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!

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Patience, jobs, and internships…oh my!

Today I want to talk about something I’ve been dealing with “behind the screen” for the past few months.

Patience, jobs, and internships- oh my!

While my first job is going fine, I discovered after graduation that there was a low enrollment number in the diabetes course I was supposed to teach. No one was at fault, and sometimes these things happen, but the hours I had weren’t enough to cover graduate school costs, a car, and groceries while living at home. So I set out in search of a second job to help supplement the one I have now.

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My fellow busybodies know that not having places to go can start to drive someone up the wall. I did my best to keep working in any way I could: I kept this blog up, which proved to be a benefit because there’s a lot of regular traffic here now- hi, daily visitor! I started learning everything I could about social media and how to market yourself to other people.

In the beginning it was difficult to know what I would be up against while I job searched in the “real world” vs my undergrad. I assumed that I would be frustrated, but in the end I would be fine- after all, I knew I’d have a job eventually, so why stress? I love working on this blog, writing, podcasting, creating stuff for you guys, so I thought that would help pass time.

(By the way, shameless plug, but have you listened to my podcast? They’re super short snippets of info that supplement the blog)

But it’s not that easy. After getting used to living on my own, buying my own groceries, and having an established routine at school, living at home was already an adjustment  and not having a regular paying job on top of that was stressful.

I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t know what to expect emotionally.

For the first few weeks I felt normal, fine, and a little bit relieved to have some time to relax.

For the next few I started feeling anxious and antsy, a bit “cabin-fever-y”. Living in the Midwest in the middle of frigid January (oh, how I miss my undergrad’s tunnels…) didn’t help.

By the time we got to February I was constantly depressed, like there was a cloud following me everywhere. I was reminded constantly that I didn’t have places I needed to go, and I felt lonely. I love my dogs, but I missed my friends at school.

I had to realize it was okay that I was looking for a job. I’m one of the lucky ones where my parents were just as upset about my hours as I was, in a “man, that sucks that that happened to you” way rather than a “what do you mean you’re not working!” way. They were patient while I sorted through the feelings and applied everywhere I could.

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I also had to realize that the depression I was feeling was okay too. Accepting that I was sad because I wasn’t working was one of the hardest parts of these past few months.

After weeks of nothing I finally broke down to my mom, crying and wondering if I would ever achieve anything, and while in the moment all these feelings felt real and painful, I knew they would pass.  Still, for the week following, I wondered if I would get anywhere.

Remember way back, when this blog was a baby, when I talked about resiliency? (Am I at the blogging stage yet where I cringe at my old posts? Or is there a time frame I’m still in? Is there a blog honeymoon stage? …Did I take my meds today?)

I had to remember those lessons too.

Sometimes we slip back and regress in the face of stress and disappointment. It can feel like you take 10 steps forward, 9 back, and you start to doubt if you were ever strong in the first place.

You just have to keep going. It sounds easy when you say it out loud or think it when things are going well, but over the past couple years, I’ve learned that waking up and filling out more applications, or waking up and job searching, is all you can do.

If you just wake up and feel depressed, that’s okay too.

Just keep going. One day at a time.

I just got a job as a diet clerk at a hospital, so I’m really excited to start getting more clinical experience before I hear back on my internship. I’ve turned in all the pre-hire paperwork and now, luckily, the waiting game is hearing my start date.

One day at a time.

Do your homework, eat a vegetable, and don’t forget to smile at someone today. Talk to you soon!

Em

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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MyFitnessPal vs Cronometer

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About a month ago I decided I’d start logging my food so I could make sure I was getting enough protein for my goals and keep my sodium in check. If you remember my past blog, I talked a little bit about how a family member is on a sodium-restricted diet and I wanted to see how I do where sodium is concerned.

So I have a long, complicated relationship with MyFitnessPal. It was once my worst enemy, telling me what I could and couldn’t eat, and the glaring red numbers if I went over my targets made me feel shame rather than a sense of ‘that’s interesting!’

