March 8, 2004
"Most 'tweens' (children 9 - 12) give little thought to
healthy weight, neither recognizing its immediate benefits nor its
long-term importance. They relate their weight to athletic performance
and overall appearance--not health..."
While many tweens, teens,
and even adults decide to lose weight because of how they look,
this is a health decision. Those who are overweight or obese need
to look at the long term health consequences of staying at an unhealthy
weight. At the same time, those who are underweight or at a healthy
weight need to consider that weight should be about health, and
losing too much can be unhealthy, as well.
Once you have found a goal
in a healthy range for your height and frame, how do you reach that
goal in a healthy way? Once you have reached a healthy weight--and
no longer need to lose--how should you eat to stay healthy and maintain
the best weight for you? Where do you even start?
Right now, there is a lot
in the news, on the grocery shelves, and even in restaurants, trying
to appeal to those who are trying some form of low-carb diet. Is
low-carb the way to go? Is it healthy? Is it safe for you as a teen?
It depends on who you ask.
"The staff at Dr.
Atkins' medical practice was often asked if a controlled carbohydrate
program is healthy for children. The answer is definitely yes, says
Robert C. Atkins, M.D., its founder and executive medical director...."
But the Atkins Plan is
more than just cutting carbs.
"Vegetables are essential
to the Atkins Nutritional ApproachTM....Atkins followers actually
eat more servings of vegetables at every phase of the program than
most other Americans do. In addition to protein and healthy natural
fats, certain vegetables are the foundation of the Atkins way of
eating. Vegetables do contain carbohydrates but, in most cases,
these are exactly the kinds of carbs you should be consuming."
And there are still those
who have serious concerns.
"Right now, five major
tests are underway to determine if low carb is better than low fat
for losing weight. The results are still years away, but there is
a greater, more urgent concern among doctors -- teenagers who are
on the Atkins diet....'At this point we don't have enough data to
make us feel comfortable that its a safe diet even on a short term
basis for teenagers,' Hampl says. Hampl points to the tragic death
of a Missouri 16-year-old. Rachel Huskey died while on the Atkins
diet. An autopsy revealed low levels of electrolytes, one cause
of the heart arrhythmia that killed her, and there are other risks
tied to Atkins dieting. 'They also can develop vitamin and mineral
deficiencies that need to be supplemented. They can get very dehydrated.
It can cause kidney stones. There's a lot of hidden risks that you
don't really hear about,' she says."
What else is there?
"Of the many weight
loss diets offered over the years (Atkins, Sears / Zone, Sugar Busters,
Bernstein, Ornish, Pritikin, Macdougall, Somersize, Beverly Hills,
Caveman, Body Type, Body Code, Grapefruit, Herbalife, Scarsdale,
NutriSystem, Celebrity, Fit For Life, Food Combining, Cabbage Soup,
Subway, South Beach, Volumetrics diet, etc...), they either fall
into a low-fat, mostly vegetarian-based category, or they typically
promote higher protein (and fat), and low carbs....Many of these
(fad) diets unfortunately don't encourage a long-term common sense
approach to eating, such as focusing on a balanced and moderate
intake of several basic food groups. Being largely do-it- yourself
based, they generally don't consider the health implications for
anyone following specific dietary recommendations that result in
quick weight loss (without establishing individual safety), or they
neglect the long-term health effects of Yo-Yo dieting..."
What is the difference
between a fad diet and "a long-term common sense approach to
eating"? What portion of these weight loss plans are helping
people work toward a healthier lifestyle, and how much of it is
"U.S. foodmakers are
scrambling to satisfy consumer clamorings for low-carbohydrate products,
but also see a move toward more balanced eating that could spell
doom for the strictest low-carb diets such as Atkins....But even
as they push these new products, companies that have been hurt by
the backlash against carbohydrates expect consumers will soon back
off the more extreme low-carb diets due to growing concerns about
their intake of artery-clogging fat and cholesterol. 'Everything
in moderation is ultimately where all these things lead to,' said
Douglas Conant, chief executive of Campbell Soup Co. 'These diets
become fad-like and take on lives of their own...and typically they
are not sustainable.'"
Is it possible to start
with moderation without first getting caught up in diets that "'become
fad-like and take on lives of their own...'"? And what's wrong
with trying a fad diet for a while?
create a risk for (more) health problems, while at the same time
they contribute little or nothing to meet the body's long-term nutritional
Long-term nutritional needs?
Just one example:
"You may have already
heard about the importance of folic acid; it builds healthy blood
cells and may help reduce the risk of heart disease....Folic acid
is one of the B vitamins used by your body. Folic acid is used to
make red blood cells and important proteins like DNA. Getting enough
folic acid is especially important during your growth spurt and
during pregnancy....Fortified breakfast cereals are the best food
source of folic acid. Green leafy vegetables, some citrus fruits,
certain beans, and of course, liver are rich sources of folate.
Most teens don't get enough folate and folic acid because their
diets may involve lots of fast food and skipped meals."
Those switching to a vegetarian
diet need to be sure that they are getting enough protein and other
essential nutrients from other (non-meat) sources. In the same way,
those who are avoiding carbs (cereals, breads, pastas, etc.) need
to be sure that they find other sources from which they can get
the vitamins--like folic acid--and minerals that are now less prevalent
in their diets.
Questions of the Week:
How can you find "a long-term common sense approach to eating"?
What are the components of such a plan? How can you find a balanced
diet that is right for you--one that meets the needs of your body
and your life?
***Please don't forget: I want to hear from you!***
Students (and teachers), now is your chance to share your ideas,
hints, tips, suggestions, and even lesson plans. For more details,
you can access a copy of last week's Question of the Week at: http://www.accessexcellence.org/HE/qow/qow03/qow040301.php
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum