Calling All Teens: How To Change Your Life This Summer

By , David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP Senior Medical Advisor MindStream Academy
The teen years aren’t easy, usually neither for the teens nor the parents!  I don’t know anyone who survived them unscathed.  Between hormones, homework and the ''Heathers'', most teenagers have experienced pangs of insecurity and inadequacy at some point in time.  And for those teens who are struggling with being overweight or obese, those insecure feelings can become strong, with impacts on physical health as well as social and emotional wellbeing. 

There is no shortage of advice out there for teens who are concerned about their weight.  From diet pills to cover stories on popular magazines, to fad diets, to celebrities promoting products, it can be hard to navigate what works and what’s dangerous.  Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for lifelong health – like the tortoise and the hare, remember that ''slow and steady wins the race''.

The best way to predict the future is to create it, right? During many of my speaking engagements I ask the audience to raise their hands if someone they love has ever had heart disease, cancer, a stroke or diabetes.  It’s no surprise that most arms are in the air at any given auditorium.  The shock comes after, when I break the news that 8 out of 10 of those people who suffered could have prevented their health problems with better use of feet, forks and fingers. All of us have the power to determine or influence what kind of health we will enjoy, but the truth is that it’s not entirely our fault -many factors in the modern world conspire against health and weight control, for children and adults alike. It is my hope to help teens navigate towards optimal health through the high school years and beyond. This coming summer is a perfect time for teens to set goals in order to make lifestyle changes and improve overall quality of life.

Here is my advice to teens on how to get the best fitness and health results over the summer:

A) Assemble Your Team:

First and foremost, remember that you are not alone.  It may feel that way sometimes, but there are always people who can help and support you. Friends and family are a great place to go for support, but sometimes you need a little extra push. Joining an online support group, like, is a great idea. Additionally, consulting your school nurse, a counselor, registered dietitian, community organization, or fitness club are all reliable sources of support and information. Stay clear of anyone or anything promising overnight success. Another solution would be a boarding school I am associated with called the MindStream Academy. This is a boarding school where restoration of health and hope all come together, helping you sort out useful information from the potentially harmful, all while having fun, getting fit and losing weight.

B) Set Goals:

Goals are the map to help us find success. Short-term goals lead to long term ones.  Therefore, making short-term goals is very important – keep them realistic, feasible and manageable. The idea is to be able to achieve them, and build upon them! 
  • Write down food, exercise and other health goals – and be specific.  For example, realistic and specific goals might be: ''Walk for 30 minutes 5 times a week; drink water instead of soda at mealtimes; and go to sleep 15 minutes earlier each night''. Simple, and a great start!
  • If you have difficulty reaching a goal, break it down into smaller ones and build up.  10 minutes of exercise 3 times a day is a great place to start if you're just beginning your journey. 
  • Share your goals with appropriate people.  They will provide motivation, accountability and feedback.
Choosing and sticking with a goal changes everything!

C) Have Fun with Fitness and Keep It Simple
  • During your favorite TV show’s commercials, try an activity burst, such as jumping jacks.
  • Put on your favorite tunes and just dance, be silly, and laugh!
  • Find a fitness activity that you enjoy doing and will stick to.
D) Play with Your Food
  • Plan healthy meals and eat together as a family. Get everyone involved in the kitchen and help support each other's healthy habits.
  • Grow a window herb garden and experiment with a variety of spices and herbs to add flavor to your meals instead of butter and salt.
  • Introduce one superfood a day to your diet.
E) All of the Above!

Spend your summer at MindStream Academy, with like-minded teens who are ready to get fit and have a blast doing so.

MindStream Academy’s innovative summer program is dedicated to bringing about real-life change in a teenager’s life utilizing our Mind – Body – Spirit focus on optimal health and wellness.

Teens will be guided through the MindStream experience with the help of our certified, registered, and licensed staff of dietitians, chefs, fitness instructors, counselors, and educators. The ultimate goal is that the lessons learned this summer will begin a student on his or her path to life-long health and vibrancy.
The Academy’s pristine 43-acre state, including horses and stables, creates a natural playground where teens can become reacquainted with their natural love of the outdoors! (Take a video tour here.) With so many activities to choose from, both on-campus and off, their days are certain to be filled with fun and adventure.

Teens: how do you plan to take advantage of your summer to meet your healthy lifestyle goals?            

About Dr. David Katz:
Dr. David Katz is one of the leading international authorities on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease. Dr. Katz is in the trenches of the war against Childhood Obesity. In fact, he warned us many years ago that this younger generation will not live as long or as healthfully as their parents. Dr. David Katz is also a prolific author, having published over 120 scientific papers, numerous textbook chapters, nearly a thousand newspaper columns, and a dozen books to date. In 2009, he was nominated for the position of U.S. Surgeon General to the Obama Administration by the American College of Physicians, the American College of Preventive Medicine, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, among other national and international health organizations. He is also the Founding Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, Director & Founder of the Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital and Turn the Tide Foundation, Inc. and the Editor-in-Chief of the Childhood Obesity Journal.
About MindStream Academy:
MindStream Academy ( is a full-service boarding school on a pristine 43-acre horse farm in South Carolina for teens and tweens who want to get healthy, fit, lose weight, take control of their lives, build self-esteem, and pursue a personal passion.

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Most families need to learn all about nutrition: reading labels, what each individual needs in the way of nutritional goals, learning to eat healthy, whole, unprocessed foods and learning about the new trends in food to avoid, such as GMO products. Oh, and absolutely there should be the emphasis on what to eat for a healthy body not for weight loss, particularly since that encourages young people to have eating disorders. Report
Seems more like a shameless plug for mindstream academy than an informational article Report
While I have no doubt that this MindStream Academy is really helpful to teens wanting to lose weight and get healthy, in addition this article seemed alot like an advertisement for it while at the same time giving teens helpful information in their quest for a healthy lifestyle. Report
I hate the stupid term "Tweens" since they are KIDS and not mini-teenagers. But marketing found a way to sell them on everything that the older ones do. Report
I would LOVE to get my daughters to do Sparkpeople with me. It would be SO cool to have our own team--maybe I'd break my plateau, one would lose the 10% of her body weight that would help her health and the other would just be in better shape for school. It would also help me with the cooking!! And maybe Dad would join us!! But have to get THEM to make the decision. Report
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