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Should healthy teens be counting calories?

13

Replies

  • peaceout_aly
    peaceout_aly Posts: 2,018 Member
    I know there is an age limit to mfp but I have known countless teens that regularly use mfp, all are healthy and active. I feel like it is unnecessary for them as it focuses their attention to numerical values. I just realized that they could possibly have a different medical concern they use it for such as making sure they get enough iron, protein, or potassium ect... But most just use it for calories. I know one girl is specific about logging every morsel into mfp to know her calories so she can determine what she can and can’t eat. Technology😂

    I always logged as a teen, and looking back, I wish I hadn't. I would have eaten the same things and it really sort of built an obsessive component within myself regarding food. Yes, it built healthy and maintainable tracking habits for adulthood, but I always look back and wish there had been a time when I just ate to eat and didn't log. It's not like I was a crazy athlete. I was always in the gym, but not like I am now - mostly just cardio and random lifting, not program focused lifts and intense cardio like I do now. I feel like using it early on in adulthood is the best time to begin.
  • born_of_fire74
    born_of_fire74 Posts: 776 Member
    I'm with CSARdriver. It's foolish to wait until you are up to your eyeballs in debt to learn how to budget your money just as it is foolish to wait until you are overweight or unhealthy to learn how to budget your calories.

    If I had the tools and understanding 20 years ago that I have now, I would not have spent 20 years as an active, generally fit but overweight person constantly struggling with her weight. All it took was for me to learn how much I should be eating vs. how much I am actually eating and then my general activity and fitness did the rest. I wish someone had shown me how simple it was so much sooner.
  • ExistingFish
    ExistingFish Posts: 1,260 Member
    Oh also actually knowing how to track your macros and calories would probably be a good thing to learn, at least for women. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes when pregnant. You have to start tracking your carbs immediately, have to be good at it, and your baby's health is at stake. The nutritional counselors who worked with me (I only had one appointment, I didn't need a lot of help) said it was really good that I was already familiar with MFP and counting my calories/carbs/macros. That is a more critical situation than say, needing to lose weight because your BP is high or your are prediabetic. You have to get it down quickly. This would be a good skill to teach kids early, so in the case that women get GD, they will be able to confidently handle it.

    Just another example, not like all women will get pregnant or all pregnant women will get GD, but just saying it is a valuable skill to teach kids. Using a program like MFP is a robust way to learn that skill for technology savvy users.
  • nooshi713
    nooshi713 Posts: 4,871 Member
    Growing up, I mostly ate healthy food. The problem was, I was always hungry and ate too much healthy food. I only got the shape I wanted when I went to college at 18 and started keeping a food journal. Maintaining my weight without counting is impossible for me because intuituve eating doesn't work for me. I wish I had known about calorie counting in high school. It is a tool to help people achieve a fitness goal.
  • ninerbuff
    ninerbuff Posts: 46,695 Member
    Nah. People overseas who eat normally don't need to track calories. When the weight starts piling on, that's when they should start really learning.

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition

    9285851.png
  • Candyspun
    Candyspun Posts: 371 Member
    Well, if they're healthy, why not? Healthy means someone without an eating disorder, right? I think any weight loss plan or tool comes with a risk of triggering eating disorders in people, if they are predisposed to begin with. And let's stop fooling ourselves that eating disorders are the sole domain of teens. They aren't. I mean, we're talking about healthy teenagers doing what all of us here are doing, right?

    I'd rather my teen be at a healthy weight, with no eating disorder showing an interest in their health than to have an eating disorder that makes them an unhealthy weight, be that overweight or underweight.

    I remember as a teen really enjoying working out the vitamins and minerals of everything I ate, for the sheer enjoyment of the sciencey, nerdy side of it. I would have absolutely loved a site/app like this, back then. And I was healthy, with no eating disorder.
  • allisonlane161
    allisonlane161 Posts: 269 Member
    I think times have changed. There's an obesity epidemic with obese parents raising overweight and eventually obese children. I think never before recently should calorie counting have been a part of a child's upbringing, but with kids playing outside less, being taught horrible food habits from their parents, sadly, I believe they should be aware of calories and nutritional needs. It was way better when I was a kid (I'm 56) when it comes to fitness.
  • CSARdiver
    CSARdiver Posts: 6,257 Member
    ninerbuff wrote: »
    Nah. People overseas who eat normally don't need to track calories. When the weight starts piling on, that's when they should start really learning.

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition

    9285851.png

    Why wait until a problem exists?

    Would you rather teach people the following:

    1. Here's how many calories you need to eat to maintain.
    2. Here's what that looks like.
    3. Here's what you can do to change the output in a healthy manner.
  • tbright1965
    tbright1965 Posts: 852 Member
    Define counting calories?

    I mean learning to manage oneself and resources is a skill one ought to learn. Just like one manages money.

    Learning moderation is a good skill regardless of age.

