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Weight Loss Advice For Teens:
Methods That Don't Work

If you are a teenager with weight problems, it's important to stay cool and avoid ineffective or unhealthy ways to lose weight. During your teenage years, your body develops in many different ways - not all visible - and good health is essential to ensure this development proceeds smoothly. To help you make the right choices, here are some weight loss methods that (I can assure you) DON'T work!

The Teenage Starvation Diet

This diet should be avoided at all costs. Unless recommended and supervised by a doctor for the treatment of severe obesity (100+ pounds overweight), any diet which involves a drastic reduction in calories is likely to be extremely unhealthy, possibly dangerous.

Starvation Diets Typically Lead to Weight Gain in Teens

Paradoxically, ultra-low calorie dieting among teens usually leads to a gain in weight, rather than weight reduction. After a short period of rapid initial weight loss, the body starts to slow down in order to conserve calories. This is a natural defence mechanism designed to overcome the effects of a food shortage. As a result, weight loss slows down. The teen dieter is already experiencing tiredness and lack of energy, as a result of lack of calories. At this point, a combination of hunger, cravings and low mood may trigger an episode of binge eating. Or else the lack of weight loss is usually enough to demotivate the dieter who quits the diet and starts overeating. Repeated attempts to lose weight in this way can lower metabolic rate and make it even more difficult to maintain a normal weight.

Starvation Diets Cause Loss of Muscle

Another problem is that the weight loss which occurs as a result of drastic calorie reduction is highly undesirable. Up to 50 percent of the the weight lost is not fat at all, but lean tissue. In other words, the body starts burning up its own muscles. One reason for this, is that fat tissue requires fewer calories to maintain than muscle tissue, so the body retains more fat and burns more muscle.

Health Effects of Starvation Diets Among Teens

The average 11 year old requires a minimum of 1800 calories. This rises with age and gender to about 2700 calories for 18 year old teenage boys. The reason that adolescents and teenagers need these calories is to satisfy the nutritional demands of the intense development and growth they experience during this period. A very low calorie diet (less than 1000 calories) can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies, involving extreme tiredness, bone weakness, skin and hair problems, as well as hormonal problems and worse.

Laxatives Unsafe and Ineffective For Weight Reduction

In a recent survey, 9 percent of teenage girls and 4 percent of teenage boys reported using laxative pills or supplements to lose weight. If you are a teenager with weight problems, please do not resort to this method. Laxatives are neither safe nor effective for weight reduction purposes. Here's why:

  • Most of the weight lost is water loss, not fat loss.
  • By speeding up the digestive process, laxatives can reduce the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients and leave us weak and dehydrated.
  • Long-term use of laxatives upsets the mechanism of the colon. This can make us dependent on laxative pills for regular bowel movements. (Colon-cleansing does not cure this problem.)

Fad Diets are Simply Low Calorie Eating Plans

A typical fad diet (eg. cabbage soup diet, grapefruit diet) is a low calorie eating plan with some type of gimmick attached. Some fad diets rely on high intakes of a single food which is supposed to burn fat. (Note: There are no special fat-burning foods.) Others recommend specific combinations of food that supposedly cause weight or fat to "melt away." There is no truth in any of these fad-diet assertions. The only reason they cause some teens to lose weight is because they are very low in calories. And as we have already seen, low calorie diet plans are very unhealthy and do not lead to long term weight reduction. If you are a teenager who needs to lose weight, please do not waste your time following one of these low energy diets.

Teen Vegetarian Diets

Quite a few girls turn to vegetarian diets in their mid or late teens. As a way of eating, vegetarianism has a lot to recommend it. Trouble is, most teens don't realise that giving up meat makes it much more difficult to eat a healthy diet. The point is, meat is a very convenient source of important vitamins and minerals, especially iron. So if you stop eating meat, you need to eat a wide range of vegetarian foods to compensate for this deficiency. Unfortunately, vegetarian teenagers are not famous for doing this. Enough said. For more information, see Vegetarian Nutrition, or read about my Healthy Vegetarian Diet

How to Lose Weight Successfully If You are a Teenager

Unless you are seriously overweight, the most effective way to reduce weight is to eat healthily and take regular exercise. Amazingly, many teenagers don't choose this tried-and-tested method. Instead, they prefer "instant solutions" to their weight concerns - solutions which typically cause ill-health and weight gain.

If you are seriously overweight, talk to your parents or talk to your doctor and ask for advice. Most doctors will put you in contact with a qualified dietitian who can give you a healthy calorie-controlled eating plan, together with advice on how to increase your exercise level.

Whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of looking for "instant solutions" to your weight concerns. Most of these solutions cause weight gain, not loss. Trust me.


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