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Dieting in adolescence


Weight dissatisfaction is frequent for teenagers in North America. Behaviours to control weight are very common and exist on a spectrum from healthy to potentially dangerous.

The most important risk factors for unhealthy weight control behaviours are dissatisfaction with weight, obesity and low self-esteem. Teenagers who engage in unhealthy dieting are at risk for other health-compromising behaviours, including substance use, smoking and unprotected sex. Most dieting in teenagers is not associated with negative consequences but we must consider the possible physical and psychological complications, including eating disorders, binge eating and low self-esteem.

Teenagers who diet are at risk of excess weight gain over time.


  • For normal and overweight teenagers, eating according to the Canada Food Guide should be encouraged.

  • Fad diets are discouraged, including fasting, skipping meals and dietary supplements to achieve weight loss.

  • Be wary of any weight loss scheme that tries to sell you anything, such as pills, vitamin shots or meal replacements.

  • For normal and overweight teenagers, what should be encouraged is age-appropriate physical activity in accordance with healthy active living guidelines. There are a variety of reasons to exercise, not just to control weight.

  • If you are concerned about weight or shape, please understand that there is a difference between ‘healthy weight’ and ‘cosmetically desirable weight’. Acknowledging that these may be very different in your mind, it is important to remember that many teenagers want to be thinner than is required for good health.

  • It is important for all people to accept a realistic weight for themselves. 

  • There exist many health risks as a product of self-induced vomiting, laxative and diuretic use, diet pills and crash diets.

  • In addition, there is no evidence that commercial weight loss programs are safe or effective for children or teenagers. 

  • If you or a loved one are suffering from the effects of dieting or considering undertaking a dieting regime please consult your family physician. If required ask your family doctor for a referral to our services. We are here to help.




Canadian Pediatric Society

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