FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Excessive Dieting Can be Dangerous to Children’s Health

Dieting, the conscious control or restriction of the diet to lose weight, has a long and colorful history. One of the first dietitians was the English doctor George Cheyne. Because he was tremendously overweight, Cheyne began a vegetarian diet, consuming only milk and vegetables. He lost a lot of weight and soon regained his health. In 1724, he wrote a book in which he recommended fresh air and avoiding calories-rich foods to lose weight.

In 1903, U.S. President William Howard Taft pledged to slim down after he was stuck in a bathtub in the White House. In the 1950s, according to legend, the famous Greek opera singer Maria Callas dropped 65 pounds on the Tapeworm Diet, after swallowing a pill containing the parasite. Lord Byron, the famous English poet, popularized the vinegar diet in the 1820s. In order to cleanse his body he would drink plenty of vinegar and water daily.

Today, dieting to lose weight is practiced worldwide, including adolescents and young people. Although in many cases it may be good for people’s health, when diets are followed in an unsupervised way –particularly by adolescents who want to be excessively slim- it can be dangerous to their health.

Although teenagers may have many reasons for dieting, body image dissatisfaction and a desire to be thinner are the usual motivating factors. Adolescents, primarily females, are also targeted by unrealistically thin images in the media that they wrongly equate with beauty, health and personal success. Because society places a high value and youth and physical beauty, adolescents try to imitate those images in the media. As a result, adolescents often engage in unhealthy, unnecessary and unsupervised attempts to lose weight.

To lose weight, many teenagers engage in a series of behavioral changes and alterations in their eating habits such as fad dieting, fasting, skipping meals, using laxatives, practicing self-provoked vomiting and using dangerous supplements or drugs. It has been shown that dieting in teenagers increase in frequency with age and is more prevalent among girls. However, there is no socioeconomic or ethnic group immune to body dissatisfaction and weight loss behaviors.

When teens do not consume enough calories they may become weak, tired and moody. Also, because insufficient calories may affect the functioning of their brains, they may become unable to make the right food decisions which may even affect their learning process at school. If food restriction is greater, it may affect their heart, bones, and other organs and in extreme situations they may even die due to malnourishment.

Some teens may use diuretics (water pills), diet pills, tobacco or other drugs in an effort to control their weight. However, these substances can provoke serious damage to their organs and, in the case of nicotine in cigarettes or amphetamines in certain diet pills they may lead to addiction and overall damage to their health.

It has been found that teenagers affected by chronic illness such as diabetes, asthma, attention deficit disorder, and epilepsy are more prone to be dissatisfied with their bodies and practice unhealthy weight loss behaviors. In addition, teenagers with significant psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety are also more likely to engage in unhealthy dieting practices.

Teenagers who engage in weight-loss strategies, particularly when they are unsupervised, are also more likely to practice other risky behaviors such as substance abuse, unprotected sex and suicide attempts. Girls who are overly concerned about their weight or who are dieting are more likely to start smoking.

To prevent youngsters from following dangerous dieting practices, parents and teachers should teach teenagers the difference between “healthy weight” and “cosmetically desirable weight”. Teenagers should be encouraged to accept a realistic weight for themselves.

Parents and teachers should encourage adolescents to engage in activities such as sports, artistic endeavors and participation in community activities that would provide them with a positive self-image. Children like to imitate their parents, teachers and other role models. It is up to them to help prevent the abuse of diets or other activities to slim down among adolescents, and help them create a positive image of their own bodies.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

November 14, 2018
Charles Pierson
Unstoppable: The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and NAFTA
Sam Bahour
Israel’s Mockery of Security: 101 Actions Israel Could Take
Cesar Chelala
How a Bad Environment Impacts Children’s Health
George Ochenski
What Tester’s Win Means
Louisa Willcox
Saving Romania’s Brown Bears, Sharing Lessons About Coxistence, Conservation
George Wuerthner
Alternatives to Wilderness?
Robert Fisk
Izzeldin Abuelaish’s Three Daughters were Killed in Gaza, But He Still Clings to Hope for the Middle East
Dennis Morgan
For What?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Government is Our Teacher
Bill Martin
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
Rivera Sun
After the Vote: An Essay of the Man from the North
Jamie McConnell
Allowing Asbestos to Continue Killing
Thomas Knapp
Talkin’ Jim Acosta Hard Pass Blues: Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?
Bill Glahn
Snow Day
November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
Patrick Howlett-Martin
A Note on the Paris Peace Forum
Joseph G. Ramsey
Does America Have a “Gun Problem”…Or a White Supremacy Capitalist Empire Problem?
Weekend Edition
November 09, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
Why Democrats Are So Okay With Losing
Andrew Levine
What Now?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Chuck and Nancy’s House of Cards
Brian Cloughley
The Malevolent Hypocrisy of Selective Sanctions
Marc Levy
Welcome, Class of ‘70
David Archuleta Jr.
Facebook Allows Governments to Decide What to Censor
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Zika Scare: a Political and Commercial Maneuver of the Chemical Poisons Industry
Nick Pemberton
When It Comes To Stone Throwing, Democrats Live In A Glass House
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail