Self Care For Your Teen and Tween

6 Strategies To Prevent Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse in Youth
By Laura Cipullo RD CDE CEDRD CDN and Mom

Photo Credit: pcfishhk via Compfight cc

Start the New Year, with self care! Moms and Dads, here are 6 tips to help your tweens and teens create a healthy self-care regimen that will decrease the likelihood of developing eating disorders and substance abuse.

  • Focus on overall self care, not weight.
    • Ask your children: “How does your food choice make your body feel? Energized or tired? stable or shaky?”
  • De-emphasize dieting.
    • Health is achieving mental and physical wellness through lifestyle changes.
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  • Encourage expressing negative feelings via words, art, and music.
    • Gift journals or crafts for your teen to use to express their feelings when upset.
  • Help your child expect and accept body changes during adolescence.
    • Educate them on hormones, body changes and social changes in a neutral tone. Honor each individual’s body shape and help buy clothes to suit their individual shape.
  • Educate your children on feelings and coping skills during puberty.
    • Encourage your children to sit with feelings even if they are uncomfortable doing so – this helps to teach resilience.
  • Involve the family.
    • Allow family members to lend a listening ear or give a hug when needed. Parents do not need to have all of the answers.

Embracing Our Daughters: Supporting Them as They Enter Adolescence

Embracing Our Daughters: Supporting them as they enter adolescence
By Christie Caggiani

Photo Credit: ashley rose, via Compfight cc

Truly some of the most humbling moments as a professional come from teachable moments as a mother.  I recently had a conversation with a mom, as our nearly teen daughters were getting together for the day.  She was clearly concerned about her child’s blossoming body, and shared that she had told her daughter she was going to buy her a gym membership. That alone gave me pause, however, when my daughter later recounted that they were encouraged to go for a walk to burn off some calories, it shifted me into anger. Fortunately, the girls said they went outside because it was a beautiful evening and they had a lot of fun walking, but I realized that no matter how much I try to teach body positive attitudes, the forces in this world are challenging those messages at every turn.

 

It is critical that as our adolescents’ bodies begin to change, we are a solid, reliable resource and support system for them.  This is a time when they are uncertain about their physical self, how to act, and how to feel, so we as parents are key in letting them know these changes are normal and that they are exactly where they should be in their development. Our role is to help them connect with, listen to, and respond consistently to their body’s signals, whether their body is asking for food, sleep, activity, or a good cry.  Our role is NOT to control how their bodies turn out or interfere with their changing process along the way.

 

One of my favorite books on this topic, Like Mother, Like Daughter by nutritionist Debra Waterhouse, is one I would highly recommend to any female.  Not only does it help us understand what is happening in our daughter’s body, it gives us greater insight into how we can better equip our young women to avoid the traps of weight and food preoccupation.  To quell your fears, and give you some direction, remember the following:


What Society Wants You to Do

What Your Daughter’s Body Naturally Wants to Do (and what we can reinforce)

Mold her body into an aesthetic ideal Find a comfortable weight that is biologically and genetically right for her
Encourage dieting Eat enough food to supply her body with nourishment and fuel
Condition her taste buds Stimulate all of her taste buds and enjoy the taste of sugar starting in infancy, salt starting in toddler years, and fat starting in adolescence.
Feed her low-fat foods Consume enough fat for brain development and physical growth
Feed her by the clock Eat when her body tells her it’s time to eat
Enforce three balanced meals a day Eat small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day
Provide a full-course dinner Eat as much as her body needs at dinner and have a snack at night if she’s hungry

 

Here are some other pointers that may be helpful as you assist your pre-teens and teens in their journey:

  • Just talk.  Share your memories of puberty, and use it as an opportunity to open dialogue.  Ask her if there’s anything she finds confusing, and encourage her to name her emotions.
  • Arm her with resilience to handle insensitive comments from classmates, well-meaning relatives, and friends.
  • Connect openly with other parents and ensure that they provide a similarly positive body attitude environment.
  • Avoid making comments that tell her she will be okay once she grows taller, loses some weight, or changes her body in some way.  She is exactly where she is supposed to be today.
  • Focus on the internal qualities that make up her person – her creativity, compassion, or strength of character.
  • Never, ever talk negatively about your own or anyone else’s body.  Period.
  • Enjoy food with your child.  Let her see you eat, savor, and enjoy meals and snacks.
  • Encourage movement as a way to connect with the body, unload some stress, and have some unstructured fun!  Never encourage exercise as a way to change the body, burn calories or lose weight.

