Dieting in the Crosshairs Again
> 4/20/2006 1:00:43 PM

On more than one occasion we have discussed the relationship between healthy eating attitudes and healthy living, notably here and here. But as today's MSNBC headline, "Teen dieting linked to long-term problems," illustrates, that link often gets distorted by media coverage of disordered eating coverage that would prefer to utilize catch words and scare tactics than provide decent health news.

The article itself addresses research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Lead researcher Dr. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer and her colleagues examined results from an eating habits survey called Project EAT. The survey was first administered in 1999 and then again in 2004 to see what, if any, conclusions could be drawn in regards to adolescents who dieted or used other weight control behaviors.

What the group found is summed up in their conclusion:

Dieting and unhealthful weight-control behaviors predict outcomes related to obesity and eating disorders 5 years later. A shift away from dieting and drastic weight-control measures toward the long-term implementation of healthful eating and physical activity behaviors is needed to prevent obesity and eating disorders in adolescents.

So, while MSNBC runs their article under the above headline, which seems to vilify teen dieting, the results of the study don't necessarily gel with that idea. In reality, what Neumark-Sztainer and company have given us is more proof that when we engender unhealthy eating habits during adolescence, those behaviors will persist into adulthood. Dieting, in and of itself, can be a healthy behavior. The relationship that we have with our bodies and with the food that we put into it is cemented during adolescence. Can an unhealthy relationship with food be linked to long-term problems? Yes, certainly, but it is unfair and not accurate to say that teens who diet will be saddled with problems down the road. Parents and teachers need to stress healthy eating habits, and when they're done doing that, they need to stress them again.


I think it all depends on how you are defining "dieting." A lot of the teen girls I went to school with were on various diets, mostly fasting or severely restricting calories & fat, or puking their lunch up in the toilet - I don't recall any teen girls I went to school with who were dieting in a healthy manner. I can't help but think that has had some negative impact long term, who knows...
Posted by: L 4/25/2006 8:47:01 AM

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