5 things vegans should pay attention to

5 things vegans should pay attention to

My mom calls me a “nerd” a lot. It’s because if you get me started on nutrition, theatre, or my dogs it’s hard to shut me up. Hence why I started blogging about it…to save my poor mom from all my ranting.

Today we get to chat about something equally nerdy and important…nutrients!

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Yaaaay! 

How often have you heard: “I need more protein”, “Where do you get your protein?”, “I heard carbs are bad…” (etc) in general conversation?

Now picture a dinner party and how many of your friends (who don’t have a condition like hypertension) are saying: “My potassium intake is INTENSE” or “My selenium is rather low today. Anyone have any brazil nuts?”

Yeah…not heard a lot. If you’re vegan, you’re a little bit more aware of these micros than someone on a standard American diet (aptly abbreviated to SAD). And if you’re not, don’t worry, you’re not going to die.

There are some micronutrients that you, or the vegan in your life, should be paying attention to regardless of diet.

What’s a micronutrient?

Like a macronutrient, a micronutrient is something our body uses to stay healthy just on a smaller scale. For example, sodium (which is part of NaCl- sodium chloride, table salt) helps our muscles, heart, and nerves fire when we need them to.

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Which ones are the ones vegans need to pay attention to? There’s a lot of micronutrients.

Here are what I consider to be the top 5 micronutrients you should be focusing on:

  • Iron (+Vitamin C) (yes, technically 2 in one…you’ll see)
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • B12
  • Zinc

Iron

Iron is used for a few things in the body:

  • Oxygen transport
  • Keeping blood cells healthy.

If you are an individual who menstruates, you may already be aware that iron is needed more during menstruation since you’re losing a bit of blood.

It also helps in handy little things like energy production, DNA synthesis, and acts like an antioxidant in the body (https://veganhealth.org/iron-part-1/#functions-iron) .

Vitamin C is tagged on there because it helps increase your adsorption of iron. Simply put, it acts like a magnet: it scoops up more iron for your body than your body would get if you didn’t add any vitamin C.

Including vitamin C in an iron-rich meal can look as simple as enjoying an orange after eating some lentil salad (you can even include some spinach, another source of iron).

I’m bad at recipes and cooking (working on it!) so here’s an article on iron sources from No Meat Athlete.

Vitamin D

Necessary for bone health and calcium absorption. If you drink dairy milk, you might have noticed there are dairy products that include vitamin D and it’s because of the link between vitamin D and calcium.

Often, during the sunny months, humans can get vitamin D from the sun. However, during colder months, getting vitamin D can be a challenge (unless you’re one of those people who can wear shorts when it’s freezing…if you’re this person, you scare me with your strength).

There are vegan/vegetarian sources of vitamin D like algae, and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) supplements.

Calcium

Not exclusive to dairy, calcium can be found in numerous sources like spinach, tofu set in a calcium solution, sesame seeds, and fortified plant milks. You don’t have to have dairy products to get calcium, so vegans rejoice!

Much like Vitamin C + Iron, Calcium + Vitamin D is a dream team of micronutrients. Calcium is needed for bone health (something you might remember from health class) but is also needed for a healthy nervous system.

B12

Even non-vegans need to pay attention to their B12 intake. B12 is not naturally from animal products as some might claim, but rather is found in soil bacteria that we used to get by not washing our produce before we ate it.

By the way…please wash your produce. You can get B12 without eating dirt.

The book Vegan for Life by Jack Norris and Ginny Messina, two vegan RDs, explains that the best way to supplement B12 is with a sublingual supplement.

If you are a vegan, you cannot skip your B12. B12 is necessary for healthy brain function and a B12 deficiency is no laughing matter.

But don’t let that scare you- B12 is easy to come by with these supplements.

If you or your teen want to go vegan, having a varied diet is key to getting these micronutrients in and making sure you’re getting what you need for your lifestyle. Just like paleo, the Mediterranean diet, keto, whatever eating fad crosses your mind, veganism just needs a little bit of time to plan for variety!

