By Rachel Bahika
EVERYONE has been on a diet. Does that sound strange? Well, it is true. A diet is simply the collection of the foods you regularly eat. But the word â€˜dietâ€™ also can mean an attempt to lose weight by limiting the calories or types of food you eat.
People diet for many reasons.
Some are at an unhealthy weight and need to pay closer attention to their eating and exercise habits. Some play sports and want to be in top physical condition. Others think they would look and feel better if they lost weight.
Some people may diet because they think they are supposed to look a certain way. Actors and actresses are thin and most fashion models are thin too. But this look is unrealistic for most people â€” not to mention being physically damaging for the models and stars who struggle to maintain it.
All foods and many drinks contain calories, a form of energy. When someone diets to lose weight, the person is trying to eat fewer calories than the body uses.
By doing this, the person may lose body fat and decrease his or her weight. If a person eats more calories than the body uses, the person may gain weight.
Many adults and teenagers worry about their weight and say they are â€˜going on a dietâ€™. But the majority of teenagers do not need to â€” and should not â€” diet this way.
Unlike adults, teens are still growing and developing. During this period, they need a variety of healthy foods to keep their bodies growing properly.
Some teenagers are overweight, but they can improve their health simply by eating nutritious foods and being more active.
Being overweight can cause health problems, but teens may hurt their health even more by doing something drastic, like skipping meals or deciding to eat only vegetables.
There is no perfect body shape. Some people have larger frames (bigger bones) and will always look bigger and heavier than people with smaller frames.
Diets that do not include a variety of nutritious foods, or have too few calories, can be dangerous.
Some types of dangerous diets are called â€˜fad diets.â€™ Fad diets usually promise quick weight loss and require the person to follow a strict set of guidelines.
If you really need to lose weight, improving your eating habits and exercising will help you more than any diet.
Some dangerous diets cut out entire categories of foods or require the person to eat just one thing, such as cabbage soup!
The truth is there is no quick fix when it comes to weight loss. So pills, special drinks, all-liquid diets, and other gimmicks are poor choices for teens. These diets can make you sick; they also usually end with you regaining any weight that was lost.
A teenager who is willing to take extreme steps to be thinner could have an eating disorder. These include anorexia nervosa (starving oneself) or bulimia nervosa (eating and then deliberately vomiting). They are serious medical conditions that need medical attention.
The body changes that happen during adolescence include weight gain. By the time they turn 12 or 13, most teenage girls start to go through body changes that are natural and necessary: The hips broaden, breasts develop, and the way they look may not match the girls on TV or in magazines.
These changes are normal, but it is a good idea to talk to your doctor or parents about it.
So, if as a teenager, you do not need to â€œdietâ€, how can you maintain a healthy weight? You can benefit from eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of physical exercise.
There are lots of choices when it comes to activity and exercise, such as playing on sports teams or joining a dance troupe. Riding bikes, swimming, playing basketball and even helping out with household chores are all good forms of exercise.
It is also a good idea to cut down on pastimes that do not involve much activity such as watching TV or playing computer games.
The best way to diet is to eat a wide variety of enough food to meet your bodyâ€™s needs. Eat more fruits and vegetables, cut back on meats high in fat (like those in burgers and hot dogs), greasy fried foods and sweets. Drink more water instead of sugary drinks like energy drinks or sodas.
If you think you need to lose weight, talk to your doctor or a trained dietician, who will advise you about the best way to reach a healthy weight safely.
Dieting and weight control can consume your life. By accepting your body and making healthy choices, you can keep your weight under control and enjoy life.
Tips on managing weight
Exercise! Find a sport you like, walk to school, or ride a bike a few times per week
Drink milk, including fat-free or low-fat milk. A cup of skimmed milk has only 80 calories as well as protein and calcium.
Eat a variety of foods, including at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables.
Drink at least four to six glasses of water a day
Eat lean, high-protein foods like lean meat, chicken, fish or beans.
Eat whole grains like whole-wheat bread or pasta which provide fibre, B vitamins and iron
Eat breakfast. Studies show that people who eat breakfast do better in school, eat less throughout the day, and are less likely to be overweight
Choose smaller portions at take-aways
lStay away from fad diets â€” you will probably just gain the weight back
Do not take diet pills
Avoid eliminating entire groups of foods, like dairy products as you will miss out on important nutrients like calcium
If you choose to become a vegetarian, talk to your doctor or dietician about nutritious choices
Danger signs of dieting
Continuing to diet even if you are not overweight
Physical changes, such as weakness, headaches, or dizziness
Withdrawal from family and friends
Poor school performance
Eating in secret
Thinking about food all the time
Fear of food
Wearing baggy clothes to hide thinness
Vomiting after meals or using substances that force the body to pass out waste
The writer is a nutritionist