    It's probably harder for teens as they are still growing, so weight alone isn't a good metric to determine if they are on the right track. However, learning how much is in the food budget for different types of foods is a good skill to learn early so they have a healthy relationship with food.
  • mreichard
    mreichard Posts: 237 Member
    My teen athlete just started tracking calories in order to get a sense of how much he needs to eat to gain weight. He’s been trying to gain for weeks and not weighing himself. Yesterday he weighed himself and realized he was 2 pounds lighter. Now he’s trying to get a handle on how much he actually needs to eat (which is way more than he thought).
  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    CSARdiver wrote: »
    I understand the desire for caution around this, but education isn't a driver of eating disorders.

    Knowing how to count calories is different than actually counting them. There are a number of ways to educate young people on the importance of being healthy in general, that don't involve calorie counting.
  • ExistingFish
    ExistingFish Posts: 1,260 Member
    aokoye wrote: »
    CSARdiver wrote: »
    I understand the desire for caution around this, but education isn't a driver of eating disorders.

    Knowing how to count calories is different than actually counting them. There are a number of ways to educate young people on the importance of being healthy in general, that don't involve calorie counting.

    Sure.

    "Here are nutrition facts, you can see how many calories are in this, as well as tracked macronutrients such as fat, protein, and carbs..."

    "You are supposed to have a balance of macronutrients and a reasonable amount of calories"

    BUT DON'T COUNT THEM! How else do you educate about that? What is a better way to know how to count calories than to count calories? Why teach it as only an abstract concept?
  • Crafty_camper123
    Crafty_camper123 Posts: 1,440 Member
    It is entirely dependent on the teen and their personality I think. If they are very insecure or are giving any red flags about disordered eating, then the best approach is probably just to focus on nutrition content, activity, and non-scale type measures. If they are of average health mentally, it's good to teach them at least how to read the nutrition panel and to look at calories, and the macros present in each serving. Even if they aren't adding it all up for the day they can at least get a good idea of what's in a serving and what the effects are on their body. They can look at something and be armed with a little better knowledge of how to make healthy choices that are actually lower in calories.
    A couple examples (of poor knowledge) I've recently witnessed in my adult life. I was eating dinner with a friend and I was looking up the calories of my sandwich. The contents of which was 7" white bread, fried chicken patty, like 4 slices of cheese, and tomato sauce. I asked what they thought the calories might be? "Oh 400?" they said.. The sandwich was double.. or probably more of what they thought it was. This person was never raised with calories or portion control even being a thing. I have another friend who makes a lot of home made things because it's "healthier" then store-bought. There's nothing wrong with that, but often times the "home made all-natural" version has considerably more calories then the "processed unhealthy" store bought version. (Mayonnaise for example. Store bought may have more ingredients, but it's lower in calories then basic home made) They had a "as long as it's healthy" type upbringing, but I'm not positive calories were ever brought up. They are always following some type of fad diet.

    I don't have kids of my own, but I do remember some of my parents (blended family here) teaching me to scrutinize nutrition labels to know what was in them. At the time (Atkins heyday) it was carb and sugar related. But it did arm me with a bit of knowledge to take into my adult years. I also watched them try (and fail) the fad diets of the 2000's, and so calorie counting felt like the sensible choice. I do remember them counting their own calories at one point though, and coming to me with the enlightened "OH MY GOD do you know how many calories are in the Chinese buffet we eat at every weekend?!?! AND THE CARBS?!?!". (Not in a judging way, but in a they just found out they ate 3000cal in one meal sort of way)

    It's also important that consistent, open and honest dialogue occurs with the kids too. Just to know what type of mental state their in, and if calorie counting or even worrying about nutrition is appropriate for them. I think WHY is important too. Are they gaining weight and are concerned about it? Do they have body image issues that may be indicative of body dysmorphia? (like being normal weight, or underweight yet thinking their fat) I'm not sure it's always appropriate to bring up calorie counting to THEM. That feels more like a lead by example thing. Like them observing you passing on dessert because you're out of calories for the day. But if they bring it up to *YOU, then I feel like it's important to find out why they feel the need to count, and to teach them how to do it safely, under your supervision. That way you don't find them going on some 600cal a day crash diet they read about on some blog somewhere.

    *You, the general audience. Not You, a person in particular.
  • Crafty_camper123
    Crafty_camper123 Posts: 1,440 Member
    I think times have changed. There's an obesity epidemic with obese parents raising overweight and eventually obese children. I think never before recently should calorie counting have been a part of a child's upbringing, but with kids playing outside less, being taught horrible food habits from their parents, sadly, I believe they should be aware of calories and nutritional needs. It was way better when I was a kid (I'm 56) when it comes to fitness.

    At a kids birthday party, I saw an overweight man try to placate his grumpy and also overweight toddler on 3 separate occasions with food. At least that's how it seemed to me in that moment. She was fussy, and he handed her 3 different kinds of foods in an attempt to keep her from fussing and crying. It seemed to me that he was teaching her at a very young age to self soothe with food. I don't know their home life, and I could be reading into a strangers life though way more then I should be. I really ought not judge someone I don't know. I realize that. But I found the observation kind of disturbing. We (in general) have a poor relationship with food. And it seems to me we live so much more sedentary lives then we used to. More convenience food is available then ever before as well. Not to mention the plethora of food and diet myths & misinformation at every turn. Combine all that together, and it's no wonder obesity is on the rise. I feel like it's our responsibility to try to teach good food and exercise habits to the next generation. Just how we go about that would vary from child to child though.
  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    aokoye wrote: »
    CSARdiver wrote: »
    I understand the desire for caution around this, but education isn't a driver of eating disorders.

