The Deal With Diets

The Deal With Diets

Lee este articulo

High-protein diets. Low-fat diets. All-vegetable diets. No-carb diets. With all the focus on dieting, how do you figure out what's healthy and what isn't?

Lots of people 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.

Why Do People Diet?

People diet for many reasons. Some are at an unhealthy weight and need to pay closer attention to their eating and exercise habits. Some play sports and want to be in top physical condition. Others may think they would look and feel better if they lost a few pounds.

Some people may diet because they think they are supposed to look a certain way. Actors and actresses are thin, and most fashions are shown off by very thin models. But this look is unrealistic for most people — not to mention physically damaging to the models and stars who struggle to maintain it.

By the time they turn 12 or 13, most teen girls start to 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 on TV or in magazine ads. Guys develop at different rates, too. Those guys with washboard abs you see in clothing ads are usually in their twenties.

Can Diets Be Unhealthy?

Any diet on which you eat fewer calories than you need to get through the day — like an 800-calorie-per-day diet, for instance — can be dangerous. Diets that don't allow any fat also can be bad for you. Everyone needs a certain amount of fat in their diet — about 30% of total calories — so no one should eat a completely fat-free diet.

Don't fall for diets that restrict certain food groups, either. A diet that requires you to say no to bread or pasta 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 normally again.

Some people start dieting because they think all the problems in their lives are because of weight. Others have an area of their lives that they can't control, like an alcoholic parent, so they focus excessively on something they can control — their exercise and food intake.

People who diet may get lots of praise and compliments from friends and family when they start losing pounds, which makes them feel good. But eventually a person reaches a weight plateau — and doesn't lose as much weight as before because the body is trying to maintain a healthy weight. People in these situations eventually discover that, even if they do lose weight, they aren't any happier.

Some people may find it hard to control their eating, so they stick with an extreme diet for a little while, but then eat tons of food. Feeling guilty about the binge, they vomit or use laxatives. Eating too little to maintain a healthy weight (anorexia) or eating only to throw up the calories (bulimia) are both eating disorders, which are harmful to a person's health. Someone with an eating disorder needs medical treatment right away.

So How Can I Lose Weight Safely?

When you're a teen, dieting can be dangerous because you may not get the right kinds and amounts of nutrients, which can lead to poor growth and other health problems. But eating healthy meals and snacks combined with reasonable amounts of exercise can help you lose weight and develop properly at the same time. For a lot of people, just being more active might help them lose weight without even changing what they eat. Regular exercise also helps them feel healthier and better about themselves.

The best way to diet is to eat a wide variety of enough food to meet your body's needs. Aim to eat more fruits and veggies, cut back on meats high in fat (like burgers and hot dogs), greasy fried foods, and sweets, and drink more water instead of sugary drinks like sports drinks or sodas.

If you are concerned about your body's size or think you need to lose weight, talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian, who may reassure you that you are at a healthy weight. Or if you are overweight, he or she can sit down with you and determine the best way for you to reach a healthy weight.

Great Ways to Find Good Health

If you want to change your health habits, here are some tried-and-true tips:

Dieting Danger Signs

How do you know if your diet is out of control? Warning signs include:

If you, or someone you know, shows any of these signs, talk to a trusted adult or doctor.

Dieting and weight control can consume your life. By accepting your body and making healthy choices, you can keep your weight under control and enjoy life at the same time.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: May 2013





Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.





Bookmark and Share

Related Resources
OrganizationNational Eating Disorders Association The NEDA is a nonprofit association dedicated to the prevention and treatment of eating disorders. Contact them at: National Eating Disorders Association
603 Stewart St.
Suite 803 Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 382-3587
Web SiteNational Center for Nutrition and Dietetics Offering nutrition information, resources, and access to registered dietitians.
OrganizationVegetarian Resource Group This site offers recipes, nutrition information, and lots more for vegetarians and anyone looking to eat less meat.
Web SiteChooseMyPlate.gov ChooseMyPlate.gov provides practical information on how to follow the U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It includes resources and tools to help families lead healthier lives.
Web SiteGirlsHealth.gov GirlsHealth.gov, developed by the U.S. Office on Women's Health, offers girls between the ages of 10 and 16 information about growing up, food and fitness, and relationships.
Related Articles
Is the Alli Diet Pill Right for Me? If you're in your teens, the Alli diet pill isn't the weight-loss miracle you may be looking for.
Becoming a Vegetarian People choose vegetarianism for a variety of reasons. This article describes different types of vegetarianism and provides advice on ways for vegetarians to get all the nutrients they need.
Staying at a Healthy Weight Here are some practical, everyday tips on making exercise and healthy eating work for you instead of feeling like it's the other way around.
Body Image and Self-Esteem When your body changes, so can your image of yourself. Find out how your body image affects your self-esteem and what you can do.
How Can I Lose Weight Safely? Lots of people are unhappy with their present weight, but aren't sure how to change it - or even if they need to. Get the facts on weight loss here.
Are Detox Diets Safe? The name sounds reassuring - everyone knows that anything toxic is bad for you. But detox diets aren't good for teens. Find out why.
Therapy and Weight Management Losing weight can feel like a challenge, no matter how much we want it. It can sometimes seem like our minds are working against us. That's where weight-management counselors can help.
5 Ways to Spot a Fad Diet Here are 5 clues that a diet may be more about empty promises than real results.
Should I Go on a Diet? Find out what the experts have to say.
5 Ways to Reach a Healthy Weight Most dieters regain the weight they lost by dieting when they go back to their old eating habits. Get our tips on the best ways to drop excess weight.
Compulsive Exercise Compulsive exercise can lead to serious health problems. Lots of people don't know when they've crossed the line from healthy activity to unhealthy addiction. Read about ways to tell.
Eating Disorders Eating disorders are so common in America that 1 or 2 out of every 100 students will struggle with one. Find out more.
Weight Loss Surgery Weight loss surgery works. But it's serious stuff, both physically and emotionally. Find out about different weight loss surgery options for teens.
iGrow iGrow
Sign up for our parent enewsletter