So your teen wants to diet. Now what?
Dieting has become a prevalent part of our culture. Over the years, there have been various trends and fads, some of which have been geared around losing weight fast, while others are designed to be incorporated into a healthier lifestyle. For the most part, people tend to consider these diets to be a perfectly normal part of modern life.
However, it can be concerning when your teenager announces that they want to diet. After all, various negative factors in your teen’s life could influence their desire to change their eating habits. At the same time, you certainly want to encourage them to take personal responsibility for their nutritional wellbeing. It’s a difficult situation.
Let’s look at a few important elements and practices to consider if your teenager expresses their plans to start dieting.
Understand their reasoning
As a parent, it’s very easy to slip into the habit of laying down the law on subjects such as this in a reactionary way. This is particularly common if your teen is drifting toward a fad diet or an extreme approach. It’s important not to respond in this immediately negative way. It can create additional conflict that can be difficult to come back from.
Instead, start by approaching the matter from a place of empathy. Your teen’s desire to start a diet may have various reasons behind it. There could be peer pressure involved. The internet and social media certainly continue to offer up unrealistic beauty standards. It could also be a form of teen rebellion intended to assert independence at a time in which your kid may feel they have little control. This can get out of hand if your teen thinks you aren’t being supportive. As such, you need to take the time to understand them better and validate their feelings on the matter.
The last thing you want when it comes to the subject of dieting is to push your teenager further away. They may end up approaching their diet more recklessly and potentially endangering themselves. So, be open and communicative about the issue. Approach their diet as an invitation to collaborate on it. Ask about their reasons from the standpoint of working together to find a dietary plan that is safe and meets their goals.
Prioritize their nutrition
The next step is to talk about what diet approaches and plans they’ve considered. Take the time to look at their preferences or research the options together with a view to putting their nutrition first. While being overweight can result in heart issues, not getting sufficient nutrition can result in significant health issues, too.
As such, it’s important not to put too much focus on diets that prioritize single types of foodstuffs, like the ketogenic diet. This may not see your teen getting the right type of nutritional balance. Indeed, many of the popular fad diets have very little scientific basis for their results and can be more harmful. Make sure their diet includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and enough protein to support their development. This should include consideration about what they’re drinking. They should be primarily consuming water and low-fat milk, rather than sodas and energy drinks.
It may be the case that your teen wants to adjust their diet for ethical reasons. If they’re considering veganism, it’s vital to review where removing animal products could lead to nutritional or vitamin deficiencies and what types of vitamins and supplements they’d need. Identify the plant-based foods considered to be effective nutritional substitutes for your teen’s usual animal products. Consider incorporating supplements like vitamin B12 for nervous system function or omega-3 fatty acids to boost immunity.
Help them find a balance
Whatever the reasons for your teenager’s diet, it’s important to recognize that food isn’t the only consideration. Indeed, if they only focus on reducing their food intake, they are unlikely to reach the goals they have in a positive or sustainable manner. As a parent, it’s an important responsibility to help them to achieve a more holistically healthy balance.
If they’re starting a diet, make sure this is on the condition that they take other steps to support pursuing a healthy lifestyle. This begins with regular exercise. Help them to develop a routine before or after school to ensure they cultivate physical wellness. This could be as simple as taking a walk every day, going on a hike, or cycling. Incorporating physical exercise into their diet plans can also help to boost their overall sense of self-esteem.
Alongside these physical elements, it’s wise to encourage maintaining their mental and emotional health. Introduce them to practices like taking moments for mindfulness throughout the day. Help them to adopt affirmations to take their sense of confidence away from their purely physical selves. Regular meditation practice can also help to minimize some of the other pressures they face in their lives and improve their overall wellness.
It can certainly be a concerning moment when your teenager says they want to start a diet. However, the most positive approach involves open and supportive communication rather than a knee-jerk response. Wherever possible, aim to collaborate with them for safer and healthier outcomes. Make sure their nutrition is always a priority and incorporate activities to boost their holistic wellness. The more you can be positively involved with your teen’s choices, the more likely it’ll be you’ll both see better outcomes.
By Charlie Fletcher