These are the top five nutrients I believe people need to pay attention to. What are your top five? Let me know!

And remember: Do your homework, eat a vegetable, and make sure to smile at someone today. Bye!

 

Weight training in your teen’s routine

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Even though I did Tae-Kwon-Do (a Korean martial art) since middle school, I was never really into fitness and exercise the way I am now. Before I graduated high school, working out was a means to an end, a way to lose weight, or just something I had to do so I could eat.

Now I know that that’s not the right mindset at all. When I go to train now, I know that the progress I’m making is because I eat, recover, and take days off when I need to.

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But after I got my black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, my parents still wanted me to be active when I wasn’t in theatre. So my Dad took me to the gym, showed me a couple lifts, and that was that.

Since then I’ve been lifting since 2011, not really hitting my groove sports-wise until I started Olympic weightlifting back in 2016. Now I have a sport that I constantly practice in, set goals for, and sometimes love to hate.

Like other extracurriculars, exercise is a great way for teens to practice patience, goal setting, planning, and helps them socialize with other teens participating in the same sport.

Regardless of your teen’s activity, I would encourage you to try weight training with your teen.

Weight training is different from Weight lifting– “weight training” means just lifting for general fitness and health. Weight lifting typically refers to the sport I do, Olympic lifting, but I’ll be using ‘training’ and ‘lifting’ to mean the same thing in this post, since that’s how it’s used in real life.

What are the benefits of weight training?

When we look at weight training, we’re not looking at Olympic lifting, bodybuilding, powerlifting, or strong man- which are all lifting sports. We’re looking at lifting for general fitness.

Weight training helps improve balance, strength, endurance, and joint mobility. If your teen is on the computer or phone all the time and you’re concerned about their posture, training abs and back can help improve how they sit, stand, and walk by strengthening core and back muscles. 

As you go about your day, take note of how many times you pick something up or move something. I know it doesn’t seem like it, because it’s not stereotypical lifting, but you are using your muscles! It’s better to have your teen learn how to properly lift things now, so they can avoid injuries (like throwing their back out) later in life.

Embarrassing story time: I did hurt my back once as a teen because I didn’t know how to lift properly. I was not at the gym…I was lifting my backpack. Yes, really. So get them started now!

Weight training has other long-term benefits like an increase bone density. The thicker your bones are, the less likely they will break or sprain, reducing a risk of fracture. People who have periods also benefit from weight lifting because this benefit reduces the risk of osteoporosis as they age.

If your teen participates in sports, weight training can also help with their performance on the field.

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Does my teen need to be an athlete to weight train?

Nope! Lifting is for everyone. And if you have a teen whose mobility is impaired, there are personal trainers who would be happy to work with you and your teen to find a routine that works for them.

Something I really liked that I read while researching for this post came from stanfordchildren.org. In this article they give a lot of the benefits and things to consider when your teen starts lifting, but I do want to emphasize one point in particular:

Training shouldn’t get in the way of other ways your teen likes to be active, or a substitute for having fun. Really, weight training can supplement any active lifestyle.

Think of it like hot sauce- some people only need a little for the flavor they like, some people love having lots of hot sauce. Even things like bodyweight exercises go a long way in long-term health.

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Okay…but why should my teen try lifting?

Maybe I’m a little biased but…because it’s fun! 😉

In all seriousness, not to sound all ‘technology is scary!’ but we do live in a predominantly sedentary society. We have this fear of exercise like it means going to the gym for hours, sweating, grueling away at a goal that we’ll never reach.

In reality, a balanced life is about figuring out how much of a hobby you want moving around to be. My brother, sister, and I are all active, but we do COMPLETELY different things!

Danny walks EVERYWHERE! He does some lifting, but it’s more weight training. But damn does that boy walk.