Recommended reading: 

200 Ways to Raise a Girl’s Self-Esteem, by Will Glennon

Embody: Learning to Love your Unique Body, by Connie Sobczak

Like Mother, Like Daughter, by Debra Waterhouse, RD

One Size Fits All?

One Size Fits All?
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD

Photo Credit: sporkist via Compfight cc

Bodies come in all shapes and sizes; therefore, don’t you think clothes should too? This may seem logical to us, yet many clothing companies cater to one size only. Parents and friends, please beware; there is a new line of clothing by Brandy Melville. Her clothing line carries mostly “one size fits all,” but this one size is equivalent to a small. So while MDIO loves the idea of clothes to fit everybody’s bodies, this smaller size may not be appropriate for all tweens and teens.

 

Brandy Melville’s clothing line is a cheaper alternative for younger girls to find the cool clothes that all their friends are wearing. These less costly items do come at a price, however, because they do not run large enough to fit the average American teenage girl who wants to shop there. Jeans at Brandy Melville run mainly in size 00, yet I believe this is vanity- sized and thus equal to a size 2, which fits a girl with a 26” waist.  However, the average 16-year-old girl has a 31” waist and therefore, would have a much harder time finding clothing at this trendy store. With a desire to be cool and wear these more easily affordable clothes, many young girls may go to extremes to fit into these extra small sizes!
Ultimately, size should not matter when it comes to clothes, but as a woman, a mother and a professional in the world of eating disorders, I know that the size of clothes can be connected to superficial self-worth. As parents, we need to think about whether we want our children to shop and support these stores/brands and also how we should talk to our daughters and sons about such numbers.

 

When talking to your teens and tweens about clothing sizes, please remember:

  • Numbers are just information.
  • Sizes vary from store to store and brand to brand for each article of clothing. (See our chart below.)
  • Size does not reflect health.
  • Size does not reflect self-worth.
  • Find clothing and brands to accentuate your body type.
  • Wear sizes that fit your body properly—and expect that the sizes will vary from item to item.
  • Wear clothes that represent the “real” you.
  • Think about how a particular article of clothing makes you feel when you’re wearing it rather than the size designation on the tag.
Disclaimer: These sizes are estimated.

Many stores vary so greatly in their sizes that a shopper can buy a size 4 at one place and a size 6 or 8 at another with all items fitting well. There is little standardization for clothing sizes in the United States and retailers often change clothing sizes without any one of us even realizing it. As parents, please keep in mind that a healthy shopping environment for young girls and boys is a necessity. Many stores and brands bombard youngsters with toxic images as it is. Fostering size expectations is not good for the shoppers nor the companies creating these clothes; nobody wins. Unfortunately, there are no standards or government regulations concerning clothing sizes. So, parents must think about the store’s overall image and message before deciding if the store is a place they want their children to shop.

 

Kudos to people like Cali Linstrom and Daryl Roberts for taking a stand against Abercrombie and Fitch!

 

Have you taken a stand? If you have, Mom Dishes It Out wants your story. Tell us about a brand you think fits well and sends a positive message to kids, teens and/or adults.

 

More reading:

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/02/abercrombies_anti_bullying_shirts_dont_come_in_plus_sizes/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/darryl-roberts/abercrombie-and-fitch-discrimination_b_3319889.html

Tips to Communicate with Your Teens

Tips to Communicate with Your Teens
By Guest Blogger, Elyssa Ackerman, LCSW and Parent Coach

Photo Credit: Spencer Finnley via Compfight cc
Communicating with your teen can really test your patience.  One minute your teen is asking you for money or permission to go to a happening hang with friends, the next minute they slam the door and say “Get out!”  It is no wonder parents of teens find themselves commiserating, venting, or clenching their fists in frustration.  However, as teens work at their job of trying to figure out their identity, the parent’s job is to parent with a plan in place and avoid reacting to their teen’s moods (or their own).

