Mothers+Teenage Girls+ Food=CHALLENGING – (and what you can do about it)
Today we are going back to the basics. If you want your daughter feeling her best emotionally and physically she needs to maintain a healthy diet.
This means that she starts her day with a healthy breakfast; this would not be a doubleshot expresso. She would drink plenty of water, eat healthy snacks, and not skip meals.
You want her staying away from simple sugars found in cookies, cakes, candy and ice cream since they give a quick spike of energy but result in a quicker drop which leads to emotional slumps and concentration problems.
You can make a huge difference in your teen’s life by understanding that she needs “brain foods” like glucose, the brain’s fuel, which comes from complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits.
A steady supply of glucose keeps physical and emotional energy stable and helps the teenager be able to concentrate and pay attention. A third of their diet should be complex carbohydrates.
Your teen also needs proteins, the brains building blocks which generates new brain cell connections and builds new neural pathways. Protein converts into amino acids which convert into neurotransmitters that carry messages from one brain cell to another. Essential amino acids are–eggs, meat, fish, dairy products like mild cheese and yogurt and quinoa.
At this point some of you are ready to throw a tomato at me.
I can hear you saying, “Easier said than done!
This is because Mothers+Teenage girls+ Food=CHALLENGING. Trying to help your daughter eat a healthy diet can be a huge limbic time bomb.
Here’s why. Her eating is erratic. Even if you make her a good breakfast she may not eat it. You watch her binge on chips and queso, french fries, mac and cheese (and other yellow food), cookies, ice cream, frappucinos–basically anything with lots of sugar, salt, and fat.
Then you hear her the next day wailing and screaming, “I’m so fat.”
This is where the undeveloped prefrontal cortex is not helping, demonstrated by her poor impulse control and disconnection from cause and effect, and long term consequences.
Though there are many girls who can eat a large bag of chips and a pound of skittles and not gain weight, they still will not function at their best without receiving the steady intake of glucose and protein.
Here’s the setup. Your daughter is crying her eyes out and you try to be helpful. You offer her some practical advice like, “Honey, you can lose that weight by eating healthy and taking small portions.” Instead of saying, “thanks mom.” She slams the door and starts screaming obscenities at you.
This is because the majority of teenage girls are under horrid pressure to have perfect bodies which only exists on photo shopped models. Their body shame is right beneath the surface. One comment from you is like a pin that pricks a mountain of shame. This is tricky territory to maneuver but here are some things that can be helpful.
- Keep the refrigerator stocked with healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables. Keep binge foods like chips, cookies, and candy out of the house except for special occasions.
- Model healthy eating.
- Educate your daughter about the benefits of a healthy diet especially how it impacts her brain.
- Have an attitude of compassion and not criticism towards your daughters eating habits.
- Avoid power struggles with your daughter over food especially at meal times.
- Be careful not to give her positive feedback for being skinny. Give her positive feedback for eating healthy
- If you are concerned that she has an eating disorder get professional help. A dietician can help her create a healthy food plan and frees you from the power struggle. A licensed therapist can help her work through the emotional issues surrounding food.