Becca does Tae-Kwon-Do. She’s an instructor, so she teaches, and she even competes!

I do Olympic lifting and have been prone to zone out on cardio machines every now and again (it’s when I let myself watch let’s plays, don’t judge!)

By exposing your kid to all different kinds of activities, there’s bound to be one that sticks. Something that gets them off the couch, gets their blood flowing, and helps them move better the older they get.

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Here’s a photo of my sibs & I congratulating my sister for placing at state! 

Sounds like a plan. Anything else we should keep in mind?

I’m so glad you asked! Here’s a small list:

  • Whether it’s you, a family friend who’s lifted for years, or a trainer, make sure your teen gets instruction on how to lift properly.
  • Lifting could be a fun way for you and your teen to bond! Don’t be afraid to give it a shot, or to let your teen tag along to your lifting sessions. Some of my fondest high school memories are lifting with my dad.

Weight training is a great supplement to active living and can even become a fantastic hobby for your teen to make friends in after high school. It teaches your teen to invest in their health early on in life, to set meaningful goals to work towards, and impresses people at parties…what’s not to love?

What’s your favorite way to move? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

Remember to do your homework, eat a vegetable, and smile at someone if you can today :). See you soon!

Teen athletes need more protein

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I wasn’t a school athlete. I was one of those ‘too cool for school (sports)’ theatre kids who never really understood the hype of a home football game, or lacrosse game if your town is anything like mine.

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Yeah, I’m not kidding, we have a lacrosse team. And before you ask, I have no idea what lacrosse really is except tall sticks with nets on top that’s KIND of like Quidditch but there are no broomsticks involved. I did like running, but I wasn’t on cross country, and I didn’t start lifting until my senior year of high school.

So it might not be a surprise when I say that my knowledge of sports nutrition comes more from an angle as an adult who’s trying to fuel her workouts, who looked into the difference between teen athlete nutrition and adult athlete nutrition. What do we know already?

  • Teens are growing rapidly in a way like when they were babies, which burns calories
  • Moving around burns calories
  • Teens like to eat (as they should, food is awesome)

So what does this mean?

Teen athletes need a lot of calories, especially…(drum roll please) PROTEIN!

Yes, protein, the magical macronutrient we’ve covered in the past. Let’s look more in depth on how to fuel your teen athlete:

how much protein does my teen need?

Eatright.org currently recommends .5-.8g/kg of your teen’s bodyweight. Since they exercise more than teens who are just sedentary, try to aim more for .8-1g/kg body weight.

Teen athletes are still growing, so we want to make sure they’re not just getting enough protein for their sport but for their growth as well! Protein doesn’t just help build muscles, but it makes red blood cells, white blood cells, and is used for hormones (which we know teens have a lot of!) and enzymes.

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Protein helps us enjoy a lot of the good things in life! 

Lots of people tell us that the US is protein-obsessed and takes in too much. Is that true?

Yes and no. So, yes, there is an idea that we eat way too much protein which can have negative health effects like kidney strain. But what we need to look at is the quantity and quality of the protein you’re getting.

In a vegan diet, protein is coming from soy meat products, tofu, seitan, tempeh, beans, lentils, nuts.

In a standard American diet (not Mediterranean or DASH focused), protein sources are often large servings of red meat, processed meat, or restaurant style portions of animal products. Not just meat, but cheese or dairy.

If your teen is vegan and paying attention to their protein, they’ll have no issues getting their protein amounts in daily. If your teen is not vegan, it’s better to get their protein from sources like chicken, fish, eggs, nut butters, and dairy rather than red meat.

Another source of worry when it comes to protein intake is supplements.

While teens  can use protein shakes for various reasons- building muscle (“bulking”), losing weight (“cutting”), 1 scoop of vegan protein powder can offer about 20g of protein.