 

Teens are irrational, and, according to Dr. Mike Bradley, “Adolescents are temporarily brain damaged.” The parts of their brains currently in development and responsible for the emotional control, impulse restraint, and rational decision making aren’t fully formed and connected.  What does this mean?  Teens are confrontational.  They are hormonal.  They are stressed out managing their social, physical, emotional, and intellectual lives.  Parents have to be the bigger people and act rationally.  Parents need to stay calm, reduce daily battles, and let the teen wrestle with his/her feelings in front of a wise, calm adult.  Do not hold grudges and be big enough to say “Sorry” when you lose it.  When teens are rude, disrespectful, and nasty, practice saying “ I will not speak to you when you are disrespectful, come to me when we can talk civilly.”  Sound like a big challenge? It is.
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The truth is that teens still need us to think the world of them.  It is easy for us to highlight what teens do wrong, so try implementing two positives for every negative.  Refrain from advice-giving and moralizing, and listen, REALLY LISTEN.  Put down your phones, don’t text while they are talking to you, email can wait.  Even if you disagree, let them talk.  They need to vent.  If given the space to do so, they will come to TRUST you.  Ahhhh, trust, the magic word.  Because in the end, as teens experiment with life and all that awaits, the choices they will make are impacted by their relationship with you.  Heavy? You betcha.  You are the most important role model for your teen.  Educate them over and over again on sex, drugs, violence, and alcohol, and be honest and straightforward.  Yes, pot dispensaries abound, but smoking weed at this time in their life couldn’t happen at a worse time, as their brains are on fire finishing the job of developing into the adults that they are craving to be.

 

Communicate with your teen by setting clear and consistent limits.  Be matter of fact about his/her curfew, responsibilities in the home, and your drug and alcohol use (or no use) policy.  Enforce limits through incentives, not ultimatums, and encourage them to act responsibly, and they will attain the freedom they so desire by demonstrating their willingness to do their part.  Discipline without violence, try not to yell, and let them negotiate.  Negotiating is a useful skill that they need practice while at home.  If rules get broken, let them play a part in deciding upon the consequences. Short-term consequences work best.

 

Cut your teens and yourself some slack.  Keep trying to reach them, invite them to dinner or a horror movie, or make them a cup of tea at night without asking anything in return.  If they see that you are still there for them and are trying to maintain a connection, the payoffs are priceless.  One day they will venture out on their own, succeed in their aspirations, and have the tools that they need to be successful adults (and maybe, eventually, parents).

 

Weight Gain in Puberty: Is It Normal and Healthy or Something Else?

Weight Gain in Puberty: Is It Normal and Healthy or Something Else?
Written By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CEDRD, CDN
Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor
Edited By Lindsey Reinstrom and Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD

Photo Credit: ToniVC via Compfight cc

It could have been yesterday that “Miss Chris,” my ballet teacher at age ten, told me—in front of the entire class—to “stop eating so many cakes and cookies.” She said that I was a promising dancer and I simply must “slim down.” This confused me because I ate normally and didn’t really have so many cakes and cookies!

 

What I did have was an earlier puberty than many of my friends. This powerful body-shaming message has stayed with me for more than forty years! Flash-forward to both my daughter’s and son’s puberty, and this dietitian/mom was well equipped to explain that in order for adolescents to develop normally, a little extra fat around the middle is essential and a normal part of growth and development.

 

During the middle-school years, a major growth spurt usually occurs, which can be very confusing to both kids and parents. Appetite soars in preparation of a growth spurt. Consequently, many tweens and teens get heavier before they grow taller! All parts of a child’s body change, and it is not unusual to see even a fifteen-pound weight gain over a relatively short period of time. This happens to both females and males.

 

When Should You Be Concerned? Is This Healthy Or …?

