Should children diet?

I'm going to go out on a limb here: children should not diet.

This is true, medically. It is also true psychologically. But when I say this to people unfamiliar with eating disorders I am met with incredulity, pity, and disdain.
Messages about children dieting are ubiquitous: "Once your child has stopped gaining weight and is on a regular program of dieting and exercising," "Your child or teen can diet, the healthy Slimkids way while eating foods they like." "What age should I put my child on a diet?
Age 4 and above is a basic answer

And yet using food to change one's appearance (dieting) is no more effective or healthy in children than adults.

Children should not be on calorie restricted diets. They should not be pushed toward low-fat foods. They should not be taught that some foods are healthy and other foods are bad.

Even low levels of dieting behaviors are associated with higher suicide risk.

And dieting triggers eating disorders.


  1. Fat kids need to be put on diets! It does not have to be anything drastic if the child is mildly overweight, however it needs to be done as soon as a child gets to the point where he or she is noticeably fatter than the other kids.

  2. Your sentiments are, admittedly, very common out there. But still wrong.

    And sad.

    Check the science on this, not the diet industry, the magazine industry, the lemming-like aesthetic bigotry of public opinion.

    Your word, "noticeably" really says it all.

  3. What amazes me most is that we pride ourselves on freedom yet when someone looks different than what they've been sold as beautiful, they blow away all that freedom to embrace some "false" sense of what's important.

  4. Laura makes a good point. Dieting is especially risky for young athletes, as concluded recently by the American College of Sports Medicine in its Position Stand on the Female Athlete Triad, available at Click on : "New: Female Athlete Triad Position Stand" As those experts said, dieting that leads to low energy availability can impair reproductive and skeletal health. The Position Stand cites scientific evidence that hunger signals don't necessarily trigger more eating when exercise levels increase; this can lead to low energy availability and serious consequences. All parents and coaches should read the Position Stand.

  5. Actually, Laura, what's sad is that this is now considered "going out on a limb."


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