So while these can be really helpful when it comes to athletes, it still should be treated like other protein sources- rather than something on it’s own. Most protein powders, especially vegan powders, are safe for consumption. One place I like to go is truenutition.com and make a custom blend of soy, rice, hemp, pumpkin protein. Chocolate flavor of course!

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Mine rarely looks this good…

Fueling your athlete’s practices and games are important not just for performance but for growth  and muscle repair.

Notice how eatright’s source mentions around 3,000 calories? Don’t let that number scare you. Remember, calories are not morality currency where the more you take in, the less humane you are. They’re just the way your body takes in energy to use for the things you love to do.

And it’s important you let your teen know their appetite is normal.

If your teen is an athlete, you do want to make sure these calories are full of fruits, veggies, complex carbs, and our friend protein.

So let’s say your teen is 160lb. How much protein do they need?

160/2.2= 72kg. If they’re an athlete, let’s say they’re aiming for .9g, so:

72/.9= 80 grams of protein a day at least.

There has been a new study in sports science where they upped the protein requirement for muscle building, which I’ll write more about soon, but wanted to share it here for my fellow study nerds!

What do you think? Share some of your favorite after-practice snacks below!

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It’s OK if your teen wants to be vegan

Teens can be vegan

Veganism, the diet (eating-kind, not weight loss kind) that excludes all animal products has been on the rise since 2014. According to Live Kindly’s recap of Veganism in the past year, there are huge increases in demands for animal-product free foods.

One quick search on YouTube for veganism shows recent uploads of what I eat in a day, suggestion videos, ‘why I went vegan’ videos, and vegan vlogs.

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Click here to be taken to the newest ‘vegan’ youtube uploads!

Why the increase? I think that in the digital age, where information can be transferred quicker than we can blink, we’re seeing a lot of other vegans blogging, vlogging, podcasting, and just tweeting about their ideas and beliefs. As with all discussions, people are seeing other’s point of view and changing.

We also see more vegan celebrities and athletes paving the way and spreading the message of the benefits of eating a plant-heavy diet.

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I personally went vegan because of Beagle Freedom Project, a nonprofit that rescues animals from animal testing. After a while I realized that if I’m against animals being tested on, why do I eat them?

Of course, there are people against animal testing but might feel differently about eating them. And that’s okay!

But what if your teen wants to be vegan?

The common definition of veganism, the one I shared earlier, can be a red flag. It focuses on the exclusion of things rather than the inclusion- so let’s change our focus!

What do we add when someone goes vegan?

Since vegans don’t eat cheese, meat, milk, or eggs, they include more legumes, beans, plant milks, whole grains and other forms of protein like nuts, seeds, and tofu.

Veganism can be focused on junk food (there’s a whole list of accidentally vegan junk food), but ultimately a balanced vegan diet includes lots of colors of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources.

It’s totally okay if your teen wants to be vegan

Puberty and adolescence is the time where teens are going to experiment with their independence, which can look like a bunch of different things: eating more fast food than normal, not wanting to go to religious services with you, cutting their hair/growing it out, and going vegan.

There are a lot of different ways you can support your teen if they decide they want to go plant-based. I wrote an article for Athlegan on how to transition to a vegan diet that will be helpful for you to read. I break down a typical transition into four steps.

  1. Decide the reason
  2. Accept that mistakes happen
  3. Start small
  4. Find Vegan friends

Ask your teen why they want to be vegan. If it’s because they saw videos of factory farms, or because they just don’t like meat, then you have a way to discuss with them about their meal options.

Have them help cook dinner and decide their lunches. This is a big shift if you and your family normally eat animal products- especially if your teen is using this as an excuse to be extra picky. Help your teen figure out what they like and don’t like by having them pick out recipes with you.

Even if it’s just a new spin on beans and rice, your teen getting a say in recipes and learning to cook them not only helps you but helps them learn an important skill: cooking!

One of the things that I wish I had learned before I left for school was different cooking skills. I could do the basics and even now I’m not too bad, but I wish I would have had a couple handful of recipes before I went away for college.

