T Nation

12 Y.O. Female and Low Carb Dieting


I think it is a written law somewhere that any topic with the words 12 year old in the subject automatically gets you put on some type of government list. Even though that may be, I've got a quetion for you. I've got a 12 year old sister who is looking to drop a few lbs. I'm currently on the Anabolic Diet and am liking the process.

My sister has tried doing basic, clean healthy foods but normally gets caught up in the world of rice cakes and "reduced fat" frozen pizzas. She did a bit of a low carb thing this summer and did pretty good on it. She came to me for advice the other day, and I told her about the Anabolic Diet or Metabolic Diet, whichever title you prefer. She has shown interest and even says she started eating by the under 30 carbs a day principle a few days ago.

I wanted to check and see if any of you knew whether restricting carbohydrate intake for a 12 year old girl for a period of a say a month or so would be dangerous. I say a month, because, I would eventually like to see her eating things like whole wheat bread, fruit, and other good carbs. I want to make sure that restriciting carbs on someone this young would not cause any harm to overall growth, reproductive capabilities, or anything of the sort.

I do not want to come across as a nutrition obsessed asshole, determined to rope all family members into my lifestyle, but I am simply asking if low carb dieting is an option for a 12 year old female. Thanks.


Instead of doing some extreme virtually no carb diet, why not just teach her what a healthy carb is and how to eat right? Frozen pizza and rice cakes are not healthy, teach her to eat whole grains, oats, veggies, and things like that. Try and teach her the value of protien with every meal and maybe get her on a plan to increase her activity.

It is sad that parents are not teaching this to kids but most parents don't understand.

Getting something like JB's DVD or gourmet nutrition would also be a good start. It will teach you why you want to eat certain things.


The good point though is that Speedy here is at least trying to help her since their parents apparently are not.


Low carb or ketogenic diets have a long history in the treatment of severe/uncontrolled epilepsy,

To answer your question, yes a low-carb diet is an option for kids of 12 y.o.
In fact, children as young as under 2 years of age are being put on ketogenic diets (for epilepsy reasons) with little ill effects.

For growth purposes, I would just make sure that this low-carb diet she wants to try does not become a very-low calorie diet. And has all the vitamin requirement added in.

I do agree with an above poster that going with the nutrion tips that are here on T-Nation is probably a ''long-term'' and ''smarter'' approach, like the 6 meals a day with carb timing and protein/carbs and protein/fat meals.

Good luck to your sister.



Should work fine. Three things:

  1. You'll need to oversee her choices and numbers as it's a rare day when someone of this age can focus for more than 3 days. Veggies, veggies, veggies.

  2. She can have 50-60g CHO per day easily IF they are fruit and veggies. Make sure they are. Not Mountan Dew.

  3. CHO loading should be monitored big time. At this age, the likelihood of overdosing on little debbies and oreos until you get sick is increased. Also, some people (usually females) seem to have a harder time putting the CHO down when the load is over. I'd limit her options to good food on the load with a few "normal" desserts. Use fear if you have to and tell her she'll be 300lbs in two weeks if she overloads or junk loads. keep her load to no more than 36 hours and KEEP IT CLEAN.

I don't like to see anybody abuse the AD, especially a very young person. Consuption of mass junk will not help anyone's endeavors for more muscle, less fat, and better health. Help her keep control. She'll need support.



To add more to what everyone has already mentioned- she at least knows (and you know) that she's still eating "crap" food possibly along with "clean" foods.


Instead of just worrying about the consequences on her physical development, focus on what this can do to her psychologically.

Low carb diets are generally hard for people to maintain. They take a lot of willpower and effort. Do you want this girl to stress herself out over how many grams of carbohydrates she is consuming? Do you want her to develop the mindset that she "can't eat this and cannot eat that" or that deprivation is the only way to lose weight?

The age of twelve is a time when most girls start to become very critical of their bodies and compare themselves to others. Putting her on a diet that focuses primarily on weight loss rather than general health is dangerous, in my opinion. You'd be taking a risk with her long-term attitude towards food.

