Phew! What a post. That’s all from me. See you guys next week for more funny anecdotes, stock photos, and hard-hitting research!
…Alright, there’s more to the story than just a ‘no’.
Diet culture is so invasive that we see messages everywhere about how to slim down, tone up, and look great while ignoring health and what it feels like to be as healthy as possible.
This media trick isn’t missed by your teens. According to this article, ½ of teen girls and ¼ of boys have tried to alter their body shape through dieting. You’ll notice that this article mentions that most of the girls who try to diet are already at a healthy weight.
What if my teen is overweight?
In adolescence, your teen going through a massive developmental period that rivals when they were infants. It’s important to make sure your teen is getting the nutrients they need for a healthy puberty rather than focusing on their size.
Rather than worrying about their weight, I want to shift the focus to their habits and health instead. This is where my slogan, “putting health back in the spotlight”, comes into play. By encouraging healthy habits in adolescence, your child is more likely to have a healthy puberty and healthy adulthood.
Why shouldn’t they lose weight?
In Dianne Neumark-Sztainer’s book, “I’m, like, SO fat!” she chronicles two long term studies regarding teens who diet: most of them gain it back, and were more likely to binge in adulthood. Meaning that in the end, these dieters gained weight rather than lost it.
That weight might be used for growth spurts later. If your child was designated female at birth, the weight gain from puberty is also seen as normal. In Sandra Susan Friedman’s book When Girls Feel Fat, Friedman touches on the fact that weight gain is normal. It’s just the pressure of society that stresses children out when their body gains weight to use for puberty.
What can cause a change in appetite in my teen?
Lots of things! While it could be emotional eating (more on this in a second), it’s more than likely your teen is having a growth spurt.
This awesome blog by Jill Castle, RD explains how to spot a growth spurt. Notice how she mentions a huge uptick in your teens appetite.
My teen isn’t eating well. I don’t want them to develop unhealthy habits. Should I talk to them?
When it comes to your teen’s health, there are lots of ways to encourage a healthy lifestyle for your child.
Talking to them is a slippery slope, as they’re already at an age where they’re becoming more body conscious (both due to puberty and starting to take note of the sex they’re attracted to/an interest in dating), but there are ways you can talk to your teen about their health in a way that doesn’t make them feel self-conscious about their size.
If your teen is the one to bring up their size and mentions dieting, Dr. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer recommends these tips (these tips and more can be seen in “I’m, like, SO Fat!”)
- Figure out the reason your teen wants to diet. Go beyond the size and see what’s bothering them
- Talk to your teen about what a diet means. Do they mean cutting back on fast food? Meat? Helping identify what that means to them helps you make sure they’re still getting a healthy balance of food.
- Focus on behaviors that encompass a healthy lifestyle rather than dieting, and offer to help them adapt these behaviors into their life
Is there anything, besides talking to them that I can do?
Leading by example and showing your teen that you’re in their corner is an amazing step, one that you’ve already started by reading this post!
Other suggestions, again from Dr. Neumark-Sztainer and Jill Castle are:
- Model healthy behavior
This means that you don’t diet and don’t talk down about yourself around them. For teens, hearing you say positive things about your body that aren’t weight related will help set their mindset that their body is an awesome powerhouse capable of a lot of things that don’t depend on size.
- Create a supportive environment
Easier said than done- I know that I always buy bananas, thinking I’ll eat them, and then suddenly I have a bunch of brown bananas with nothing to do with them.
This is a great way to help your teen development independence and take charge of their health. Have them come grocery shopping with you and pick out some of their favorite health foods so they have it on hand for snacks and lunches.
Let them help figure out certain recipes they’d like to try and help them learn how to cook it with you.
Find ways to decrease screen time where possible- don’t make screens negative, but offer to go on a walk with your teen after dinner, or another active activity you both like to avoid too much time sitting down.