Vegan diets can be extremely healthy. Vegan Health.org goes over some things to keep track of for your teen, and here are some things to consider:

  • Vegan diets emphasize a lot of fruits and vegetables
  • The main protein sources are whole foods: beans, legumes, etc
    • They’re high in fiber which help keep you regular
    • They’re extremely versatile when it comes to dishes (look at my Pinterest for inspo!)
  • For burgers, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets, there are meat substitutes you can buy for cookouts with your teen (yes, I know it’s March, but I’m just optimistic for those warmer days!)

Other tips and tricks are available through One Green Planet’s article on Feeding Vegan Teens.

Some key takeaways from that article are:

Eat or drink something high in Vitamin C to help your body absorb iron (this can look like a glass of calcium fortified orange juice and some cereal, or oatmeal).

Remember: A vegan diet isn’t a deprivation diet. You can be extremely healthy on a vegan diet. You can even veganize some of your teens favorite recipes, like pizza, smoothies, and desserts.

We’ll go into how to spot if your teen’s veganism is covering an eating disorder in a later post!

Are you vegan? Why, or why not? Let me know and join the #centerstageensemble by telling me your reason on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

Teens need us to be body positive

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Let’s chat about body positivity, shall we?

A movement that has gained prominence over the past few years, body positivity is the belief that all bodies are good bodies. It’s the removal of shame, embracing differences, and ultimately honoring your own uniqueness.

There are lots of different versions of this movement, from Health at Every Size, to dismantling Photoshop beauty ideals, and trying to make media more inclusive.

Not only is it a movement, it’s an important tool in building confidence in your teen.

Why’s that?

As your teen grows and matures, their appetite is going to increase. Since puberty means maturation and growth that rivals infancy, an increased need for energy comes with the package. Like we discussed last week, it’s inadvisable to encourage weight loss in your teens. Rather, we want to encourage healthy habits and emphasize the importance of respecting your body.

Your teen is also beginning to recognize media and comparing themselves to the bodies they see in the media. Since there’s a pressure from mainstream society to look a certain way, body positivity is one of those healthy traits that’s worth discussing with your teen.
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Their friends, as they grow and mature, are going to look a lot different from them. It’s important to start encouraging inclusivity not just for the sake of your teen’s friends, but because that sends the message to your teen that it’s okay if they don’t look like the actors they see on TV. You’re giving them the tools to deal with a society that wants them to conform to a different size, to try and change who they are- you’re building their confidence before they leave for college or the working world.

If you’ve been following the Weight Watchers controversy, you can follow the research about teens and dieting. By introducing the idea that food is only for fuel, can be shameful if you have too much, you’re introducing a mental pattern that can be hard to break.

Instead of dieting, encourage your teen to listen to their body by:

  • Learning their hunger cues
  • Respecting their appetite
  • Not pushing themselves too hard with exercise

The best way to encourage this is to lead by example. By not dieting, expressing distaste for your body, or talking about good/bad foods, you’re helping teach your teen that food isn’t a moral issue. While your teen might feel like they’re pushing away, they still need you for guidance and mentoring.

By being proud of who you are, doing what you can to be healthy, and being proud of your body, you’re helping your teen develop these patterns as well.

Robyn Nohling, who writes a lot about Intuitive Eating, is a great resource on the benefits of intuitive eating.

Rebecca Stritchfield is also a resource I enjoy.

 

How do I talk to my teen about body image?

Raising Children has a great article on where to begin with body image. Here you can read more about what contributes to body image, and I encourage you to start with this factor:

Honesty.

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Tell them all about media, how body image can be influence by that, and talk about the effects of an unhealthy body image. Let them know about your struggles- let them realize they’re not alone.

