I’m glad the title grabbed your attention, because this is a really touchy subject. So, first things first:
To “diet” (the verb) means to “regulate the food of, especially in order to improve the physical condition”.
When it comes to the definition (“regulate…to improve”), “dieting” isn’t really a bad thing at all. But, sadly, diets are more commonly known as limitation, restriction and/or elimination of certain kinds of foods not necessarily to improve one’s health, but primarily to lose weight, even if someone has no reason to do so. It is this more commonly used and understood definition of of dieting that I think we’re all familiar with and used to. Growing up, I always heard how bad dieting was and that it should be avoided.
That’s why we’re looking at alternatives to dieting today. 😉
A Little Note
Regular Well-Balanced Meals + A Physically Active Life
I’ve always maintained a healthy weight thanks to two important lifelong habits: that I (1) maintain regular and well-balanced healthy food intake and (2) have a physically active life.
Nevertheless, it’d be a lie to say that I’ve never thought, “what if I… restrict some calories?” Or, “how ‘bout I stop eating [insert food]? I know that would help me lose weight…” So, what’s my point? You’re not alone. We have all thought about dieting. It’d be a lie for anyone to say it’s never been a passing thought. C’mon, we’re all friends here. 😉
Fortunately, the negative thoughts have never turned into action. Honestly, with close family and delicious food, it’d be nearly (if not 100%) impossible for me to ever diet. ;P But still, thoughts and ideas creep into my head often aka all. the. time.
To be honest, while I can did use the Internet to search for diet options, I’ve spent even more time researching and reading medical and psychological research of all the detrimental effects of diets. These effects are especially detrimental for us growing, nutrient-starving kids and adolescents. Many of those findings are what I’ll be sharing with you in this post! 😉
I so badly feel like I need to know more, and not only for myself. I really want to help others not go down the unhealthy and detrimental path of dieting. And that’s why I’m writing this post! All of us here at B&Y felt that this was a #1 post we needed to write. Hopefully be writing plenty more food and nutrition posts like this one–just maybe a little bit shorter… ;P
Teen Girls and Weight + Some Truth
Through my social encounters as a teenage girl, I don’t think I have ever met a single girl that didn’t talk about weight–good or bad, but mostly bad. It’s such a common topic, yet it’s still so touchy. It’d be great if everyone was simply open when talking about health and weight rather than nonchalant and defensive.
Sometimes it’s hard to even just tell the truth. For example, fats, sugars and salts have a superpower: they can dumb us down. I know it sounds insane, but it’s the truth. Similarly, certain fruits and veggies can smarten us up. And, I feel the results of eating healthily or unhealthily on my brain and body almost immediately.
And now that you’re here, I wanna tell you something: I feel your desire! You want something and you want to take matters into your own hands! You want to do something and make a positive change for your body, mind and self!
After reading the critical reasons why you should not diet below, I hope that you’ll be inspired and empowered to stick with me through the rest of this post and opt for the lifestyle changes shared so you can live a healthier, happier and smarter life! So, are you ready!? Please comment and let us know what you think–we’re all here for ya!
Reasons Why You Should Never Die
- Diets do more physical harm than good because teens use unhealthy methods to lose weight. Although these girls may not fit the categories of obese or having an eating disorder, this new group of girls are showing major health problems, such as unstable heart rate from rapid weight lose even though they are not excessively thin. By self-restricting certain foods, they’re depriving themselves of necessary nutrients, losing critical energy to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and ending up in the emergency room.
The American Academy of Pediatrics showed evidence that if a girl went on a diet in 9th grade, she was three-times more likely than her peers to be overweight by 12th grade. Unfortunately, there is a direct correlation to a mother’s poor body image and weight issues and her daughter. Interestingly, while childhood obesity is declining, rates of adolescent obesity has not.
- Since teens’ primary reason to diet is to lose weight rather than seek health benefits, they typically gain weight. Having an unhealthy desire to diet actually causes weight gain–the exact opposite of what they set out to achieve! Diets in teens rarely work since they’re depriving themselves of necessary nutrients while still growing, which typically leads to overeating.
- Negative body talk and not eating healthily can cause detrimental eating disorders that start between 11 and 14 years old and sometimes even as young as 7 years old! While being overweight has its set of health problems, anorexia nervosa can cause damage to your liver, kidneys and heart, and bulimia leads to tooth decay and damage of your stomach and kidneys. Keep in mind that kids, teens and adults can all develop eating disorders.
- Medically necessary diets, like a Gluten-free diet, demand medical oversight. Medical research shows that unless one has a gluten-sensitivity or Celiac disease, people are actually at risk for heart problems because they’re not getting the necessary fiber from wheat, rye and/or barley.
