Dieting and Disturbed Eating in Adolescents

Dieting is a common behavior that can negatively affect your mental and physical health. People who adhere to diet culture often have poor self-image, engage in unhealthy body image distortion and use disordered eating and binge eating as ways to control weight. In addition, they may have difficulty re-establishing normal eating habits once they stop dieting and develop a negative relationship with food. If you are concerned about your eating habits or have a history of an eating disorder, please speak with a qualified health care provider.

The term “dieting” refers to any attempt to change your eating habits, usually by restricting the amount of calories you consume. Dieting is typically accompanied by increased exercise and reduced consumption of high-fat, sugary foods. The goal is to lose weight and achieve a healthier body composition. While dieting can be an effective way to lose weight, it is not a long-term solution to health problems and can lead to malnutrition, poor digestive function, fatigue and depression.

If you’re trying to improve your diet, start by identifying your reasons for wanting to change. Write down these motivations and post them somewhere where you can see them regularly – this will help keep you accountable to your goals. Another helpful strategy is to track what you eat in a food diary [PDF-127KB]. This can be an effective tool for recognizing and changing bad habits that make it harder to maintain a healthy weight, such as skipping meals or overeating later on.

Many people find that reducing the frequency of their favorite higher-calorie foods is a successful way to cut back on their consumption. Alternatively, try substituting these foods with nutritious alternatives. For example, instead of dipping chips in salsa, dunk your veggie sticks into hummus or dip fruit slices in nut butter. By limiting your intake of these foods, you can feel in control without sacrificing the pleasure that comes from them.

While the direct causes of dieting in adolescents are not fully understood, it is known that dieting is a frequent antecedent to eating disorders. For this reason, it is important for parents to educate their children about the dangers of dieting and to support them in developing healthy eating habits.

Dieting and Disturbed Eating

Dieting has been associated with a variety of disturbed eating behaviours in adolescents, including compulsive overeating and binge eating. Several studies suggest that adolescent dieters are at a greater risk for developing an eating disorder than their nondieting peers (57). In some cases, these alterations in eating behaviours may have permanent implications. For instance, chronic dieting is frequently a precursor to anorexia and bulimia nervosa. It is also associated with a lower self-esteem and a higher risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviours (58).