful things your body does! You can teach your child to take care of their body by building their sense of respect for the amazing things it can do.
- Get your teen involved in the kitchen! Not only will it help them develop a good relationship with food (and with you), but it will help teach them cooking skills that will serve them well in the future when they leave home.
- Make changes as a family and talk about the benefits that are unrelated to weight like improved energy levels, being able to build more muscle, improved sleep, better mood regulation, etc.
- Don’t demonize any foods. This feeds into the restrictive mentality that your teenager’s brain will fight against. Instead, practice food neutrality and remind your teen that all foods can have a place in a healthy diet.
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t have to be a huge challenge. Remember to show your body respect and nourish it with a variety of foods from all of the food groups. Include gentle exercise that makes your body feel good and take care of your mental health as well!
As you do all of these things, know that you are making a difference and improving your overall health, regardless of your weight. Over time, as you establish healthy habits that are sustainable, your body will settle into a weight that is healthy for you.
- What is a Normal Weight for a 17-Year Old?
- How Many Calories Does a 17 Year Old Need?
- How Can Teenagers Improve Their Nutrition Knowledge?
- Is It Bad for a Teenager to Workout Every Day?
- The Best Protein Snacks for Teenagers
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.
Ellis E. How Many Calories Does My Teen Need? Eatright.org. Published October 4, 2019.
United States Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. Dietaryguidelines.gov. Published December 29, 2020.
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