90% of Teen Girls Have Tried Dieting — And That's a Good Thing in the Obesity Battle

Apparently, 90% of teen girls have been on a diet, or have thought about dieting. Too often, people throw around this statistic like it's a bad thing. Americans do have a weight problem, but it's not the one that anti-diet crusaders describe. Our problem is quite the opposite: We're too fat! Diets are a good thing, and more people should be on one. 

Obesity is a much bigger problem in America than eating disorders are. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 35.7% of adults and 16.9% of children and adolescents were obese in America in 2009-10. Meanwhile, merely 2.7% of 13- to 17-year-olds have an eating disorder, according to NIMH. (And they're using a broad definition that includes anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and/or binge eating disorders.) It pales in comparison.

Some say that dieting and airbrushed photos make women feel bad about their bodies. This view may be well-intentioned, but it misses the bigger picture. What we should really be concerned about is their health. If a young woman develops the habit of unchecked eating, then she is more likely to become overweight and develop serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes. 

Dieting and having an eating disorder are different things, and anti-diet crusaders are wrong to confuse the two. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says that "eating disorders are marked by extremes [...] such as extreme reduction of food intake or extreme overeating" — but that's not true of dieting. Dieting involves eating healthy foods in appropriate portions. Combined with doing physical activity, watching what you eat is an important part of having a healthy lifestyle.  

Let's think less about young women's feelings, and more about their clogged arteries. Obesity is a much bigger problem than airbrushing photos of fashion models.

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Christine Harbin

Christine Harbin considers widespread economic freedom to be one of the most important goals for sound public policy. She holds undergraduate degrees in economics, mathematics, and French from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.

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