Medically: 7 Things You Should Never Do To Lose Weight
- Starvation, Fasting, or Very Low-Calorie Diets – to lose weight quickly, many would opt for calorie restriction, which may lead to losing necessary muscles, slow down metabolism, and can sometimes even cause one to increase their body fat percentage, increasing the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. It’s stated that unless medically supervised, one should never cut down their caloric intake to below 1,200/day.
- Supplements That Make Grand Promises – Unlike prescription drugs that are regulated for safety and efficiency, even “natural supplements” can be detrimental. You should never take any without medical supervision and advice.
- Cleanses or Detox Plans – The most that these cleanses and detoxes could do is help you lose water and stool weight (yeah, your poop), which can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Too much fluid loss can have serious consequences on your overall body’s health and should be avoided. Our bodies are designed to detox themselves and excrete unnecessary waste without our intervention to speed up their natural processes.
- All Forms of Purging – purging includes voluntary vomiting, chewing food and spitting it out instead of swallowing and abusing laxatives. Doctors believe that these are the first steps towards eating disorders. Other than the many risks due to the strong acids from vomiting, regular voluntary vomiting or abuse of laxatives could also cause excess fluid loss and cause serious dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
- Extreme Exercising – exercising is extremely important and vital for a healthy lifestyle, however, extreme exercising could increase the risk of injury, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance. Psychologically, exercise may become a punishment for eating.
- Legal and Illegal Drugs – the risks associated with drug abuse outweigh any health benefits you may get from weight loss. These risks include addiction, relationship and financial problems, anxiety, severe headaches, stroke, and heart, lung and kidney problems.
- Smoking – it is well known that smoking has many health risks, however, some use smoking as a diet strategy. This is because nicotine has shown to be a appetite suppressant. However, smoking harms almost every organ in the body, and weight gain is a common side effect when one tries to stop such an addictive habit.
Reviewed by Mary L. Gavin, MD
How do you know if your diet is out of control? Warning signs include:
- continuing to diet, even if 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
- restricting activities because of food or compulsive exercise
- fear of food
- wearing baggy clothes as a way to hide thinness
- vomiting after meals or using laxatives
Practical and Ideal Lifestyle Changes May Result in Weight Loss
Since many teen dieters know that “dieting” has negative connotation, they may say that they’re making a “lifestyle change”. But, if your “lifestyle change” involves “food rules”–well, then you’re most likely partaking in a harmful diet!
Rather than starting up another failed diet attempt, you should think about what your goals are and what you really want:
- Do you want to lose weight? Why?
- Do you want long-term results? Or do you want to just lose some water weight quickly?
The best option to lose weight and keep it off in the long haul would be to start working towards practical lifestyle changes–not excuses, but real, actual lifestyle. changes. Below are a bunch of things we could all work on to become more healthy… for the rest of our lives!
Months after making lifestyle changes and basically switching to a healthier lifestyle, everything will become a habit. You might not lose weight fast, but when you focus on other things, such as how much happier and more energetic you are, the weight loss will eventually come around. However, if you are not overweight, weight loss mostly likely needs medical attention and advice, so please note the very last tip of this article.
How To Lose Weight Without Dieting
Besides dieting, there are many alternative actions one can take to lose or control their weight. Check them out below! And let’s try ‘em out together, shall we!?
NOTE! Even if you do NOT care about your weight at all, following these tips and making these lifestyle changes are good for your health nonetheless. Maybe you don’t wanna lose weight, but you wanna be healthy, right? 😉
Learn What Is a Healthy Food Portion
Learn Healthy Food Portions according to the Healthy Eating Plate or Pyramid. The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) recently switched over to Choose MyPlate portions as their primary educational piece to learn how to eat healthy, well-balanced meals throughout the day, since it focuses on diet quality. Harvard School of Public Health and many reputable research organizations state that following both the Choose MyPlate and Food Pyramid guidelines will prevent heart disease and premature both.
This relates to girls on both sides of the spectrum, from overweight to underweight. And the girls in the middle–the at-risk group of teenaged girls who are of healthy weight but feel the desire to “diet”. These girls are at greatest risk of eating disorders leading to overeating and weight gain–which is, again, the exact opposite of what they’re trying to achieve in their attempts to diet in the first place. We’re here for ya!
Honestly, using the MyPlate guidelines is beyond easy. Basically, one’s plate should always be colorful with all the different food groups of acceptable volume–not empty (malnourished) or too little and not overfull or seeking additional servings once full (overeating).
Your Parents Are Your Biggest Role Models… Especially Your Mom
Recommendations from the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics):
Parents and doctors should
- Not encourage dieting,
- Avoid “weight talk”(such as commenting on their and their child/patient’s weights ), and
- Never tease teens about their weight. (Why would anyone do that!?)
