Our Food, Our Bodies: Supporting our Teen Girls
When my first two children were born girls, I often wondered how they would feel about their bodies and their food when they were older, in the teen and pre-teen years, when we can be so susceptible and vulnerable to all sorts of pressures. I kept those thoughts in the back of my head; I had a long time before we would think about those issues.
Well, the time is now. My eldest turns 11 in a few weeks. I have recently noticed a huge surge in her eating, and her sweet tooth has gotten sweeter. Her junk food magnet has gotten stronger. And, her appetite has gotten bigger, much bigger.
Something I worry about is the whole peer pressure/body image/I don't know what to call it that goes on with girls in her age group. My lean, athlete of a girl has always eaten big, hearty, (mostly) healthy meals, with meats and veg and fruit and grains and dairy. Just recently I noticed she checks herself and eats much less when she's with her peers, and tends to shy away from higher calorie and/or fat foods.
Indeed, I have started to notice that my big girl packs piddly lunches and comes home with a lot of it uneaten. She goes on to state how "HONGRY" she is once home and will eat lots. LOTS! Often, she's so "hongry" that she'll devour food in mass quantity, almost eating like an animal. If she's so hungry, what is it that keeps her from eating more at school? Does she have too little time now in middle school to eat? Is her food too complicated to eat (too much utensil food)? Or, is it embarrassing to eat? Is it better to just hang out?
I rode my own roller coaster with food. Always an athlete, my appetite was always huge. I recall being able to eat a whole pizza by myself when I was ramping up on calories in my early growth spurt. But, I hit a point where body image started to play a part, wanting to always stay svelte. I recall being able to eat a whole cake. I also recall being able to then regurgitate it all out into the toilet. That was a dark, confusing time.
Never wanting to support an unhealthy approach to food, we have spent the past decade encouraging our girl to eat a variety of healthy foods. We have offered treats on a regular, but not daily, basis. We have learned about ingredients in our foods. We have sat down for mealtimes, where we all eat a balanced plate. We try not to pressure.
What is your approach to food with your girls? How do you discuss it at home? Books to suggest for girls in the 10-20 year old range that might offer them support and guidance when it comes to food and body?