The idea of dieting first pops up in our lives when we enter adolescence – the years during which our bodies begin to undergo dramatic and sometimes surprising changes. Uncertain of what bodies will ultimately look like, and worried about fitting in with the rest of their age group, teenagers are frequently tempted to alter their eating habits and begin diets when in high school. However, embarking on a dieting frenzy at such a young age isn’t a healthy idea. Dieting too early on can cause health problems and hinder self-esteem that last well beyond the teenage years.
Why Dieting Isn’t Smart
With childhood obesity an ever-present problem today, why shouldn’t teens be encouraged to begin diets? After all, excess weight in younger years causes problems that make staying healthy as an adult a huge problem. Unfortunately, many teens don’t choose to diet because they are obese; instead, they are pressured by standards surrounding them in society. It’s the desire to be as thin as possible that leads as many as 60 percent of high school girls to diet, and as many as 80 percent of ten year olds to do the same.
When children and teenagers of such young ages start to limit their calorie intake, according to medical researchers, they are more likely to resort to extreme measures in an effort to lose weight. Instead of choosing healthy options like increased fruits and vegetables, teens rely on vomiting, diuretics, or even laxatives. These methods do nothing beneficial for the body; instead, they lead teenagers to develop problems with drugs, alcohol, and obesity as adults.
Dieting Becomes Emotional
In addition to the physical problems that come with young dieting, emotional problems arise quickly as well. Years of research has shown that teenagers who diet develop more than just poor and negative self-esteem. It’s the teenagers who already feel badly about themselves who are the most likely to diet in the first place – and teens who diet have been found to be unhappier with their weight even if they are healthy. Dieting teens “feel fat” even if they are at a perfectly healthy weight, and feel as though they have no control over their lives. Additionally, these teenagers grow distant from their families, friends, and lives at school because of their intense emotional dissatisfaction.
So, instead of attempting to diet as a teenager, children should be encouraged to lead healthy lifestyles by eating well, maintaining regular activity, and feeling confident about themselves no matter their weight.