Like adults, teens will diet for various reasons. Dedicated athletes may change their eating in order to better compete in their sport, while others may simply want to engage in healthier habits.
However, according to the Canadian Pediatric Society, “body image dissatisfaction and a desire to be thinner” are the leading causes of dieting in teens.
Without a specific health goal or plan in mind, teens may participate in extreme or unhealthy dieting habits such as fasting, purging, and using dietary pills.
Some studies estimate that as many as one in five teens participate in these unhealthy eating activities.
Teen Body Image
During adolescence, young men and women undergo dramatic physical and psychological changes. In addition to experiencing body development, teens place great emphasis on being accepted by their peers and the outside world.
As a result, many individuals will compare themselves and their appearances to others. This becomes especially prevalent through social networking platforms and the consumption of mainstream media.
Teens, in particular, are heavily influenced by the media. According to WebMD, teen girls, on average, experience three hours of media exposure daily.
“For too many American girls, being ‘model thin’ is a very real aspiration, and it starts at a shockingly young age,” writes Elizabeth Heubeck. “In one recent study, researchers found that TV programs focused on appearance are swaying the self-esteem of girls as young as 5.”
Health Effects of Extreme Dieting
When adolescents engage in unhealthy dieting behaviors, it is not uncommon for them to be experiencing low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.
“Anorexia is the most lethal psychiatric disorder, carrying a sixfold increased risk of death — four times the death risk from major depression.” –Daniel J. DeNoon, WebMD
Teens who engage in unhealthy dieting are at a greater risk of experiencing nutritional deficiencies, particularly in iron and calcium. During adolescence, such deficiencies can negatively affect one’s growth and may cause anemia.
Young women are at a greater risk of experiencing irregularities in their menstrual cycle, and may be more likely to have osteoporosis later in life.
GenPsych’s Healthy Eating and Living Program (HEAL)
GenPsych’s HEAL program addresses the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorders, and other disorders not otherwise specified (NOS). Our research-based program is led by our experienced, multidisciplinary team, who will work with you to help you balance your diet, manage your symptoms, and improve your overall self-esteem and health.