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.”

February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail