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Teenagers and Fad Diets
Teenagers are at the stage when they are becoming conscious about their appearance, their body changes and their weights. They are easily influenced and sometimes confused by what their friends, the media and their family says about the pains and joys of growing up, including physical and emotional issues.
Teenagers often want to fix their problems quickly, no matter what it takes. Such is the case with overweight teens that want to lose weight fast and turn to fad diets which they may hear about from friends, favorite celebrities and magazines.
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What is a Fad Diet?
A fad diet is one that promises quick and dramatic results in terms of weight loss. It is usually unhealthy and unsafe because it does not consider the natural needs of the body in terms of complete nutrition.
Teaching teenagers about avoiding an unhealthy fad diet begins with knowing how to spot one. Parents and kids should know that a fad diet is:
- One which drastically cuts back on calories, such as starvation diets or low calorie diets
- One which emphasizes the taking of diet pills, teas, herbs, special powders that may contain laxatives, diuretics or appetite suppressants
- One which chooses only certain foods and combinations of foods that may be lacking in nutrition
- One which deprives the body of the right amount of carbohydrates and fats needed for energy and growth
- One which requires a person to skip meals or replace meals with special drinks or food bars lacking in nutritional value for normal growth and development
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Encouraging Safe Weight Loss in Teens
It is important to first recognize and affirm a teenager’s concerns about his or her developmental processes which include physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual growth. When the teen feels that a parent or guardian sympathizes and understands his/her concerns he/she will be able to trust and follow advice willingly.
As responsible parents, they must show good examples on how breakfast is an important meal, that meals must not be skipped, and that it would be good if everyone ate together for dinner.
To prevent teenagers from eating unhealthy foods, one must stock the refrigerator and pantry with healthy foods consisting of fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts. If there are no junk foods like chips, cookies and soda to find around the house teenagers will not get the habit of looking for them.
Encourage kids and teens to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and this will make them less likely to feel hungry for high calorie foods. Foods that are high in fiber content also decrease the risk for weight gain, reduce cholesterol levels and abdominal girth.
Prepare snacks and meals that are low in saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, salt and added sugars. Healthy sandwiches, cut and peeled fruits, low fat milk and yoghurt are easy to prepare and grab for kids on the go.
Encourage teenagers to be mindful of portion sizes when eating, especially outside the home. Avoid fast foods that are usually rich in fats and carbohydrates like French fries, hotdogs and pizza.
Healthy weight loss can also be achieved by cutting down on the hours spent in front of the television or computer. Substituting these forms of recreation with more active forms of exercise is a good way to lose weight and be with friends who may share interest in sports or in just walking around the mall.
Being active in sports or just doing regular activities like walking and running help lose weight safely and at the same time build muscles that can boost one’s self image. Engaging in more outdoor activities also help in developing the teenager’s social and emotional skills.
Parents can also help their adolescents to realize that body changes are a normal part of growing up, and that some may experience a growth spurt earlier than others. Developing a positive attitude towards one’s own body is better than looking at what looks better in others.
Instead of drawing attention to one's appearance a mother can perhaps appreciate a teenager’s efforts in school, at home and in other activities where he or she is most interested in. In this way eliminating the association of fad diets and teenagers can be accomplished.
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TeensHealth, "5 Ways to Spot a Fad Diet", http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/dieting/fad_diet_tips.html
Better Living Ideas, “Diets for Teenagers”, http://www.better-living-ideas.com/diets-for-teenagers.html