Lots of blame, lots of ish, lots of bad headspace eventually built up so I stopped tracking for a while- and I caught myself in this mindset again at camp, so I stopped tracking until now.

After a lot of time to develop a healthy relationship with food, I can say that I use tracking a lot differently than I have in the past. Instead of a scorecard of my worth, it’s a tool for me to make sure I’m getting the micronutrients I need (my friend Emily, who I went to high school with and is now an RD, made an AWESOME comment on my IG post– and I’ll talk more about blood tests next week!) and that I’m paying attention to my nutrition as an athlete.

Not to mention that because of my ADHD, tracking helps me make sure I am actually eating what I need and when I need to rather than forgetting to eat, or over eating and hurting my stomach!

I had heard of Cronometer from Unnatural Vegan and wanted to give it a shot since I knew it tracked lots of trace micronutrients and vitamins/minerals that MyFitnessPal missed. I want to outline the pros and cons for you of both apps, both of which I’ve used, so if you want to check your intake, you can make a choice based on your interests.

I’m covering just the apps, since using it on my phone is much quicker and I often just quick add all my food in the morning and go about my day.

MyFitnessPal

Pros:

This app, to me, is much easier to use. I find the interface to be friendlier for me- and not just because I’ve been using it for a while, but with my executive functioning I’ve found the cleaner an app, the more I use it.

MFP lets you separate your intake by meals and snacks which immediately makes it easy to see what my intake is going to be for the day. It lets me easily see what I need to eat and when so I can just look at it and go.

Ads are kept to banners or you scroll past them on your feed- they don’t pop up while I enter food in, so way less invasive.

Cons:

It does have a social media aspect to it with statuses, feeds, and friending options. While it’s not necessarily a downfall of the app, this could be a negative for some people. I find it to be neutral-leaning-towards-con just because I would rather just use it for tracking and not socializing.

It’s not as in-depth as Cronometer but enough to get the job done. MFP tracks protein, calories, fat, and important micronutrients: potassium, calcium, cholesterol, sodium, vitamins a&c, and iron.

While these are all crucial to keep an eye on, as a vegan, I wish they tracked B vitamins as well.

Cronometer

Pros:

Cronometer is a nutrition nerds dream. It tracks nearly every micronutrient, down to SELENIUM! And is also a little bit more generous with calories than MFP is.

I love that they use the circles to show the percentage you have left in the day, and that the intake of macros is on the home page, so I don’t have to switch back and forth like I do with MFP.

Their database is a bit more accurate than MFP since Cronometer taps into government databases and websites rather than allowing anyone to enter nutrition information and have it show up in the search function. It removes the step of double checking if restaurant items or coffees are correct.

Cons:

Cronometer lists all your food in one big list, so it can be difficult for me to read through when I’m going about my day and need to remember what I’m having for lunch. While for some people this might not be a problem, it can be frustrating as a feature when I need to quickly check the app.

The ads…good Lord, y’all. The ads are pop-up style and often videos that play audio so picture me, half asleep, entering data in at 7am having the fear of God struck into me as a meditation ad starts playing! There will also be times where I’m entering something in and an ad plays directly after, making me forget where I was in my ‘entering my daily foods’ process.

Overall, I’ve decided to use chronometer more as a diagnostic tool than an everyday tracker. After this week I’ll take note of all the micro nutrients I’ve been consistently low on and incorporate more foods high in that nutrient to help get my diet more balanced.

What do you think? Which one do you prefer, or do you prefer not to track at all? Let me know here, on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

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!

4 things I learned recording my first podcast

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This week was exciting for two reasons:

One, I did my first presentation and it went pretty well.

Two, I started a podcast and while it has yet to have a name, I’m pretty darn proud of how I’m doing so far. I like writing the scripts and getting to chat- though I can understand the pressure people talk about when they mention that working solo can get daunting- it’s tough not having someone to play off of.