- Promote eating regular meals together,
- Help their children develop a healthy body image (with mom being your #1 role model),
- Encourage the family to eat a balanced diet, and
- Encourage the family to exercise for fitness, not weight loss. (Again, why would anyone do this!? Exercising is about being healthy and happy, NOT about a number on the scale, measuring tape or otherwise.)
This was published as a response to the growing concern about teens unhealthy methods to lose weight.
After discovering the detrimental effects of dieting on teen girls (as noted in the #1 reason why not to diet) it is recommended that moms should
- Stop talking about their lack of exercise, and
- Stop using diuretics, laxatives, and vomiting as means to losing weight.
Why? Because these behaviors are leading their teenaged daughters and sons to model them. And, they’re also incredibly unhealthy. Don’t do any of that stuff. Please.
Studies show that making and eating breakfast is one of the top habits that can help you lose weight!
Yes, eating more. But there’s a trick–it’s all about eating at the right time. When? In the morning!
By “breaking” the “fast” that your body underwent while you were sleeping all night, you can help energize your body with the necessary nutrients that will set you up to achieve your ideal weight… and maintain it over time!
The main premise is that eating (a healthy and nutritious!) breakfast keeps us away from “starvation eating”. Basically, if you deprive yourself from eating breakfast (or even simply forget), you’ll overeat at lunchtime, snacktime, and basically throughout the whole day. And maybe even through the night…
In a study of 2,000 girls ages 9 – 19, there were two groups of girls: one that didn’t eat cereal breakfast and one that did. The group of girls who didn’t eat cereal breakfasts often had a 13% higher risk to being overweight than the group who ate cereal regularly. The regular cereal eaters also had fewer weight problems than the less frequent cereal eaters.
Here’s a list of 35 Quick and Healthy Breakfast Ideas for Busy People (Most take less than 5 minutes to prepare!) — perfect for teens and college students. Three things to keep in mind:
- Sit and eat your breakfast. While this list is meant to be easy to make foods to pick up and run, we recommend making these quick meals the night before or in the morning then enjoyed sitting down. Eating or drinking on the run is not a healthy habit to take up. “Eating while standing up may increase the speed at which you eat, which could cause you to overeat and consume more calories. The few extra calories you’ll burn while standing probably won’t be enough to compensate.”
- Supplement all the breakfast smoothies with a light food that you can also enjoy sitting down — even if it’s a slice of toast. Two negatives to drinking smoothies as a meal replacement are (1) “Some people may rely on smoothies so much that they stop eating fruits and vegetables in their native form. This is a disservice for kids, because they need to be exposed to a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables”, and (2) “…that they may not be as filling as a regular meal. That’s because at least part of feeling full and satisfied comes from chewing food.”
- Eat less processed meats. If you must, we promote using lean meat substitutes. If you’re just learning how to eat and prepare more natural foods, we highly recommend lean meat substitutions for the few recipes that call for it. For example, beef or chicken breast instead of ham, turkey bacon over Canadian bacon, and chicken or vegan sausage to Italian or pork sausage.
Soooo, make sure you eat your breakfast! And remember: the sooner (in the morning after waking up), the better!
Eat well-balanced healthy meals with a variety of foods
This means including 5 -7 servings of fruits and vegetables.
And, NO! Potato chips and french fries do not count as a serving of produce!
Your meals and snacks should be colorful and include all the food groups. Do not eliminate full food groups, like dairy, grains, meats, etc., as you may be missing out on critical vitamins and nutrients. Any food group you are eliminating needs a substitute, and it takes a lot of effort and knowledge to assure that you are getting equivalent levels of nutrients.
You should never limit or eliminate food groups, except for certain allergies and medical conditions, and never without the consent and direction of your primary care physician/pediatrician.
It goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyways: DO NOT FOLLOW FAD DIETS!
Yes, you may notice weight loss, but it’s most likely temporary. If you don’t adapt sustainable and good lifestyle changes, not only can you gain the weight you lost back, but many times you will end up gaining even more than your initial weight lost. So, yeah, how many benefits is there to “dieting”? The answer is a big fat zero, my friend.
Make Better Food Choices
As humans, we need food to survive. (Yes, I’m assuming you’re human, but this all probably applies to unicorns, dragons and narwhals as well. ;P) Nowadays, we have so many different food options but, sadly, most of us opt for the processed, fatty, unhealthy options–they’re easy, fast… and, dare I say… delicious…? Well, don’t fear–we’ll be helping each other make better food choices. And we’ll enjoy it too! Promise!! By the way, “better food” can actually taste better than junk food. 😉
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Try to make sure that half of your plate is full of fruits and veggies.
- Drink more water. Replace all of your juices, sugary drinks, sodas, energy drinks, and coffees with water! (Water doesn’t have to be boring! It can be fruity, minty, bubbly, refreshing… have fun and experiment! )
Eat more high-fiber foods, such as whole-grain pasta and bread. These foods could help you feel fuller and provide your body with the nutrients it needs. High-fiber foods can replace other foods high in solid fats and added sugars, such as fatty meats like ribs and hot dogs and sugary foods like cakes, cookies, candies, and ice cream.
