Society has been putting pressure on women to fit a certain body image since the beginning of time. Through the 17th and 18th centuries, the ideal body was one that was more full because it showed that the family was wealthy enough to eat well. In the first half of the 1900s, for women, a slim waist and hourglass figure was the desired look. In the second half of the 1900s, the ideal body for a woman was extremely thin and tall. Today, women are pressured to fit into a body with a flat stomach and curves.
So how do we fit into the body type that society decides is “ideal?”
The most common way that people try to lose weight is the usage of “fad diets.” These diets are often promoted by celebrities and social media, telling people to try various supplements or to try cutting out some type of food group to “lose weight faster than ever.”
Now more than ever before, teenagers have been turning to diets to lose weight and attempt to fit the image that society tells us is the way to look. Approximately one half of teenage girls and one fourth of teenage boys have dieted, one third of those girls already having been at a healthy weight.
Not all dieting is bad. Some versions of dieting are just cutting out junk food and incorporating more nutrient dense foods into your day. The types of diets that can become dangerous to people, especially teenagers, are those that require eating too little or cutting out entire food groups.
For growing children, depriving your body of proper nutrition can lead to vitamin deficiencies such as iron and calcium, which can impede a person’s full growth potential. Additionally, dieting or eating substantially less than your body requires can lead to amenorrhea in women.
Furthermore, long term consequences such as osteopenia and osteoporosis are common following disordered eating or extreme dieting.
Dieting also slows down your metabolism. Your body goes into “survival mode”, meaning that it starts to pick up on the fact that it’s not getting the amount of food that it needs. When your body picks up on this trend, it slows the metabolism so that it uses less energy. With your newly slowed metabolism, you gain weight once you start eating normally again,.
Dieting can also lead to psychological effects in teenagers. Studies have shown that undereating can lead to symptoms like fatigue and irritability. Your energy levels will go down and with that, so will your mood. For teens, this can make them distracted in the classroom, unmotivated to study and burned out in sports. Additionally, restrictive dieting can often progress into an eating disorder.
Eating healthily is arguably one of the most valuable ways that people can take care of their bodies. It is especially important for teenagers, because during your teen years, your body is under a lot of strain from the rate that it’s growing and changing. Adopting a healthy nutrition plan and exercising more leads to better long term health and maintenance of weight loss versus dieting where people often gain the weight right back. Instead of going on fad diets, fasting, skipping meals or using dietary supplements to achieve weight loss, teens should focus on eating clean and nutritious food.