Mom’s +Teenage Girls+ Food = Challenging
A garden flourishes when it has the proper balance of all the elements; the same applies to your teenage daughter. Most of this is not news to you.
You know that in order for your daughter to blossom, she needs to eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly.
But what often happens is that your daughter wears you down with her resistance and you resign yourself to her junk food diet, five hours of sleep, and lack of exercise.
Here’s what you can do to get your daughter back on track.
Nutrition and Healthy Eating
The first step toward better nutrition and healthy eating can begin by convincing your daughter to stay away from simple sugars found in cookies, cakes, candy, and ice cream. They give a quick spike of energy but result in a quicker drop, which leads to emotional slumps and concentration problems.
Your daughter needs a healthy diet to function at her best. It starts with a nutritious breakfast. She also needs to drink plenty of water, eat healthy snacks, and not skip meals.
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 your daughter concentrate and pay attention.
Your daughter also needs proteins, the brain’s building blocks that generate new brain cell connections and builds new neural pathways. Protein changes into amino acids, which convert into neurotransmitters that carry messages from one brain cell to another. Essential amino acids include eggs, meat, fish, quinoa, and dairy products like mild cheese and yogurt.
The challenging part is getting your daughter on board.
Moms, teenage girls, and food can be an explosive combination.
Here’s why. Her eating is erratic. Her undeveloped prefrontal cortex contributes to this, as evidenced by her poor impulse control, disconnection from cause and effect, and long-term consequences.
Does this sound familiar? You make her a good breakfast but she doesn’t eat it. You watch her binge on anything that contains lots of sugar, salt, and fat. Then you hear her screaming, “I’m so fat.”
So, because your daughter is crying her eyes out, 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 screams obscenities at you.
Why does she go ballistic?
What’s really going on is shame. Girls flip through magazines of photo-shopped models and compare their bodies to this unattainable ideal. Because of the culture we live in, girls feel pressured to have the perfect body, and become critical of their own.
This is why eating disorders are so prevalent in teen girls. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 95 percent of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.
Even girls who don’t have eating disorders are extremely sensitive about their weight and body image. Their inner mean voice is telling them, “I’m fat (or too skinny). I don’t have a big enough thigh gap. My breasts are too small.”
Knowing what is going on under your daughter’s fiery facade will help you be more compassionate and patient with your daughter.
Here’s what you can do:
- Educate your daughter about the benefits of a healthy diet, especially how it impacts her brain.
- 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.
- Have an attitude of compassion and not criticism towards her eating habits.
- Create a safe atmosphere for her to share her feelings.
- Avoid power struggles over food, particularly at meal times.
- Give her positive feedback for eating healthy rather than for being skinny.
If you are concerned that your daughter has an eating disorder, get professional help. A dietician can help her create a healthy food plan and gets you out of the power struggle. A licensed therapist can help her work through any emotional issues regarding food.