    Knowing how to count calories is different than actually counting them. There are a number of ways to educate young people on the importance of being healthy in general, that don't involve calorie counting.

    Sure.

    "Here are nutrition facts, you can see how many calories are in this, as well as tracked macronutrients such as fat, protein, and carbs..."

    "You are supposed to have a balance of macronutrients and a reasonable amount of calories"

    BUT DON'T COUNT THEM! How else do you educate about that? What is a better way to know how to count calories than to count calories? Why teach it as only an abstract concept?
    Kids learn about all sorts of things without actually doing them. Paying taxes and the creation of laws easily come to mind.
    Somehow I think teaching and telling kids in a middle or high school health class to count calories would be a recipe for disaster. There's no knowing whether or not these kids already are clearly predisposed to an eating disorder, already have an eating disorder, etc. Moreover, what does removing the "unhealthy" children do and who going to accurately be able to say what kid is or isn't healthy?
  • Angielosingitagain
    Angielosingitagain Posts: 11 Member
    In my opinion, it depends on the teen. As long as their mindset is healthy and if they are okay to indulge like on their birthday without the fear of higher caloric food then why not. I knew people who used it like said above for protein intake, I have used it for iron and vitamins when I was younger. I am not saying we should shelter them, but I think it is important if the parents or health professionals, coaches, etc Should have some supervision because it can be a slippery slope and it is a vulnerable time at their age. I think teens should have some indepence, but they should also have guidance at that age because they are still learning. I think teens should be aware of healthy eating, but should not be obsessed with it.
  • HoneyBadger302
    HoneyBadger302 Posts: 1,829 Member
    It depends, but I think it would be good for all kids/teens to learn more about calories in vs calories out, how to properly measure and track these things, and how to watch out for potential issues.

    As a teen and even all the way through my 20s and into my 30s, I never had to worry about my weight. I understood healthy food and how to read labels, but never worried about calories. Then, when I got a desk job, I got fat. I didn't realize that my healthy eating wasn't good enough anymore, and that CI vs CO was causing me issues. It took far too long before I realized there was a problem going on.

    An education on these things as a teen probably would have helped make the learning curve a lot easier.

    That being said, once the education part is completed, I would say it depends on the teen and their lifestyle.
  • ExistingFish
    ExistingFish Posts: 1,260 Member
    aokoye wrote: »
    Kids learn about all sorts of things without actually doing them. Paying taxes and the creation of laws easily come to mind.
    Somehow I think teaching and telling kids in a middle or high school health class to count calories would be a recipe for disaster. There's no knowing whether or not these kids already are clearly predisposed to an eating disorder, already have an eating disorder, etc. Moreover, what does removing the "unhealthy" children do and who going to accurately be able to say what kid is or isn't healthy?

    I learned about creating laws in high school, by creating laws. We had a mock house and senate, formed committees, wrote bills, voted on them....it wasn't an abstract concept. We even met in the state capitol for it.

    Kids pay sales tax any time they buy something. More kids should learn how to fill out tax forms, I cringe when I see some poor kid paying a tax preparer $40 to fill out a 1040 EZ for a kid with two w-2s and nothing else.
  • perkymommy
    perkymommy Posts: 1,640 Member
    edited August 2018
    I don't see anything wrong with it but in the mid 80s when I was in high school I had no MFP or way to track calories anywhere at the time and still managed to be anorexic for many years on my own. :neutral: If there's a will there's a way.

    I only wish I would have had something like this available to me back then so I would know that what I was doing very very unhealthy and there was a better way to go about making sure I didn't "get fat."
  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    aokoye wrote: »
    Kids learn about all sorts of things without actually doing them. Paying taxes and the creation of laws easily come to mind.
    Somehow I think teaching and telling kids in a middle or high school health class to count calories would be a recipe for disaster. There's no knowing whether or not these kids already are clearly predisposed to an eating disorder, already have an eating disorder, etc. Moreover, what does removing the "unhealthy" children do and who going to accurately be able to say what kid is or isn't healthy?

    I learned about creating laws in high school, by creating laws. We had a mock house and senate, formed committees, wrote bills, voted on them....it wasn't an abstract concept. We even met in the state capitol for it.

    Kids pay sales tax any time they buy something. More kids should learn how to fill out tax forms, I cringe when I see some poor kid paying a tax preparer $40 to fill out a 1040 EZ for a kid with two w-2s and nothing else.

    I did none of that, including the sales tax bit (I grew up in a state that doesn't have sales tax) and yet still know how all of things things work. I would venture that's the same for quite a number of people (with the sales tax part not being applicable to everyone). In terms of abstract concepts, children need to learn how to think abstractly. Heck, people in general need to learn how to think abstractly.

    All that said, it's clear that we're not going to convince each other.