Dieting in Teens
It doesn't take a genius to work out that what you eat and drink affects your health. But when it comes to dieting, how many people know the consequences of cutting certain things out, especially as a teenager?
An article in the June issue of VOGUE got me thinking about the topic in more detail than I already had been. Although I know of a lot of girls who have been or who still are 'dieting' and thought it was sad, I hadn't really thought about the effects it could have if done badly. Charlotte Sinclair writes an interesting article about the confusion surrounding food and nutrition and raises the idea that the enjoyment of food has been lost in recent years. People are obsessed with size/weight/shape but seem to forget that 'healthy' doesn't necessarily equal thin. That's not to say that thin people are not healthy, just as it does not mean bigger people can't be healthy either.
The small paragraph out of all 20 of them, that I was most intrigued by was the following:
"Asides pounds lost or gained, dieting has a major biological impact. It affects our brain chemistry, hormone levels, digestion and metabolic systems. Our new aversion to dairy is causing osteoporosis rates to soar. Diet in our teens, and we programme an expectation of starvation into our metabolic rate, the response to eat more."
To explain (as best I can) Osteoporosis is a condition affecting the bones. It causes them to become weak and brittle, exploiting a sufferer to breaks and fractures much more easily than someone without the condition. Approximately 3 million people in the UK alone are thought to suffer from the illness, and although it is most common in older women, it can affect absolutely anyone at any age. It may not sound so bad initially, but for someone suffering from Osteoporosis, a sneeze or cough can cause a fracture in a rib. The reason the illness is linked to health from a young age is because it has a very slow onset with a number of causes and factors that will probably go unnoticed until you are diagnosed. Diet is directly linked to Conditions like Osteoporosis, calcium and vitamin D being most well known for keeping bones healthy and strong. So already you can see that if you suddenly start cutting out your main sources of calcium, which can often have high fat rates too, you might lose a bit of weight for a few months while endangering your future health.
Dieting also drastically affects metabolism. If you follow a low-calorie diet, your body goes through 5 main stages:
1) You may lose several pounds in water weight. Your body uses up carbohydrate stores known as glycogen which is stored with water.
2) Once all your carbs have been used up your body will enter starvation mode. Protein in your muscles is now the main source for energy. This then causes toxic compounds to be released causing you to feel tired and suffer from headaches.
3) As you begin to lose weight your muscle mass lessens and your metabolism begins to slow down to conserve the small amount of calories you're having. The more muscle you have, the faster you burn calories.
4) If you initially lose a lot of weight on the diet, you lose a lot of muscle mass too, meaning your body now burns calories at a slower rate than before you started the diet.
5) Finally, you will eventually return to your pre-diet eating habits (you're not going to diet forever!).You will regain the weight you lost and perhaps even more because your metabolism is now slower than it was before.
So already, that's just two big downfalls to dieting and there are many, many more. A lack of certain vitamins and minerals over a long period of time can cause other illnesses not just osteoporosis and too high levels of fats, sugars and salts can lead to diabetes and heart disease for starters. Dieting is very specific to the individual person. If you're very overweight you may be having too many calories in which case the ways in which you should diet will be very different to someone who just feels a bit too chubby and needs to swap a fizzy drink for water or a chocolate bar for an apple.
If you still think you need to diet, and won't be happy until you've lost weight, do the research first.
Dieting wrong has the potential to harm you more than a muffin top ever could!
The NHS have a great section all about healthy eating and how to diet in the most productive and safe ways, I would not recommend dieting before reading the website thoroughly. If reading isn't really your thing (not sure why you'd be reading this if it wasn't) pay your GP a quick visit to get advice and set up a plan. It's their job to do things like that and it's better than getting into bad eating habits and going back later because of them!