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THIS IS THE ARTICLE
Dieting Basics. Nutricise.
Teen Decisions: Dieting. Ed. Auriana Ojeda. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2003.
In the following article, Nutricise, a comprehensive online resource for nutrition and fitness information, provides an overview of teenagers and dieting. The site explains that some teens diet to get in shape for sports while others do so because they think that they should be thin like fashion models. If you feel that you need to lose weight, Nutricise suggests that rather than dieting, you should eat balanced meals in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid and get plenty of vigorous exercise.
If you watch television, see movies, read newspapers or flip through magazines, you've probably noticed that diets are everywhere. High-protein diets. Low-fat diets. All-vegetable diets. No-pasta diets. But with all the focus on dieting, how do you figure out what's healthy and what isn't? Many teens feel pressured to lose weight and try different types of diets, but if you really need to lose weight, improving your eating habits and exercising will help you more than any diet. Here are the basics of dieting:
People diet for many reasons. Some teens weigh too much and need to pay closer attention to their eating and exercise habits. Some teens play sports and want to be in top physical condition. Other teens may feel they would look and feel better if they lost a few pounds.
Some teens may diet because they think they are "supposed" to look a certain way. Models and actresses are thin, and many of today's fashions are modeled by very thin people. But the model-thin style is an unrealistic look for most people. By around ages 12 or 13, most teen girls go through body changes that are natural and necessary: their hips broaden, their breasts develop and suddenly the way they look may not match girls in television or magazine ads.
Can Diets Be Unhealthy?
Any diet that suggests you eat fewer calories than you need to get through the day (such as an 800 calories-a-day diet) is dangerous. Diets that don't allow any fat can also be bad for you. You should have a certain amount of fat in your diet, between 20 and 25 percent of your total calories. Although a low-fat diet may be okay, don't go completely fat-free.
Don't fall for diets that restrict certain food groups, either. A diet that says "no" to breads or pastas or allows you to eat only fruit is unhealthy. You won't get the vitamins and minerals you need and although you may lose weight, you'll probably gain it back as soon as you start eating in your usual way.
Some teens start dieting because they think all the problems in their lives are weight-related. Or some teens have an area of their lives that they can't control—an alcoholic parent, for example—so they focus excessively on something they can control—their exercise and food. Once these teens start losing weight, they may get lots of praise and compliments from friends and family, which makes them feel good. But they will eventually reach a weight plateau, and they won't lose as much weight as before because their body is trying to maintain a healthy weight. They may also find they aren't any happier, but they still keep their main focus on their weight.
Some teens may find it hard to control their eating, so they control it for a little while, but then eat tons of food. Feeling guilty about the binge, they use laxatives or vomit. Both of these problems are eating disorders, which are harmful to a person's health. A teen with an eating disorder needs medical treatment right away.
So How Can I Lose Weight Safely?
Dieting usually means severely restricting calories or certain food groups. When you're a teen, dieting can be dangerous because you may not get the right kind and right amount of nutrients, which can lead to poor growth and other health problems. In other words, by not eating right your height could even fall short!
But eating healthy meals and snacks and getting a reasonable amount of exercise may help you lose weight and develop properly at the same time. For a lot of teens, just being more active might help you lose weight without even changing what you eat! So get moving—whether you're involved in sports or you just take a walk or a bike ride several days a week, exercise really helps.
The most important thing to remember when you are dieting is to eat a wide variety of food to ensure that you're meeting your body's needs. Try to cut back on high-fat meats (like burgers and hot dogs), eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more water instead of sugary drinks like sports drinks or sodas.
For many teens, just exercising more and following a healthy diet (use the Food Guide Pyramid) can help you stay in shape and achieve a healthy weight. But if you are concerned about your body's size or think you need to lose weight, talk with a medical professional first—a doctor or dietitian may even reassure you that you are at a healthy weight. If you are overweight, the doctor can help you determine the best way to reach a healthy weight.
Great Ways to Find Great Health
Here are some tips to help you change your health habits:
• Drink milk, including fat-free or low-fat milk. Many teens mistakenly think that milk has more calories than other drinks, such as soda. But a glass of skim milk has only 80 calories as well as protein and calcium. Soda has 120 calories of sugar and no other nutrients.
• Eat a variety of foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
• Drink plenty of water.
• Eat lean, high-protein foods, like lean meat, chicken, fish or beans.
• Eat grains, which provide fiber, B vitamins and iron.
• Eat breakfast. Studies show that people who eat breakfast do better in school, and tend to eat less throughout the day.
• Watch out for excessive caffeine—it doesn't help you lose weight and can cause dehydration.
• Stay away from fad diets—even if you lose five pounds, you'll just gain it back when you go back to your usual way of eating.
• Don't take diet pills, even ones you get over the counter, unless prescribed by your doctor or dietitian.
• Don't get into an "I don't eat that" way of thinking. If you eliminate entire food groups, you may miss out on important nutrients.
• If you choose to become a vegetarian, talk to your doctor or dietitian about how to make good, nutritious vegetarian choices.
Dieting Danger Signs
How do you know if your diet or a friend's diet is out of control? If you or a friend does any of the following things, talk to a doctor:
• Continues to diet, even if not overweight
• Has physical changes, such as weakness, headaches or dizziness
• Withdraws from family and friends
• Performs poorly in school
• Eats in secret
• Thinks about food all the time
• Restricts activities because of food or compulsive exercise
• Fears food
• Wears baggy clothes to hide thinness
• Uses laxatives or vomits
Dieting and weight control can consume your life. By accepting your body and making healthy choices, you'll keep your weight under control and enjoy life.