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Teenagers & Crash Diets

Teenagers are usually very conscious of their body image. Those who are overweight or obese tend to have negative body image and that may affect their self-confidence and self-esteem.  Most teens would want an ideal body mass index (BMI). Some will aim for the minimal BMI they can achieve.

In 2006, a study done by the University of Minnesota showed that of 2,500 teenage females, 62.7 % used unhealthy weight control behaviors and 21.9% used very unhealthy weight control behaviors. The rate for males was half that of females.

When we hear about going on a diet, we usually think about eating less or eating differently to try to lose weight.

Dieting makes food an enemy. Many would aim to reduce their weight by enduring in crash diet. However they should realise that rapid weight loss is dangerous. Drastic calorie reduction makes you lose weight by burning muscle tissues and water loss.

Only proper balanced dieting will burn fat and maintain ideal body weight.

To reach and maintain a reasonable body weight, you need a balanced diet full of nutrients to prevent disease and to ensure optimal energy and psychological well-being. So, AVOID crash dieting!

Did you know?

About 1 in every 2 teenage girls and 1 in every 4 teenage boys have tried dieting.

More than 1 in 3 girls who are at a healthy weight still try to diet.


Why do teens go on crash dieting?

  1. Body image
    During your teens you will undergo many hormonal changes which contribute to growth spurts resulting in weight and height gain. Lots of psychosocial changes also occur during this period. Teens consider body image has paramount importance.
  2. Culture
    You also tend to idolise celebrities with ideal body image. This often motivates teens to go on crash diet. Thinness is consider as the in thing for teens especially girls. Anorexic models become their idol. Teens may crash diet in order to imitate stars they admire.
    Media portrays thin people as powerful and popular.
  3. Health Concerns
    Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimated one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. You may become scared and if you are overweight, you may start crash diet.
  4. Peer Pressure
    Teasing from peers if you are overweight may upset you and you may be pressured to lose weight drastically. Sometime you may be tempted to lose weight even though you are of normal weight.

Risk of Crash Dieting

As mentioned above, rapid growth occurs to you when you are a teen. So, you need adequate balanced nutrition to complement this growth to achieve optimal adult physic.

Crash diet will deprive your body of essential nutrient.  This can lead to various disorders.

  1. Vitamin deficiencies
    It may cause iron and folate deficiencies. Both are important for red blood cell formation. You may also suffer from Vitamin A, B, C and K deficiencies too.
  2. Electrolytes imbalance
    Potasium, calcium, sodium and magnesium are some of the important electrolytes for bodily function including optimum function of the heart, kidney and brain.
    Lack of calcium will lead to osteoporosis (softening of the bones)

Mental health problems

Crash dieting may predispose to a myriad of mental health problems including depression, unstable mood and anxiety. It may also lead to a serious eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia.

They are also more prone to engage in unhealthy behaviour to lose weight e.g using drugs.

You need to indulge in healthy dieting instead. SO, AVOID CRASH DIETING!!

What is a healthy diet?

Instead of going on a crash diet or other rapid weight losing regime health authorities advise teenagers to just eat healthily.

  1. Eat right
    • Do not skip breakfast or lunch. They are your important meals to provide you energy for the day.
    • Enjoy a variety of food
    • Eat when you are hungry and stop when you feel full.
    • Drink plain water instead of soft drinks or sweet juice
    • Consume high fibre foods
    • As a teen you may enjoy eating out. That is OK. However, stop eating once you are full.
  2. Fruits and vegetables
    Teens should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  3. Physical activities
    Physical activity is an important part of staying healthy and feeling good about yourself.
    Spend at least 30-60 minutes daily doing some physical activities.
  4. Media
    Information in media may be deceiving sometimes. In doubt, if you think you worry too much about your weight, talk to your parents or doctor instead.

Control your emotional eating

Do not allow your emotion decide on the amount of foods you take. Sometimes when you are sad you may consume too little food. The opposite when you are happy. When you are emotionally disturbed, talk to your parents or trusted adults.




Last Reviewed : 28 August 2020
Writer : Dr. Thiyagar Nadarajaw
Translator : Dr. Thiyagar Nadarajaw
Accreditor : Dr. Nik Rubiah binti Nik Abdul Rashid
Reviewer : Dr. Nazhatussima bt. Suhaili