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Before You Start a Diet

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Youth and dieting is a very controversial issue. While obesity in children and teens is at an all time high in the Western world, the reality of eating disorders and unrealistic ideals can't be ignored. Some teens really do need to lose weight but many do not. How can you tell if you should go on a diet? We have eight questions you must ask yourself before going on any sort of weight loss program.

Is your weight considered normal?

When you factor in your age, body type, fitness level and height does your weight fall in the range considered normal by health care professionals? Very fit people often weigh more than unfit people of the same size. Your genetics, your age, your fitness level and your height will all play a role in what is normal for you. If you are in the normal range you do not need to go on a weight loss diet.

Do you use a scale or a tape measure?

When deciding whether or not you need to go on a diet the scale is not always your best tool of measurement. As noted above, since muscle weighs more than fat, a fit person who wears a size 5 may weigh more than an unfit person who wears the same size. Take measurements with a tape measure along with using a scale to see if you really need to lose weight or merely need to shape up.

Do you know your body fat ratio?

It is possible to look thin but be fat. If you are not active but are blessed with skinny genes you could still have some fat related health risks. The ideal body fat ratio for teen girls ages 14 - 19 is between 20% and 24%. The ideal body fat for teen boys in this age group is between 15% and 20%. If you have a high ratio you need to get fit even if you do not need to lose weight.

Are you looking for a quick fix?

Whether your goal is weight loss or shaping up it is important that you have realistic expectations. There are never any quick fixes. If you are serious about your goals you need to be ready to make some permanent lifestyle changes. This means that whatever you start doing needs to be sustainable for the rest of your life. If you can't safely do it for longer than two weeks, don't do it at all.

You know you are overweight, now what?

If you are certain that you need to lose weight it is always a good idea to see a doctor first. A doctor can help you outline realistic goals and offer advice as to how you can best accomplish them. You should also know that along with dietary changes you will need to exercise. Some changes are for life, others may be temporary, regardless, think of it as getting healthy rather than getting thin.

You are not overweight but you are out of shape, now what?

So your weight on the scale is fine but your body fat ratio is too high, what does that mean? It means that you need to get fit. You need to start exercising. You may need to eliminate some unhealthy foods from your diet. For the best course of action you should seek some medical advice. What are your cardiovascular abilities? How out of shape are you? Only a doctor can make that determination.

You are technically normal but you want to be thinner, now what?

You need to take a closer look at why you want to be thinner. Is it a control or emmotional issue? Are you obsessed with being model thin? Do you think you are fat regardless of what is considered normal? If you want to lose lots of weight, or if you are constantly worried about being paper thin, you need to see a doctor to ensure that you are not at risk for developing an eating disorder.

Are you ready to be fit for life?

All too often teens care about how they look regardless of how they feel. This is dangerous and can lead to problems later in life. If you are only thinking about losing weight, even if you genuinely are overweight, you have the wrong motivation. Being fit gives you a better quality of life and looking good is just a nice bonus. Make it about being healthy not skinny to best meet your goals.
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