The dangers of dieting in teenagers – what you should know as a parent

Categories TeensPosted on

The teenage years are a time of intense growth, development and social change. This onslaught can reduce a teenager’s body confidence and self-esteem. Combine this with pressure from the media and peers to look a certain way, and a lack of knowledge and experience about nutrition, and many teenagers choose extremely risky dietary behaviors. The consequences of dangerous diets and eating habits during adolescence can have an impact on growth and health.

• About 1 in every 2 teenage girls and 1 in every 4 teenage boys have tried dieting to change the shape of their bodies.
• More than 1 in 3 girls who are at a healthy weight still try to diet.
• Dieting can lead to dangerous eating disorders.

Compared with teens who don’t diet, teens who diet:

• are likely to weigh MORE by the time they are young adults
• are more unhappy with their weight,
• tend to “feel fat” even if they are not,
• have lower self-esteem
• feel less connected to their families and schools,
• feel less in control of their lives,
• are more likely to engage in unhealthy weight-loss behaviors such as using diet pills, laxatives or vomiting after meals,
• are more likely to have a parent who criticizes their weight, encourages them to diet or who is preoccupied with weight themselves.

Fashionable detox diets and crash diets

These diets promise a way to rid the body of ‘harmful toxins’ often by going on a very restrictive diet or a liquid fast. Whilst they can take many different forms ranging from juice only to cayenne pepper, maple syrup and lemon juice concoctions, the basic premise is always the same – very restrictive eating for a short period. The problem is, teenager’s bodies (like most healthy bodies) already have a way to get rid of supposed ‘toxins’ – it’s called a liver. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that detox diets aid this process in any way. Yes, most people will lose weight however in the vast majority of cases this weight will be regained once normal eating resumes often with an extra few kilos as well.

Detox diets mean cutting out nutrients that are crucial to your teenager’s growth and development and could potentially have long-term impacts especially on things like bone health and neurological development. Therefore, if your teenager really wants to ‘detox’, suggest he/she tries cutting down on processed sugar, alcohol, and caffeine and increasing her/his water and vegetable intake. This will help promote the rejuvenating effects and weight loss desired in a much healthier manner.


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