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This is me after 3 hours of recording

Both of these events taught me a lot, as far as the presentation goes I’ve already written about that. So here are 4 things I learned by starting a podcast:

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  1. Script it out

Now I’m a pretty thorough planner. I already have a content calendar getting me through May for this blog with lots of ideas for after that! But for some reason, the podcast came to me at random.

I had felt a bit like I was floundering with the blog and because I’m having a road block when it comes to vlogging, I began to feel like this blog wasn’t going to get anywhere. So a few nights ago, after publishing Nutrition Education and Teen Girls I thought about how I could dive deeper.

Then it hit me…Anchor! (And before you ask, I’m not sponsored, I found them a while back when I played around with the idea of a podcast a few months ago but tabled it due to time).

Thinking that it would be fun to give it a shot, I didn’t realize how recording, re-recording, and just writing an outline would still leave me up ish’s creek.

I needed a script.

By the time I realized I should script what I wanted to say, I was lucky enough to have already been recording for a while so I could just type up the bits I remembered that I said and liked, then flesh those out a bit more.

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  1. Check beforehand

Notice a bit of a pattern here?

I was looking forward to doing something similar to a live radio show, which Anchor used to offer, but their redesign made it so that it was solely focused on podcasting.

So, when it was T-minus one hour when I said I’d go live and noticed that wasn’t an option, I was scrambling to record so I would have something at the time I said.

I ended up being unable to make the deadline but now I know, right?

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  1. Patience

Despite a theatre and improv background, I still would stumble over my words and talk fast. I had to remind myself that the message would make more sense if I spoke slower and really tried to enunciate rather than just chatted into the mic.

I want there to be that casual ‘chat’ feel, but you still need to understand me to have that conversation!

Working hard to speak slowly, think about my opinions and feelings on the topic, and being patient when I made a mistake was something I learned the hard way.

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  1. Trying new things is fun!

I read The Healthy Maven’s post ‘Is Blogging Dead?”  and felt so comforted about my own doubts regarding my own blog. I had been feeling a little nervous that this wouldn’t pan out, and while I don’t do it for a job, shouting into a void only gets you so far.

It was Davida’s post that encouraged me to try new things, and to start living more so I have more to write about. And her advice about trying different avenues to reach different kinds of people gave me a bit of needed courage to try the podcast!

While these four things deal more with the podcast I created, they have a lot of weight as life lessons as well. Especially the whole ‘trying new things is fun’ and ‘patience’ one, amiright?

One of the coolest things about growing up is the ability to learn from mistakes and go on to make new ones to learn from. I know that as Center Stage grows and changes there’s going to be a lot of learning curves, and it’s more important to look at them with excitement like I did with the podcast rather than nervousness!

Mistakes happen, we just need to accept them and learn from them.

Leave a comment below to let me know what you learned this week!

Do your homework, eat a vegetable, and smile at someone if you can. Bye!

 

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?

Nutrition education and teen girls

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For the first time in a long while I had a really week last week.

I had a job interview for a diet clerk job at a hospital some ways away in the morning, I volunteered at my old middle school in the afternoon, and I attended an orientation on human trafficking and how to spot it in the evening.

Not only did I get some good old highway driving in (#suburbiaproblems), but I also biked somewhere for the first time since November. And it wasn’t like my campus biking- this was about 20 minutes of biking through an upper-middle class town while dodging guys in small cars, with darkened windows, wearing HEADPHONES.

Come on, y’all. Please don’t tell me you’re wearing those while you drive. Think of the children.  (And me…please)

That’s why I didn’t write this post on last week- I was out and about for a while. My dogs didn’t like it one bit. Friday was another weird day for me- Grandma came over, and I even went to a theatre performance based off of the stories of male prostitutes in Chicago.

But I did want to address this article, because I was so so happy to see it show up on my Google alerts.