In Sandra Susan Friedman’s When Girls Feel Fat she discusses the fact that saying you feel “Fat” often is a cover for a stronger underlying emotion. Our society (unfortunately) codes feeling ‘fat’ as negative, and because we feel like we can’t express ourselves, we turn these feelings inward and express it as ‘fat’.

What do we do with this knowledge?

  • Dissect the feelings with your teen
    • Ask them:
      • What’s going on in their personal life?
      • Is there something big coming up that’s causing anxiety?
    • Encourage journaling with your teen
      • Art journaling has an emotional benefit
      • It offers your teen a zone free of judgement to express their feelings
      • Gives you a chance to bond with your teen- both of you are creating!
      • Need ideas? Here’s my pinterest board for art journaling!

What are some resources I can show my teen?

Should my teen lose weight?

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No.

Phew! What a post. That’s all from me. See you guys next week for more funny anecdotes, stock photos, and hard-hitting research!

Seriously?

…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?

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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?

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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?

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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.

Have any questions? Suggestions for fun activities to do with your teen? Let me know and join the #centerstageensemble on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

 

 

Teens & Sleep: What you need to know

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Fighting the battle of Teen vs. Sleep is a tough hill to conquer. There are many kinds of brave tactics to use, and here were the ones my parents used on me:

Dad:

  • Open the door and let light flood into the room under the guise of letting the dogs out
  • Use sing-songy characters to embarrass us awake (surprisingly effective)

Mom:

  • Check on us once, twice, three times before we finally felt bad enough to wake up
  • Cook pancakes. Allow pancake smell to waft through house. Cue teenaged children zombie walking to kitchen.

You surely have a lot of techniques to get your kids out of bed. But what causes such a fuss when it comes time to get up?

The Melatonin Equation

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Melatonin is the hormone released by our brains when the sun starts to go down. I talked about this last week, about how it helps to have screen-dimming apps downloaded on your screens.

In puberty, the brain’s ability to release melatonin is pushed back by a couple of hours. While we’re able to wake up feeling great at 6am because our brain’s levels of melatonin have gone down, teens aren’t so lucky.

They’re still in the throes of high melatonin, making it difficult for them to feel anything but groggy. Coupled with early start times for high school and late nights studying or playing video games, sleep deprivation seems to be a common concern among teenagers.

This also explains why teens take longer to fall asleep. When your baby was a baby, they had enough melatonin to help them fall asleep immediately. Now in adolescence, with melatonin levels lower, they tend to take a while to fall asleep because of this change.

Well, that makes sense. How much sleep does my teen need?

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According to the CDC, the golden numbers are:

  • 9-12 hours for children aged 6-12
  • 8-10 hours for teens 13-18

What happens if my teen doesn’t get enough sleep?

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Clicking this photo leads you to the artist!

If it’s just one or two nights out of a week, or a couple days a month, it won’t harm your teen too much. Nights like that are just part of the equation of being a human.

However, chronic lack of sleep can have negative impacts on adolescent health.

In a study on anxiety and short sleep duration, there’s a link between the development of anxiety and chronic short sleep (characterized as less than six hours a night) . Other studies link psychological distress and sleep deprivation in athletes.

The CDC also talks about how chronic lack of sleep can put them at risk for diseases like diabetes, poor mental health, and injuries. Mental affects also include poor performance in school and shorter attention spans.

How can I make sure my teen gets enough sleep?

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There are a lot of studies talking about screen use and it’s effect on sleep , including how screen regulation can help athletes perform better on athletic tests.

The common denominator here is that reducing screen time, or the brightness of your teen’s screen, already goes a long way in making sure your teen gets to bed at a better time. Let them know about the benefits of sleep, which you can read more about on Fatigue Science’s post.

Have a conversation with your teen about their sleep. Ask them these questions:

  • How do you feel when you wake up in the morning?
  • What’s the hardest part of getting to bed at night?
  • How can we improve your room in a way that helps you fall asleep better?
  • Do you feel like you can’t sleep until you finish all your homework? Do we need to fix your schedule, so you have more time to study?

