Dear Dr. Wallace:

I’m going to be in my cousin’s wedding on Christmas Eve, and I need to lose 15 pounds of baby fat that I have been lugging around for about six months. My best friend suggested that I use diet pills because they are supposed to be effective. My mom doesn’t like that idea because she says they are not good for you. How do diet pills work? Are they really dangerous?

— Seeking to Be Slender, Orlando, Florida

Dear Seeking: Simply stated, the diet pill informs the brain you don’t need food, so your appetite is suppressed, and you don’t eat as much. These pills can become addictive. I suggest you lose your “baby fat” the old-fashioned way — by eating properly and exercising regularly. You have plenty of time to lose your excess weight before the wedding.

Many diet supplements turn out to be harmless, and some may be effective at creating a sense of fullness, burning fat or boosting your metabolism. However, I suggest caution. The Food and Drug Administration has banned some of the ingredients in weight loss products because of harmful side effects. Here is a list of some of the problems that can arise from taking unregulated weight loss substances: increased heart rate, high blood pressure, agitation, diarrhea, sleeplessness, kidney problems, liver damage and rectal bleeding.

It would be much better for your overall health to lose your excess weight the old-fashioned way by combining a healthy diet with increased exercise. Speak to both a nutritionist and a person experienced with exercise programs, and I trust you will soon be safely on your way to achieving your goal.

Dear Dr. Wallace: My parents don’t trust me! They’re always checking up on me. I can understand that, but what I can’t understand is why they sometimes follow me in their car to see if I was honest about where I’m going.

Last Friday night, my girlfriend and I decided to go to a movie. I told my parents what movie we were going to see and what time the movie started. While standing in the line, whom do I see spying on me? My parents had driven by to see if I was telling the truth.

When I complained later to my parents that I don’t like them distrusting me, all they say is, “We do it because we love you.” Do you think my parents should be spying on me like this? It’s beyond embarrassing. Luckily, this last time I was the only one who saw them. My date never knew she was being monitored, too. I feel like my life is a reality TV show that my parents are broadcasting for their own entertainment. Is this as wrong as I feel it is, or am I overreacting?

— Spied Upon,

via email

Dear Spied Upon: Parents should, of course, be aware of their children’s activities, but they shouldn’t spy on them to verify that they’ve told the truth. Trust is an essential part of a loving, functional family, and only if the teen violates that trust is unannounced surveillance warranted. Your story did not mention any prior breaking of this trust, so with that assumption in place, I would agree with you in this instance.

Spying — especially on a routine basis — is the opposite of trust. Even when it’s done out of love, it’s extremely distractive to the parent-child relationship. Teenagers will never grow into productive members of society without being granted gradually increasing independence.

Parents who don’t trust their children will never be able to let go and allow them to mature naturally on their own.

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