DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: This year, I want to lose weight. My weight affects my energy, my lack of a boyfriend, and how I feel about myself. I think my mom is scared I’ll become anorexic if she says anything other than, “You are beautiful just the way you are.” Not that I want her putting me down, but I do want to lose weight. Did anyone on the panel get fit and healthy when they were once overweight? If so, where did you get the willpower? Thank you so much!

— 15 in Vacaville

Moriah, 17, Rutland, Vt.: I’m a person who needs to plan. If I try to find willpower in the moment, I fail. I’ve sat down at the beginning of the week and written out a detailed menu (including snacks) for the whole week. Then I followed it strictly, packing meals/snacks for when I went out, too.

Brandon, 21, Mapleton, Maine: At 15, I was 5’10” and weighed almost 300 pounds. I played video games 20 hours a day, drank 7-8 sodas daily, and no potato chip was safe. I was the chubby, funny “Chris Farley,” picked to be goalie because I could lie down and block 80 percent of the goal. I started having health troubles, mainly breathing troubles, and after I lost my first 10 pounds, someone actually noticed. That really motivated me! I slowly cut things out, replacing soda with tea, eating baked chips instead of fried, playing active video games like Wii and “Dance Dance Revolution,” and got into airsoft. Girls started paying attention and my motivation continued. By graduation, I weighed 190.

Kira, 20, Moraga: Try the Paleo diet! I did it just to get healthier and ended up losing 10-15 pounds. Also, eating Paleo made me realize I had a gluten sensitivity. Check it out! You don’t eat any processed foods, grains or dairy — so, no bread, pasta, rice, milk products, sugar or caffeine. Instead, lots of vegetables, nuts, sweet potato, eggs and meat. (Because I’m an athlete, I ate brown rice and quinoa occasionally. I also gave myself some cheat meals.) Your first three days are hard. Stick with it, though! You’ll start feeling great and sugar cravings will lessen. Aim for 30 days — not that you’ll want to stop then! For exercise, I love CrossFit. People of all sizes and abilities do it. The coaches are so friendly! It’s a much better workout than going to a regular gym.

Taylor, 16, Santa Rosa: Lasting weight loss happens slowly. I recommend a class. Group workouts keep you honest and are fun! Have mini-goals to keep you on track and celebrate mini-successes (like a workout record or a shirt you feel good in). The goal should be to feel healthy, not fit society’s mold of perfection.

Brie, 21, San Francisco: Find an activity you love. I hate the gym, but love swimming, dancing, kayaking, basketball and tennis, all of which are great workouts. Ask Mom to stop buying sugary and processed foods. Have her or a friend join you! A partner can help with accountability.

DEAR 15: Congratulations on a life-changing initiative! I hope the panel’s comments are motivating. Here are some tips from “successful losers” who kept the weight off (from the National Weight Control Registry): All modified their diet and increased physical activity, four out of five always ate breakfast, 62 percent watched less than 10 hours of TV a week, the average exercise time was an hour a day, and walking was the most popular exercise. (Our panelist, Peter, described dramatic weight loss through hour-a-day walking in our May 11, 2005 column.) You go, girl!

— Lauren

(Straight Talk is a nonprofit that tackles youth’s toughest issues with youth’s wisest advice. Go deeper in today’s conversation or ask a question at, or write to P.O. Box 1974, Sebastopol 95473.)

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