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Our teenagers need some help, especially our girls. My son and I were talking one day not too long ago. I had finished a workout and was making dinner. I was no doubt pontificating on some nutritional topic. He was no doubt tuning me out. Something I said finally caught his attention because he said, “You should come talk to the girls at school Mom.” I of course asked him why. He said, “Because some of them are crazy. They think they are fat. I hear them talk about how hungry they are and how all they want is a cheeseburger but they can’t eat because they are fat. They’re not fat, Mom.” He also told me one girl is going to eat nothing but plain grapefruit for a week to lose weight. These girls are only in 8th grade.

So a few things come to mind. First, it takes me back to my days in high school. I remember how insecure I was and what a bad body image I had. I had stopped gymnastics and was much less active, yet I still ate the same junk food. I gained some weight and HATED IT! I had no idea what to do about it. There was very little guidance as to what to do. This is an area I want to focus on once I graduate from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Someone needs to teach our girls that it’s not how much you eat, it’s what you eat that matters. (see my post on Calories In/Calories Out) Most of all this message needs to be much louder than the media’s insidious message that Thinness = Beauty. If you know me then you also know I can be pretty loud! ๐Ÿ™‚ Since I have been where these girls are emotionally before, this is a particularly passionate focus for me. The message that temporary diets don’t work is tantamount! Girls will try them, fail at them, feel awful about themselves for the failure and the cycle just builds! Education is key, starting with what healthy looks like, what healthy feels like, what foods the body uses, what foods the body doesn’t use, how to make exercise fun and how to cook. There is more, but you get the picture.

Second, we need to educate the parents of these kids. And we can’t wait until anorexia or bulimia set in! For example, the girl I mentioned before planning to eat nothing but grapefruit for a week, where are her parents in all this? Now, who knows, if this had been me my mom might have let me try it for a day or 2 knowing I would undoubtedly cave due to my growling stomach and let me learn a lesson. But she would (and did) talk to me about how I was feeling. The problem lies in the fact that most parents don’t know what advice to give their children. Current USDA and FDA guidelines are massively misleading. In an attempt to be loving, often parents just say, “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful, don’t be silly.” Teenage girls are often dismissed as being hormonal, emotional and irrational. It is assumed they will grow out of it and everything will be fine. In the meantime, the body image they will have for the rest of their lives is being formed and stitched into the fabric of their self image. The vast majority of American families still eat processed food. Most still believe low fat foods will facilitate weight loss. Sure veggies and fruits can help, but nature made certain foods higher in fat for a reason. That is where all the vitamins are, they are fat soluable vitamins! The minute you re-engineer it to be low fat your body doesn’t get the vitamins and worse these foods are typically higher in sugar. Most still believe whole grains will help them lose weight. Grains are still starch, which means they are still sugar and if eaten at EVERY meal and also as snacks which is often the case……whole grain or not, it won’t help. Many don’t really know how to read a nutrition label and most never think, “Gee, if I am buying a nutrition labeled food, it must be a processed food.” Most of all, many americans don’t really know how to cook. Somehow, a box of au-gratin potatoes has taken the place of a real baked or mashed potato. This is another area of focus for me as I progress through school. I will host cooking classes! In particular, how to cook for a busy family. Simple and fresh is always better than complicated and boxed. I also want to organze a field trip to the grocery store. Advice on how to navigate the grocery store and determine what is good, what is ok, what you should minimize and what you should just avoid is really needed. I think if the discussion can be done at the store while people shop, it makes it easier to understand.

Third, we need to reset the perception of beauty. I know I sound like a broken record saying this but TV and fashion magazines in particular have made us believe that skinny is beautiful. Even sports and health magazines are perpetuating this lie! Somehow, being thin means you’re healthy. I don’t know about you but I’ve met some pretty unhealthy skinny people. I am not unrealistic enough to think we can silence the media, but I do think if we work together we can be louder!!! We need to start in our own homes, in our own schools and in our own communities. This works just like tossing a stone into a pond. The stone lands in one particular spot in the water and the effects ripple out from there. We must convince our girls that if they treat their bodies with love and care, their bodies will love them back. Not only will they find their natural perfect weight, they will have better skin, better hair, shinier eyes. As a whole they will be the beautiful natural selves nature intended and they will feel amazing. If you physically feel amazing, the emotional and hormonal tendencies to feel crummy at this age will be dramatically reduced. What they see on TV will begin to seem ridiculous and they’ll be looking at fashion magazines for the fashion tips, not for diet tips. I want to host workshops for teens. I want them to understand that if they take control now, they will age at a much slower pace. So not only will they feel great now, they will feel great for decades. I want to debunk the diet myth for them. I want to redefine beauty and health. I want to show them, how to cook and prepare simple, delicious, healthy snacks and meals. Many families are on the go and kids are often left to feed themselves.

If you are a parent here are some action steps:

– Keep your kids active. Make it fun. If your kids aren’t particularly sporty, that is ok. As long as they are busy in something they love, they will spend less time in front of the boob tube or engaged with media related nonsense.
– Whenever possible, cook a SIMPLE fesh meal and eat it together. A grilled, roasted or pan seared piece of meat or fish with a veggie and a salad are all you need.
– Keep processed snacks to a minimum and hard to find. (chips, cookies, processed baked goods, candy, processed granola bars, etc.)
– Keep fresh whole snacks front and center. (fruit, cut veggies and dips, nuts, seeds, cheese sticks and full fat yogurt if you are dairy eaters, if cookies are a must, make them yourself!)
– No more soda! Regular or diet, it’s all crap! There is not one good thing your body gets from soda. If you like the fizz, buy club soda and add a little bit of fruit juice to it. Ocassionally, I will buy Zevia brand for the kids, it’s sweetened with Stevia and natural flavors. Whole Foods and Fruitful Yield both carry it.
– Reduce sports drinks and fruit juice. They are loaded with sugar and additives. Coconut water is natures gatorade without the colors, additives and added sugars.
– More water! Especially during sporting events, water is better than gatorade. Electrolite enhanced water is available if that is a concern.

Beyond the foods there are a few key things we need to repeat over and over:

– A healthy body is a beautiful body.
– It’s not so how much you eat as much as it is WHAT you eat. You literally are what you eat!
– If you don’t have to unwrap it first, it is probably a better choice.
– Beauty truly does start from the inside out.
– Just because it’s edible, doesn’t mean it’s food.
– Getting enough sleep is one of the best beauty secrets!
– Real whole food makes your body happy and processed food sucks! ๐Ÿ™‚

Last thought, we continue to dismiss the crap our kids eat due to the excuse I hear over and over, “Oh, they’re just kids, they have plenty of time until they are adults and really need to worry about it.” Nothing irritates me more. This is PRECISELY the time our kids must develop a taste for real food! Kids today have a preference for fake industrialized flavors. Their maturing cells are growing in a suboptimal environment. If we want our kids to grow into beautiful healthy adults, we must start with the healthy kids. As they reach teenage years, beginning in 8th grade by the way, a turning point occurs, they are worried about more grown up things like being fat or not being pretty enough but they have not been given the grown up tools they need to navigate the issues. We have spoon fed them the exact foods causing the problem. No time is too early to make a healthy change. Let’s not handicap their teen spirit! Give them the right nutrients and watch that spirit soar!

Until Next Time,

Laura, Mom Gone Paleo

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3 Responses to “Smells like Teen Spirit”

  1. Damary Cortes says:

    Love this…thanks for the education:)

  2. Damary Cortes says:

    That works for me:)

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