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Why Teens Shouldn't Diet

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Why Teens Shouldn't Diet

Dieting can be defined as restricting calories or food groups (Deal with Diets: With the number of obese people growing, it's no wonder that people are starting to diet, and "in 1988, Americans spent 32 billion dollars on diets and diet products (Baird: Women's Health Fact Sheet)." A problem arises when teens start restricting their food, because dieting can be very harmful to a teenager's still-developing body. It can also be harmful to the teen's psychological health as well. "80% of teen girls are unhappy with their bodies and weight (Community Action: 27% of Teens in Peril from Dieting), and 50% of teen girls incorrectly believe that they are overweight, increasing the likelihood that they will diet (Strauss 741)." Dieting comes with its own host of problems which is why teens should definitely not diet because it can cause obesity, eating disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

Some people may be surprised by the fact that dieting can actually cause obesity later. It seems like a paradox, but it really isn't. When someone else controls the way you eat, it's very natural to rebel. Also, when someone diets, it slows down their metabolism, and when a person starts eating like they used to, the metabolism doesn't have any time to adjust to that, and there is a weight gain. Plus, dieting lowers a person's blood sugar, which can trigger depression, then trigger binge eating, which leads to weight gain (Drohan 30-32). This may all seem like theory, but there have been two recent studies to explore it further. Harvard Medical School put together a study, testing this theory, and the results were surprising. What they found after testing 8,203 girls and 6,769 boys was that the adolescents who dieted frequently actually gained more weight each year than other children. Both the males and females suffered from the boomerang effect of dieting, and gained, on average, two pounds more than the non-dieters. They then determined that the weight gain was due to the fact that when teens diet, they are restricting themselves. When a person cuts down on calories, it becomes very hard for them to control the cravings, desires, and the hunger. When they can no longer control themselves, the binge on all the foods that they were craving, which eventually leads to the weight gain (Teen's Diets often Backfire: The non dieter obviously felt no need to binge, because they hadn't been restricting themselves in the first place.

A person might disagree with these results, citing that it is just common sense that if a person restricts their food intake, they will lose weight. It's not rocket science; it's a well accepted fact. They might also argue that the two pound weight gain was only for special cases, and that didn't happen to the majority of people. A study done by the University of Texas disagrees. They tested 692 teenage girls from ninth to twelfth grade, and charted their weight by weighing them on a scale, and asking them about their eating habits. What they found after doing a few blind studies was that dieting was proven to be either ineffective in the first place, and actually lead to more weight gain. They concluded that after a four year span, the girls who dieted actually gained an average of three pounds more than the girls who didn't diet. This was not just a select few, but the average. They also believed that restriction had a lot to do with the weight gain (Leslie). Restricting was the way that the teens dieted, but restriction can lead to a whole host of problems in itself, like eating disorders.

Another problem is that when dieting gets out of control, eating disorders occur. "Eighty percent of people who had anorexia or bulimia started with a diet (Drohan 35)." Eating disorders are any one of the various psychological conditions involving abnormal eating habits. Anorexia and bulimia are two major examples of eating disorders. A teenager with anorexia nervosa irrationally believes that she is fat, regardless of how thin she gets. She needs a mastery over her life, and feels a sense of control when saying no to food. So, the girl starves herself, which leads to serious damage to the body and could lead to death (Teens with Eating Disorders: The symptoms of bulimia are usually different than anorexia. The girl binges on high-calorie foods, and then purges herself of those calories by self-induced vomiting or by using laxatives. This results in dramatic weight fluctuations. Bulimia can cause dehydration, hormonal imbalance, depletion of important minerals, and damage to vital organs (Teens with Eating Disorders: Health problems from eating disorders would be too much weight loss, loss of menstrual periods, loss of energy, dental problems, skin problems, constipation, stomach pain, low blood pressure, dry skin, irregular heart beat, hair growth all over body, osteoporosis, depression, and many more (Baird: Women's Health Fact Sheet).

One might argue, what do eating disorders have to do with dieting? A person could think that eating disorders don't come from dieting, but from other sources. When a girl sees images of the perfect body, she will develop an eating disorder in order to look like that image, or a girl could have someone telling them how fat she is, so she decides to stop eating. Women don't start with a diet, they know exactly what they are doing when they are not eating, or making themselves throw up, and it isn't because they started to diet, it's because of something else. This is just not true. These factors might have a lot to do with the eating disorder, but "thirty-five percent of normal dieters will go on to develop severely disturbed food and weight attitudes and behaviors (27%of Teens in Peril from Dieting)." This is just a phenomenal percentage when a person thinks of the millions of teens who are on diets today. It's also a very scary percentage when you think about the fact that teenagers who develop eating disorders are at a high risk for other emotional problems that linger into early adulthood (Morelli). Not to mention that eating disorders and diets can cause severe nutrient deficiencies.

"Adolescents' diet habits are often influenced by social pressures to achieve cultural ideals of thinness, demonstrate athletic prowess, gain peer acceptance, or assert independence from parental authority (Trends in teen nutrition:" These choices are usually not healthy, and teens think that if they eat a certain type of food, or not eat a certain type of food, they will lose weight, and be healthy. Many teens cut things like milk out of their diets, because they think



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