It seems like every time you turn around, someone is talking about dieting. Every tabloid at the supermarket has details on the hottest celebrity fad diets. Whenever you turn on the TV, there's another infomercial raving about a liquid diet plan or diet supplement. During gym class your best friend always complains about her "big" hips and how she's going on a diet to get rid of them.
This constant focus on weight and dieting may leave you wondering whether you need to go on a diet yourself.
The truth is that not all teens who diet actually need to lose weight. Many times, friends, family, and society influence the way we see our bodies. Pressures like these can prompt some teens to take drastic dieting measures, leading to malnutrition and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. And because teens are still growing, drastic dieting can be especially harmful to their developing bodies. Other teens may mistakenly think that in order to be in top form for their chosen sport, they need to be as thin as possible.
These pressures are one of the reasons why the best person to see when you have a question about dieting is your doctor. Your doctor can help you determine what is a healthy weight for your body size and shape. He or she can help you decide whether you need to be on a diet at all. And if necessary, your doctor can refer you to a dietitian or nutrition specialist.
Building a Healthy Body
There are healthy and unhealthy ways to lose weight, and in the long run you are better off taking the healthy route. If you and your doctor do decide that going on a diet is the right thing for you, he or she can help you come up with a plan.
Even without seeing your doctor, you can make smart food choices that will keep you healthy. Rather than drastically cutting calories, try substituting healthy food choices for not-so-healthy ones. Instead of chowing down on chips when you get home from school, try a piece of fruit or some vegetables.
Simple low-fat substitutions can make a huge difference in your calorie intake as well. For example, skim or low-fat milk or water are better drink choices when you're thirsty — soda and fruit drinks are loaded with calories and sugar and short on nutritional benefits.
Another thing to keep in mind is that exercise can help you feel and look better. Regular exercise tones your muscles while you burn calories and fat, and it makes you look sleeker and slimmer. Remember that toning up takes time. Running the mile in gym class once a year won't make a difference in overall weight loss, so start slowly and work up to it.
Whether you go on a diet or not, exercising and healthy eating are excellent ways to keep your body in great shape. Cutting down on the time you spend in front of the computer or TV can help you boost your activity level and may even help you snack less. And research shows that people who exercise regularly are more likely to maintain their new weight if they've lost weight. So, get moving and keep your health on track!
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: September 2006