Teenage Dieting Myths: The Unexpected Consequences and Healthy Alternatives


We're diving into a critical topic that affects the health and well-being of teenagers—dieting. While many people may believe that dieting is a quick fix for achieving a healthy weight, especially among adolescents, I'm here to shed light on a study conducted in 2003, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, which challenges this notion. We'll explore the findings of this eye-opening research and discuss why dieting may not be the best approach for teenagers striving to maintain a healthy weight.

The Study

The study involved a big sample size of 16,882 teenagers, making it a robust and credible source of information. Researchers set out to understand how dieting behaviors among teenagers influenced their weight and overall well-being. The study spanned from 1996 to 1999, focusing on adolescents between these years.

The Dieting Habits

Researchers categorized the teenagers into three groups based on their dieting behaviors:

Infrequent Dieters: These were adolescents who reported dieting one to three times a month or less.

Frequent Dieters: This group consisted of teenagers who dieted two to six times per week or even daily.

Non-Dieters: The remaining teenagers who never reported following a diet.

The study also collected data on physical activity, eating habits, and binge eating behaviors among the participants.

Key Findings

Prevalence of Dieting: The study revealed that approximately 30% of adolescent girls and less than 20% of boys were following some form of diet, either infrequent or frequent. This prevalence of dieting was more common among girls.

Binge Eating: Binge eating was less common than dieting but was more prevalent in girls than in boys, with less than 5% of girls and boys reporting this behavior.

Weight Gain: Over the course of the study, researchers observed that teenagers who followed diets, especially frequent dieters, gained more weight compared to those who did not diet at all or dieted infrequently.

Binge Eating and Dieting: Infrequent dieters were five times more likely to engage in binge eating behavior compared to non-dieters, while frequent dieters were a staggering 12 times more likely. This trend was consistent across both genders.

Carbohydrate Intake: Frequent dieters tended to consume more carbohydrates, potentially contributing to their weight gain. The quality of food choices during dieting periods played a role in this finding.

Frequency Matters: The more frequent the dieting, the greater the increase in weight over time, suggesting that dieting is not an effective long-term strategy.

Why Does This Happen?

The study offers insights into why dieting might lead to weight gain and unhealthy eating behaviors among teenagers. One plausible explanation is the cyclical nature of restrictive dieting, which often leads to periods of overeating or binge eating once the diet ends. Additionally, the quality of food choices during dieting, such as a preference for high-carbohydrate foods, can contribute to weight gain. Lastly, frequent dieting may trigger binge eating episodes, creating a harmful cycle of restrictive eating followed by uncontrolled overeating.


The takeaway from this enlightening study is clear: dieting is not an effective or sustainable approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight for teenagers. It often leads to weight gain, binge eating, and other unhealthy behaviors. Instead, adopting a healthier lifestyle that includes gradual, sustainable changes in habits and choices is the key to long-term success.

If you're looking for guidance on how to create a healthy lifestyle for your teenager, I encourage you to explore my group coaching program (LIFT Program) for teens who struggle with their weight, here is the info: What is the LIFT program , where I teach the principles of sustainable, healthy living. Remember, achieving a healthy weight is about more than just a number on the scale; it's about nurturing a lifelong commitment to well-being. And if you are interested to join for free the waiting list for the LIFT Program (no commitment), click here Join the waiting list

Last but not least, if you are looking for easy and healthy recipes for teens that are high in protein and can be ready in less than 30 minutes, here is a collection of Free recipes for Teens.

Take care of yourself and your loved ones.

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