Encouraging Healthy Diets and A Healthy Body Image In Your Teen.
The desire to “be thin” and “fit in” has always been an issue for teens, but never has this been such an issue until now.
Though teen boys are effected by this issue as well, teen girls are usally the ones who are effected the most.
The Website PRWeB.com stated: “According to the nonprofit organization Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders, Inc., more than half of teenage girls are, or think they should be, on diets. They want to lose all or some of the 40 pounds females naturally gain between the ages of eight and 14. Three percent of these girls develop eating disorders.”
Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper provided some statistics of their own when they stated: “Young people - and girls in particular - are struggling with their body image at an increasingly young age, and that could have serous health consequences.”
Out of the 2,200 girls between the ages 10 to 14 that were surveyed regarding their eating attitudes, the Globe reported: “Less than 7 percent of the girls were overweight, but more than 31 percent describe themselves as ‘too fat’ and 29 percent said they were currently dieting.” - Italics my own.
What’s behind this struggle with teen body image?
There are several contributing factors to why teens (especially girls) struggle with body image issues.
According to the Globe however,much of the blame rests squarely in the laps and on the shoulders of adult role models who themselves consistently diet and ridicule or look down on people who are considered overweight.
The media too was to blame; “The media also play a big role in influencing teenage behavior, by constantly creating ultra thin (waiflike) role models… Through repeated exposure to these images, women (teens) internalize an association between this body ideal and prestige, happiness, love and success.”
Sadly, but not surprising, after seeing photographs of ultra thin models in a magazine, although only 29 percent of the teen girls were deemed as overweight, at least 47 percent of the girls studied felt compelled to lose weight they didn’t need to.
This struggle with body image often leads to one thing: Unhealthy dieting
* Body Image Issues and Unhealthy Dieting.
Body image issues and unhealthy dieting tend to go hand in hand.
According to the Website PRWeb.com, teens (especially girls) that suffer from body image issues often resort to unhealthy dieting to either lose or control their weight.
The site stated, “Over one-half of teenage girls in the U.S. use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, smoking cigarettes, fasting, vomiting, and taking laxatives.”
Dietitian and nutrition expert, Lynn Roblin, wrote in The Toronto Star (one of Canada‘s highest-circulation newspapers), “dieting and restricting food intake are not healthy solutions and are not recommended.”
Why? - She noted that these measures can deprive the body of necessary life-saving nutrients. In addition, experimenting with different diets (fad diets especially) only “sets the stage for poor eating habits and could lead to more serious eating disorders.”
If this unhealthy form of weight control is due to peer pressure or pressure from what teen girls see in the media, FDA Consumer recommends: “Instead of dieting because ‘everyone’ is doing it or because you are not thin as you want to be, first find out from a doctor or nutritionist whether you are carrying too much weight or too much body fat for your age and height.”
* How to Encourage Good Self Esteem and Healthy Diets in Teens.
We shouldn’t fool ourselves in thinking that there’s a quick fix to helping our teen girls and boys develop good self esteem and adopt a healthy diet.
Realistically, it will take a concerted amount of effort on both the parents and the teens part to discourage unhealthy or unnecessary dieting techniques due to body image issues.
What can teens do?
- Develop a more realistic view of your own body image,
- Avoid comparing yourself to others - whether it be peers, or people of affluence such as those in the entertainment industry
- Strive to achieve a healthy weight through sensible eating and active living.
- Feel good about yourself - write down at least five things you like about yourself, and keep in mind what makes you unique and what your uniqueness contributes to your family, school, and community.
- Look up to and emulate role models that possess a balanced view of self-worth.
- Keep in mind that the movie stars, entertainers, and other people of affluence are often displayed with their best assets played up for the camera - there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors involved.
What can parents do?
Since kids emulate what their parents do more so than they actually listen to what their parents say, then it is up to the parents to set a good example for their teens by:
- Adopting a healthy lifestyle through eating right and staying active,
- Staying realistic about their own body image
- Never criticizing or putting down others with a weight issue
- Avoid comparing your teens weight with the weight of other teens
- Exercise and stay active with your teens
- Tell them that they are beautiful and that their uniqueness and individuality is the spice of life.
- Eat as many meals with your teens as possible - studies have shown that children who eat family meals together, are much more likely to eat the recommended servings of fruits and veggies, consume less fat and sugar, as well as take in the vitamins and minerals that they so vitally need. In addition, research has found that eating dinner as a family gets kids talking about healthy eating and instills healthy dietary habits in teens that they will carry along with them when they are away from home.
The teenage years are already challenging in of themselves. Add body image issues to that, and you have a recipe that can easily breed formidable problems for any teen.
It's vital to note however, that if your teens body image issues lead to dangerous eating disorders, in addition to the tips above, professional help may be needed to aid in recovery.
In the end, the healthiest diet (for teens and adults) consist of eating right, staying active, and having a good sense of self-worth.
If you're able to pass these life-style choices onto your impressionalbe teens, then they too will grow and mature into adults who adopt a healthy way of life, which includes a healthy diet and a healthy body image.
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