Teen-agers not exempt from world of fad dieting

Everybody, it seems, knows at least somebody who has tried the latest weight-loss schemes like the revival of the Atkins diet or the South Beach diet.

But not even teen-agers are exempt from the negative health effects of fad dieting, students in one Moffat County High School health class learned Thursday.

Dietitian Becky Menge of The Memorial Hospital offered students insight into the long-term effects of choosing a wide range of foods with high nutritional value versus falling for the latest "miracle" pill or diet in choosing how to maintain a healthy weight.

"I hear people every day who are in their 50s and 60s say that if they knew they would feel this way today, they would have taken better care of their health when they were younger," Menge told the class. "Don't be fooled by miracle diets. If someone says they have a secret formula, I'd be wary. You need to develop healthy habits for a lifetime."

According to some figures compiled by Menge, on average, a diet lasts 42 days. Fifty percent of Americans go on some sort of diet on an annual basis.

The problem is, 34 percent of all American adults are overweight and 15 percent of the nation's youth are seriously overweight, Menge said.

"We need to look at why Americans are getting heavier and moving less," she said.

Some of those reasons may include a culture of people living sedentary lifestyles, making poor food choices, not having time for food preparation and an obsession with dieting, Menge said.

Eating a diet rich in proteins and shunning carbohydrates, like the Atkins diet, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, she said. Protein blocks the absorption of calcium into bones and too much protein causes strain on the kidneys and liver.

Junior Aaric Seick often eats at McDonald's or barbecued meat during off-campus lunch breaks at the high school. He knows that might not be the best food choices but Seick says he won't always eat those foods.

"I'm aware that it's bad but I don't worry about it," he said.

Freshman Trevor Romney learned from the presentations that fad diets are unhealthy.

Yet he's not worried about eating less or changing his food habits.

"I know I don't limit what I eat," he said. "I don't want to diet."

Menge's presentation is part of a local effort to promote healthier living choices among Moffat County residents. With the help of grant dollars from the state's Healthy People 2010 project, local agencies are working to distribute pedometers and provide nutrition education.

In a show of hands, about a third of the nearly 20 students polled said they knew how to cook. In the next decade, according to that trend, Menge said knowing how to cook will be a rarity.

"Basically you want to eat a lot of different foods with the most nutrients," she said. "You don't really even need to go on a diet if you want to lose weight. It's the amount of things you eat and what you eat."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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