Super Model Goal Can Lead To Super Nightmare Says LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  7/29/2005 3:10:24 AM

News You Can Use For August 2005

Unrealistic goals for a fit and healthy body can lead teens into dangerous habits. This is especially true for girls, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

Concern about weight and the drive to be thin increase the risk a girl will become a daily smoker by the time she's 18 or 19 years old, according to a study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Weight concerns increased the risk for both black and white girls.

According to the Surgeon General's 2004 report on health consequences of smoking, more than 80 percent of tobacco users initiate use before the age of 18 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one-third of American children who start smoking before the age of 17 will die from a smoking-related disease. In the United States today, tobacco use has become an entrenched part of teen-age culture.

Slightly more than one-third of U.S. high school students smoked cigarettes in 1997 (boys 34.7 percent, girls 37.7 percent). The current and frequent cigarette use increased into the late 1990s, but declined significantly by 2003 during which 21.9 percent girls and 21.8 percent boys reported current cigarette use, according to a 2004 CDC report.

Yet, percentages increased over the four years of high school (9th - 17.4 percent, 10th - 21.8 percent, 11th - 23.6 percent and 12th - 26.2 percent).

"Achieving a healthy and fit body is a worthy goal for teens," Reames says, warning, however, that this may mean expecting to look like a super model or top athlete. "Such a goal may be unrealistic and likely to lead to feelings of decreased self-confidence and self-worth," the nutritionist cautions.

She encourage teens to aim for a healthy body suited to their height, frame and body proportions. "Look at your relatives for realistic expectations of your body frame, such as broad-shouldered like an uncle or petite like their grandmother," Reames advises, adding, "You can be healthy and fit no matter what body pattern you have inherited."

The Food Guide Pyramid provides guidance for choosing a healthful diet including grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans and oils. Combining these healthful food choices with daily physical activity will help you reach your healthy body weight.

Reames says since teens are still growing and developing, their diets affect how they look and feel for the rest of their lives. Colorful fruits and vegetables supply nutrients that will make hair, eyes and skin shine.

Try to include vegetables at meals and snacks by choosing vegetable toppings for pizza like peppers or broccoli, salsa with sliced cucumber or squash dippers, baked potatoes stuffed with broccoli, bagged salads or salad bars at grocery stores or fast-food restaurants, steamed vegetables from Chinese take-out and canned vegetable soups thickened with extra vegetables.

Dietary surveys show that teens may not get enough calcium, iron or zinc. To satisfy this need, combine milk products and grains. Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are often fortified with minerals. These can be eaten any time with low-fat or skim milk.

Eating two to three moderate-size protein foods such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs, cooked dry beans or nuts is another way to get iron and zinc. Also, get these minerals from reduced-fat peanut butter on crackers for a quick snack or breakfast. Other ideas include a pita pocket with tuna and veggies, garden burger on a whole-wheat bun or a tortilla rolled up with chili, chopped tomato and shredded cheese.

Plan snacks to fill nutrition gaps in your food choices. Pack an apple or an orange in your backpack. Select fruit juice from the vending machine. Mix small cereal squares, raisins and a spoonful of nuts and put in a plastic bag to carry along for snack attacks.

Try to find something you like to do to develop muscles, a strong heart and achieve a healthy body weight. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend (for children and adolescents) at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.

Ideas include talking to your gym teacher about activities available at your school and getting involved, walking your dog or your neighbor’s dog, dancing or exercising to a video or volunteering to do chores at home or for elderly neighbors.

For additional information about eating healthfully using the Food Guide Pyramid, contact the LSU AgCenter Extension agent in your parish. For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or breames@agcenter.lsu

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