Go easy on your teens- if they tell you they have too many afterschool activities, they’re telling you the truth. Teaching your teen to advocate for themselves and know what they can and can’t handle helps them in college, where they can set their own schedule and study on their own time.

Other tips I really like from this article include:

  • Educate your teens on the affect light has on sleep
  • Let them decide what they want their bedtime to be- give them the info they need to make the decision, and then let them listen to their body to learn what kind of sleep your teens need
  • Like I said last week, keep them on a constant sleep/wake schedule to help their circadian rhythm smooth out

Any questions? Any tips you’d like to share? #jointheensemble on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and let me know your thoughts!

Opinion: Weight Watchers…get with the program.

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Recently some news came out about Weight Watchers piloting a free program for teenagers. Rebecca Stritchfield wrote an amazing piece on it, and the circles I inhabit have come forward explaining why, exactly, this is a bad idea.

Teens are a vulnerable population as their bodies are beginning to change and rather than helping them celebrate this step into adulthood, weight watchers seems keen to make it easier to shame girls, and some boys, that their body is bad.

They’re not even an adult yet. Let them grow, learn, and enjoy their lives without the stress of ‘points’ or whatever garbage you decide to shove down their throats because you’re unwilling to change your mentality as to the idea of what healthy looks like.

This news in conjunction with the fact that I’m currently reading When Girls Feel Fat: Helping Girls Through Adolescence by Sandra Susan Friedman has me thinking a lot about my own journey through body positivity.

The journey includes: being metaphorically dragged by my heels down a gravel road, laying by the side of the road refusing to move forward, and somethings rolling backward. There are occasions where I march forward, talk with people on the same journey, and stop and smell the roses of what it feels like to like my body and what it can do.

I don’t identify with girls who only started hating their size and body in high school or middle school. I remember teasing about my weight starting as early as elementary school and using food to cope with the fact that I had very few friends. I read and wrote a lot, liked a lot of non-mainstream nerdy things, and it wasn’t really until middle school that my social circle expanded.

Even then, food was my enemy. Because I was taller and heavier than my peers, and going through puberty sooner, my body felt less of a vessel to be celebrated and more of a neon sign to my faults. I couldn’t tell you when I started my first diet because I don’t remember.

What I do remember is my freshman year diet of five ritz crackers for breakfast, a 140-calorie bar for lunch, and a big dinner after I worked out because I ‘earned it’. Nowadays I know much better than that. It took years of learning, of dieting, and of wondering what was wrong with me to only realize that it wasn’t me.  Even this past summer I found myself thinking thoughts like that which I had in high school at the peak of my Eating Disorder-like behavior.

I don’t agree with weight loss for teens. I feel like now more than ever I can say that, after having a whole summer to come to this conclusion plus years of nutrition schooling.

I believe in healthy lifestyles for teens. But healthy lifestyles don’t include counting points or calories, excluding “”unclean”” food, or avoiding carbs just because some doctor without a nutrition degree said so.

I’ll talk about this more in my ‘should teens lose weight’ post, but teens don’t need a point system to tell them how to eat. They need patience, guidance, and occasionally therapy to help them through this time of intense change. They need adults helping them establish healthy habits (which yes, includes treats every now and again), and to learn that their bodies deserve to be hungry and to grow.

For the sake of girls and boys who, like me, weren’t small enough for society’s liking- don’t sign your child up for weight watchers. Talk to them. Teach them what a healthy lifestyle looks like. Find role models similar to your child’s height and weight and show them that success doesn’t come in pounds. Books such as “I’m, like, SO Fat!” and “When Girls Feel Fat” are excellent resources in helping teens who are having issues with body positivity and healthy living.

Remind them, like Clarence the Angel reminds George Bailey at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, that “no man is a failure who has friends”.

Let me know what you think about this. You can comment, reach me on Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram.