There is a lot of pressure on today’s teens to go on a diet. Some feel this pressure because they are overweight or struggling to maintain a healthy weight. Others are at a healthy weight but feel pressure to be thinner or to look a certain way. These pressures encourage teens to “go on a diet” and to try the latest “thing” for losing weight. According to the National Institute of Health, half of teenage girls and a quarter of teenage boys have used dieting in an attempt to change their body. Teens of all sizes believe that dieting will help them get the body they believe will make them beautiful, popular, and happy.
Unfortunately, this is simply untrue. In fact, research has shown that teens who diet have lower self esteem, feel less connected to their families and friends, and don’t feel like they have control of their lives. In some cases, dieting, especially when it is done over and over, can actually lead to weight gain and weight problems later in life. No matter how popular a diet is or what kind of claims are made about how successful it is, the simple fact is that dieting doesn’t work almost all the time.
Here is the thing. Dieting, as we think of it in our culture, is something temporary. It may mean eating healthier foods, restricting calories, following strict rules, skipping certain meals, or only eating or not eating specific foods, but it is always a temporary change. This is the most important reason that dieting doesn’t work. Even if the changes being made lead to a healthier diet, the temporary nature of dieting means that once you achieve your goal, you will go back to your regular, potentially less healthy, eating habits. For many people, a return to their regular eating habits often means a return to their previous weight. This is how the rollercoaster of dieting begins.
The temporary nature of dieting is the foundation of this rollercoaster. Cutting calories drastically, skipping anything with carbs, and other dieting tactics can have unexpected effects. Dieting can decrease a person’s metabolism which can actually lead to gaining more weight than they lost once they stop following the diet. Restricting calories, cutting out certain types of foods, and being hungry can also make people moodier and make it harder to concentrate. In fact dieting, in the long-run, can actually result in an increase in overall body weight. This can mean lifelong issues with weight – even for those teens that were not overweight to start with!
So, what is the answer? Stop dieting. Maintaining a healthy weight should be a lifelong goal which means you need a long term solution. Rather than turning to dieting, try these healthy eating tips instead.
- Eat small meals such as 1/2 sandwich, some fruit, or some vegetables 4 or 5 times a day.
- Drink enough water. Teens need 64-80 ounces of water each day. Staying hydrated helps stabilize appetite and eliminate cravings.
- Eat a variety of foods and participate in fun physical activity on a regular basis.
- When eating out, assess how much you may want to eat ahead of time and then stop when you are full.
- If you find that you are eating when you are emotional, choose something besides food to help you cope.
If you have any questions about how your adolescent or teen can maintain a healthy body weight, a certified nutritionist at Doorways can help. Please give us a call and we would love to talk more with you.
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