News / 

Tracking: Teen obesity tips the scales

Save Story

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

It is well-known that teenagers like to eat. However, increased access to fast food and school vending machines has placed less-than-healthy food choices at the forefront of teens' menus. That, combined with an emphasis on a sedentary lifestyle, has led today's teens into the midst of a well-documented national epidemic of obesity, which in turn has spawned another epidemic -- Type 2 diabetes.

To find out how teens feel about the obesity issue and their part in it, I administered an anonymous survey on the subject to more than 100 teenagers at two high schools. Participants ranged in age from 14 to 18 and included teens from different ethnicities, backgrounds and academic standings from Hiram Johnson High and Mira Loma High. Though the poll was not scientific, it provided interesting results.

When asked why he thought teenagers are in the midst of an obesity epidemic, one 16-year-old boy cited lack of exercise, too much TV and too many video games" as the culprits. One 15-year-old girl wrote that "teens have fast-paced lives and don't really have time to pick and choose what is healthy to eat."

Some students blamed schools for the weight gain. "School (cafeterias) charge $3 for a salad and 50 cents for candy," said a 16-year-old boy. In an attempt to counter teens' over-consumption of vending-machine soda, some schools have introduced vending machines that sell only milk, water or juice.

Are students really buying from these machines? According to the survey results, 65 percent of students purchase soda and snacks from school vending machines, while 46 percent reported buying water or milk at school. "I buy (only) chips, candy and soda," said one 14-year-old girl. The numbers suggest that most teens are not taking advantage of healthier alternatives, even when they are placed right in front of them.

According to one 16-year-old girl, "Teens are taking part in nonactive entertainment more often." Several students mentioned that spending more time watching television and playing video games means less time for athletic involvement. A combined 34 percent reported they spend less than five hours a week doing physical activity.

One way teens can get active is by taking a physical education class at school. In the San Juan Unified School District, students are required to complete only two years of P.E. to graduate. Only 36 percent of survey participants said they are currently enrolled in a P.E. class, and only 14 percent said they had taken more than two P.E. classes during high school.

Fast-food restaurants have long received criticism for contributing to teens' expanding waistlines. However, it seems teens have wised up, as 36 percent reported eating fast food less than once a week. "Fast food equals bad," explained one 16-year-old boy. Expressing popular sentiment, an 18-year-old girl said, "I do go to a fast food restaurant, I order a salad."

Although teens in general have experienced a jump in the numbers on the scale recently, not everyone believes they are affected by it. "I don't think teens are in the midst of any epidemic," wrote one 17-year-old boy. Another 17-year-old boy looked around his classroom before asking, "Are teens really overweight? I only see one person in my class that would be considered obese."

Although 62 percent of teens who took the survey reported themselves as being comfortable with their weight, 36 percent said they are not happy with their bodies. Generally, boys want to bulk up, girls want to slim down. "I want to be taller," wrote one 15-year-old boy, while a 15-year-old girl said, "I want to lose five pounds."

However, most teens are comfortable with the numbers on the scale. "I like my fat," one 15-year-old boy explained, and as a 14-year-old girl wrote, "It would be nice to be thinner, but I think it's important to be happy with who you are."

To see more of the Sacramento Bee, or to subscribe, go to

Copyright 2003 Sacramento Bee. All Rights Reserved.

Most recent News stories


Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast