Kelly is a 14 year old girl who walked into my office with fear and trepidation. She is here because her mom and doctor told her she needs to see a nutritionist because she lost too much weight. She doesn’t think she lost too much weight, she actually wants to lose more.
This is a typical scenario in the world of . There is an immense amount of pressure put on teenage girls to be thin and have a “model-like” figure. These pressures are setting off an avalanche of eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders.
Dangers of diet for teenage girls
It all starts with one friend saying “I want to lose weight. Let’s go on a diet together”. And before you know it, they are restricting their food intake and admiring the results they see in the mirror. They don’t realize dieting isn’t necessary to lose weight and that they are harming themselves by not properly nourishing their bodies.
The teenage years are a difficult time of transition. Girls bodies are changing, they are developing and they are not yet comfortable in their new “woman-like” body. Boys are now paying attention to them, and they are interested in boys. The pressure to be thin keeps rising. They are looking for the perfect diet.
There is no perfect diet. Actually, no form of dieting is going to work for losing weight and keeping it off. So, what do you tell teenage girls who are desperate to lose weight?
4 tips for healthy habits for teenage girls
1) Check your food choices
Eating is very important in diet to lose weight too. Start by taking a good look at what foods you are eating on a steady basis. Are these foods mostly processed foods that come in a bag or package?
Processed foods are full of additives, preservatives, hidden sugars and fats. Make the switch to whole foods, meaning eat as close to the ground as possible. These are foods that have been minimally processed and retain most of their nutrients.
Your body, skin and hair will thrive when you take out the processed foods and put in a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low fat dairy.
2) Take 3!
When planning your meals and snacks, be sure to include at least 3 food groups in a meal and 2 food groups in a snack. A general guideline is to include a protein, whole grain and milk serving with breakfast; eggs, whole wheat toast and a glass of milk).
Go with a lean protein, whole grain, veggie and healthy fat with both lunch and dinner. For example, turkey avocado whole wheat wrap with roasted peppers…4 food groups, even better. For snacks, any 2 food groups in combination work well, such as sliced apple with almond butter (fruit group and healthy fat group).
3) Eat undistracted
It’s tempting to check your email, text your friend, study, or watch television while you eat but that actually takes away from the satisfaction of your meal and it prevents you from tuning in to determine when you are getting satisfied.
Studies show that people who are distracted while they eat actually eat beyond their point of satisfaction (in other words they get too full) and they look for food later on in the night to satisfy a “need” that wasn’t fulfilled while they ate because they weren’t paying attention. So, put away all distractions and just eat!
4) Drink up.
Water that is. Cut out the sugar sweetened beverages which add unnecessary calories to your day. Opt for pure water or seltzer. If you need a little pizazz in your water, try adding sliced cucumber, melons, and/or edible flowers.
If you are a parent reading this article, pay attention to your daughter’s behaviors and eating habits. Talk with her openly about healthy eating and a healthy body. Be a good role model for her by eating well balanced meals and being mindful in your food choices and meal time behaviors. If needed, seek appropriate medical help before she heads down the wrong path.
If you are a teenager desperate to lose weight reading this article, please understand that dieting and restriction is not the answer. Speak to your parents and get the right nutrition guidance from a registered dietitian nutritionist. You can find more information here.