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According to new research, girls who start dieting early are more at risk for major health issues when they get older.
The younger a girl starts to diet, the more likely she is to have an eating disorder, to be obese or overweight, or to have problems with alcohol abuse by the time she is in her 30’s.
The study, led by Dr. Pamela Keel of Florida State University, started following more than 2,000 college women in 1982. Since then they have followed up every ten years to see how the women’s dieting habits had affected their overall health.
While the study does not identify the reason for the correlation, it does shed some light on extreme weight control behaviors. Unfortunately, eating disorders are a prevalent problem in our society, with over 50 percent of teenage girls using unhealthy weight control methods like fasting, smoking, laxatives, skipping meals, and vomiting.
Researchers hope that by helping girls foster a positive body image and teaching them how to make healthy choices early, they can reduce the risk of health issues like obesity, eating disorders, and alcohol abuse.
Parents should avoid using diets as a way to help their children manage their weight. Diets typically focus on limiting oneself to small amounts of food, focusing on a certain kind of food, or using other medications or fads to lose weight.
Instead of dieting, parents should concentrate on making healthy lifestyle changes like eating healthier, limiting screen time, avoiding junk food and sweetened beverages, and being more physically active.