I suggest stressing eating healthily rather than radically. Habits are easier to change when you're young; she has a better chance of learning habits that will stay with her. Do you want those habits to be healthy choices or obssessive behavior?


Assuming that it is physically OK for her to do a low carb diet, I'd agree with AB here, that low carb diets are NOT healthy for the long term. But you've already stated, ( I think ) that you'd like to get her on a healthy lifestyle diet in time. Dieting is probably always a psychological minefield, and moreso with a 12 year old.

Sounds to me like you'd need to support her the whole time through, put a time limit on the low carb diet, and then switch to a healthy diet.

She needs to be made aware that the low carb part of it is a jumpstart, and absolutely NOT the end of the road.

If she can handle that, then it sounds OK to me.

That's just my opinion.

\|/ 3Toes


What is her current activity level?



I appreciate all the responses. The funny thing is, she is extremely educated on nutrition(thinks to yours truly). I have heard her tell numerous people the difference between high gi and low gi foods, monunsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and one day I was suprised to hear her start debating me on whether dextrose or maltodextrin would spike insulin more.

I mean, she is smart as a tac when it comes to nutrition, she is, and has always been extemely picky when it comes to food. I don't think she has yet to make that food=fuel connection, and still thinks that everything should taste at least pretty good. Learning to like something over time just doesn't seem to happen with her.

In conversatins with her lately, I still think that there is some of the "well everybody else my age eats junk and stays skinny" mentality I went the route of low carb simply because I thought it would be the most feasable for her to do, and also because it shows results relatively quickly, which is motivation that is hard to come by for a 12 year old on a diet. Her activity level is fairly high, she takes some type of dance lessons, I believe around 3 times a week, and will be starting cheerleading in the winter.

As stated before, I hope to have her on good carbs within a month or so. She has actually started to like the frozen entrees that the South Beach Diet dudes put out. On glance of the ingridents, everything seems to be based on whole wheat and canola and or olive oil, even the cookies look pretty healthy. Once again thanks for all the feedback, this site and forums continue to impress me.


I would recommend against it. If she's not disciplined enough to make wise carb choices, I don't see how she'd be disciplined enough to severely limit carbs for the time periods necessary on the Anabolic Diet.


cmon, shes 12 years old . let the kids 'hormones kick in -teaching a child about food choices is one thing, but low carb dieting and things of this nature is not a good idea at this young of an age. physically she should be fine, but I believe you are setting a bad precedent in this can lead to a host of emotional problems. Please educate with food choices,and portion sizes - stress fruits and vegatables- don't give the kid a complex


Ditto to the 2 posts above.

There shouldn't be any reason for a 12 year old to be on a "restricted" anything diet if their diet is in order. If it isn't in order, get it there. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do it either. Knowing the difference between hi and low glycemic carbs is one thing - eating them is something completely different.

You may also be over-estimating her activity level. A different way of looking at activity level is: out of 168 hours in a week how many hours are spent doing something really "vigorous"?
Not a casual walk, or dance class, or a bike ride. If you can get her lifting, great. Kids like sleds and sandbags - cuz they can "personalize" them. If girls want to paint their sled pink with flowers, I let them. As long as they pull hard. Don't ask me why they like farmer's walks, but they do. Different, I guess. Good luck.



Man, that Hoss guy jumped in my head and stole that post...but yeah, I think thats right on the money. Can't go wrong eating vegetables. As long as the vegetables aren't beans, potatos, corn or squash, it'd be quite a chore to get more then a hundred grams or so of carbs from vegetables. And, if beans, potatos, corn and squash are the worst things you eat in a day, I still think you'd be doing damn well for yourself.

In fact, I think the best first step would be to make sure every meal contains a prodigious portion of whatever vegetable she'll eat. Even some frozen berries, apples or oranges would be good choices.

Also, I also pimp milled flax seeds to everyone low carbin' it.

Good luck.