Malnutrition Deeply, an offset of the website News Deeply, published an article the other day titled “Nutrition Community ‘Leaving Adolescent Girls Behind’.”  It’s an interview with Dr. Marie T. Ruel, who is the director of Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division for the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Her main philosophy is that women are often left behind once past what’s called their first 1,000 days, which is the period in which health practitioners work to protect newborns and infants against malnutrition while they grow.

Other points about the interview include agriculture, value chains, and how to urge government intervention. It’s a great read and you should spend some time with it.

Adolescent Nutrition

I think the reason Dr. Ruel discusses nutrition intervention for adolescents designated female at birth/capable of child-bearing because of a few things:

  • Society’s outlook on how teen girls eat
  • The importance of pre-conception nutrition for a healthy pregnancy
  • Nutrition intervention in general towards teens

When talking about this article with people, I noted something my Dad mentioned: when someone mentions they have two teen boys, the joke is ‘How do you keep food in the house’, whereas with girls…you can’t really say that.

Even though all teens are growing at the same rate, it’s only okay for boys to eat to fuel growth spurts. Girls, both through peer and media influence, are already being told they need to eat less and that “fat” is a bad thing.

Using nutrition intervention for teen girls, letting them know it’s OKAY to eat, and that they must eat, already puts us on the right path for helping teenagers have a healthy puberty and adjust to being body positive, intuitively eating adults.

In general, nutrition intervention in teens seems to fall by the wayside compared to adult and child nutrition. Think of the nutrition education you had in school- was it one unit, maybe two in health class? What resources did you have?

Compared to childhood nutrition, where there are a lot of books and resources and TV shows for kids, and adults, who have blogs, dietitians, books geared toward them- teens don’t get much.

And we could save them a lot of stress in adulthood by teaching them now.

What do you guys think? Do you think we need more nutrition education at home, or should the school be more active?

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Getting Salty

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Judging from the WordPress stats, you guys really like it when I write posts like Advice from a New Graduate and Observing Grief more than the more educational posts that I write.

It’s like you guys want me to be human…or something.

I decided after seeing the stats and reading some of my favorite blogs that I was doing you guys a disservice just writing dry informational posts (though I like to believe my writing has improved since I started this blog, thus making the topics dry but the writing witty- at least, my mom says so). I’ll be trying to update my blogs with more posts like Grief, Graduate, and this one so you get a sense of the ‘(wo)man behind the curtain’ so to speak.

My very first post-graduate “big girl presentation” is coming up a week from today and I’ve been hammering away at it since the first week of January. I knew that my first post-grad job (or lack thereof) would be a huge learning curve, since a lot of what I’m learning is currently on the job and without an RD around.

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Not to say that I can’t email my professors questions- of course I can- but it’s difficult to not have an RD mentor in person to ask questions in real time.

The presentation is on how to reduce sodium in your diet. It hits close to home.

My family has been watching our sodium since a health scare a little over the year ago. I want to be transparent with you guys but realize this isn’t my story to tell- at least not for now. One of the prescriptions was to lower sodium to 2,300mg or less my whole family has been sticking to it.

Since I have that experience, making this presentation has been a daily learning experience of taking what I know, putting it in an educational context, and then paring it down to what other people want to learn.

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It’s not that I’m preparing a huge biochemistry lecture for them, but there’s a lot of information out there about nutrition that it can be hard to sort through it all and just grab the Cliff Notes.

That’s something that often goes out the window when talking about nutrition. There’s always been this underlying assumption that studying nutrition is easy, because it’s just telling people what to eat, right?

Not really. There’s science behind the recommendations and formulas and treatment plans and and and…

It’s using the science we’ve learned and studied to turn them into the recommendations you see everywhere. In an effort to make them more accessible, messages can get lost in translation, but the idea of eating fruits, vegetables, fiber, and keeping up with your protein forms the pyramid that becomes nutrition. It’s the personal aspect that makes nutrition education so important.

Working on how to convey that is something  I’ll never stop learning about.

What’s something you feel like you’ll always be learning? Let me know and join the #centerstageensemble by telling me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

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!