Pretty simple, eh? But, seriously, check this out: Eating slow can
- help you lose weight,
- help with better digestion, and
- help you enjoy your food more.
It takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to send out signals that you’re full, so eating slower and smaller portions can help you realize when you’re full. Most people eat too fast, which leads to eating too much because the brain basically didn’t have enough time to say, “Hey! Your FULL!” Sometimes, after finishing your meal, do you ever feel absolutely STUFFED? Well, guess what? You probably ate too fast!
TIP! Try waiting about 20 minutes before taking seconds. You might not actually still be hungry!
Getting more sleep improves your memory and gives you stronger immunity, clearer thinking, better mood, and… wait for it… better weight control.
Sleep deprivation is associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and the common cold. So make sure to get your good night of sleep!
Being more optimistic brings many health benefits, such as an increased life span, lower depression rates, greater resistance to the common cold, better psychological and physical well-being, and better coping skill during times of stress. It is still unclear why people who think more positively experience these health benefits.
However, one theory is that having a positive outlook helps you cope better in stressful situations which reduces the harmful effects of stress on your body.
It is also believed that optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles.
There are many health benefits to exercising, such as helping you lose weight, reducing your risk of getting many diseases and some cancers, helping to strengthen your bones and muscles, improving mental health, improving your ability to do daily activities, and also increasing your chance of living longer. These are just a few of the many benefits of exercising.
TIP! Choose physical activities that you enjoy doing so that you’ll do it regularly and consistently for the biggest health benefit bang possible!
Consult your pediatrician or primary care physician
If you feel like weight is an issue, even after trying all of the above ( your doc will ask if you do all of the above anyways) and even if your pediatrician/PCP was never concerned about it before (since you may not be overweight), you should consult your physician to share your concerns and see if being put on a medically-supervised healthy diet is a responsible alternative for you… as a last resort.
Building Little Daily Lifestyle Changes for Overall Success [FREE Printable Habit Checklist]
Since it may be hard to incorporate all of these lifestyle changes at the same time, try practising one or two of the habits to start. Once you build a nice, steady streak of success in that area, feel free to add another one or two and so on.
Little baby steps build the positive habits which lead to permanent lifestyle changes. Rushing, on the other hand, can overwhelm you and lead to failure… and “failing” really won’t help in the “thinking positive” category. :/ So, let’s avoid that, okay? 😉
Little baby steps build the positive habits which lead to lifetime changes.
To help you build all these little important habits one at a time, we made a Daily Habits Tracker as a gift to guide you towards an overall better and healthier body! Better body–pretty lofty thing to say, eh? Well, yes, but I stand by my word. Better. Better doesn’t mean thinner or curvier… no. I say “better”, because, if you follow along, you’ll be healthier and happier than ever and that’s better! 😉
The seven things you’ll be encouraged to practise and check off are that you:
- Slept more than 8 hours
- Ate breakfast
- Tried alternative foods for lunch
- Ate dinner as a family
- Ate slower during my meals
- Thought positively today
FREE Printable Lifestyle Change Quote Cards
Making positive changes isn’t always easy. Heck, someone could even say it’s never easy and I wouldn’t have anything to say! No matter what you think, I’m pretty sure that we can all agree that it’s hard. But, inspiring and motivational quotes can really help remind you why you started in the first place and encourage you to keep you going!So, as an additional special gift for ya, we (*cough* Sam *cough*) designed these awesome Lifestyle Change Quote Cards (ooh, all uppercase–fancy~ ;P)! Print ‘em out and post ‘em wherever you’d like!
Some places you can put your quote cards for maximum quote-y-ness are in, on or over
- Your student planner
- Your bullet journal or daily planner
- Your bulletin board
- Your kitchen fridge
- Your school locker
- Your kitchen pantry door
- Your fridge/freezer
- Your car dashboard
- Your vanity
- Your bathroom mirror
Basically anywhere a pick-me-up would have a positive and beneficial impact on your daily life!
Tell us what you think about this post, what you learned and started doing, how you’re doing with building little daily lifestyle changes, and where you put your quote cards in the comment section below! We’re all ears. Well, not literally, but… oh, you know!!
We really hope that this post empowered you to think differently when it comes to weight, body image and dieting and encouraged you to make lifelong lifestyle changes, rather than making excuses or taking unhealthy measures to reach your goals. Again, we’re here for ya, so let us know what’s on your mind and what you’re up to in the comments below. Or, email us! To living smart (learning new things), healthy (doing healthy things), and happy (putting smiles on our faces)!! 😉
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