Your child’s healthcare provider will measure height and weight annually as part of his/her wellness visit. A measurement called a BMI (body mass index) can show weight and growth trends. The BMI can be used as one tool in noticing patterns in your child’s weight and height. Used correctly, it can help identify weight gain and potential correlation with your child’s natural range on the growth chart over the years. The growth chart may reflect a jump in weight range but not height in this prepubescent phase. Now, it is your job as a parent to determine if this is necessary weight gain in preparation of puberty or if the weight gain is a result of your preadolescent’s habits and/or behaviors. For example, if your daughter or son reports eating due to an increase in appetite, you can surmise that this is puberty related. However, if you notice that your tween eats when procrastinating, studying, or when he/she eats with friends even after a family dinner, this may reflect behavioral eating. Or, if your tween eats every time he/she is sad or stressed with homework, this may indicate eating for emotional reasons and not as a physical response to increase energy needs for puberty. So, if it is a true physical need, let your child enjoy his/her body and help prep him/her for more changes while experiencing puberty. If you observe a trend of behavioral and emotional eating, especially of foods low on nutrient density, you may want to have a calm and neutral conversation about self-care, coping skills, and eating for physical reasons.

If you still have concerns about your tween’s proper growth and development, it may be worth talking to his/her physician or a registered dietitian who specializes in pediatric nutrition and intuitive eating.  If you are worried that any recent changes in your household could be contributing factors to less-healthy eating behaviors, it might be helpful to consult with a mental health professional trained in disordered eating and adolescents about your concerns.

 

How you communicate about body and food choices with your tween or teen can have a significant impact on his/her self-esteem and future relationship with his/her body and food!

 

Strategies That Are NOT Helpful:

1) Do not talk about your teen’s eating habits ALL OF THE TIME.

2) Do not nag or preach to simply “eat less.”

3) Do not put your preteen or teen on a diet.

4) Do not bribe or reward your child with food.

5) Do not reward or comment on weight loss/weight gain.

6) Do not weigh your daughter/son.

7) Do not reject your child for any changes in their natural body weight.

 

These strategies can lead a vulnerable child towards disordered eating and poor body image. When parents try to restrict their child’s food intake rather than teaching him/her to listen to levels of hunger and fullness, it usually backfires! Often kids with restricted diets end up eating secretly and eat larger quantities of food than their body needs, which can lead to weight gain.

 

Strategies That Are Helpful:

1) Do not panic! Explain calmly that weight gain is normal before and during puberty.

2) Help your child to identify if a dramatic change in body weight is related to:

    • Puberty
    • Something else such as emotional eating due to school stress
    • Behavioral eating when with friends after school
    • Less physical activity than usual

3) Focus on healthy habits such as recognizing hunger and fullness, rather than focusing on external numbers such as body weight.

4) Lead by example and be a positive role model for healthy eating and exercising.

5) If your child is gaining weight due to emotional eating, help your child to develop coping skills, healthy ways to express their emotions, and provide a listening ear.

6) Prepare home-cooked meals and have family dinners as often as possible.

7) Keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with “every day foods” that are nutrient dense, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and naturally lower-fat dairy products.

8) Help your tween or teen learn how to eat a variety of foods without labeling any foods as “good or bad.”

9) Help your tween or teen learn to differentiate between eating foods for fuel versus eating foods for fun.

10) Do explain that people naturally come in all shapes and sizes.

11) Teach honor and respect to our body by ways of self-care.

12) Fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods the majority of the time and less nutrient-dense foods some of the time.

I am amazed that I still remember my ballet teacher embarrassing me in front of my peers, despite the fact that I was at a healthy body weight for my stage of puberty.  Whether your child is gaining weight in preparation of puberty, by emotional/behavioral eating, or through problems with regulating his/her sense of hunger and fullness, please make home a safe haven of love and support. Offer hope and guidance, and, of course, speak to a health professional about how you as a family can best support your child.

Do 13 year olds really think about six-pack abs?

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Do 13 year olds really think about six-pack abs?
By Mom and RD, Elyse Falk

 

Boys and body image! Wow…what a perfect topic for me to be blogging about right now. The scenario goes something like this: My almost 13-year-old son comes home after a Bar Mitzvah party for one of his friends. It’s 12:00 am. I drag my butt out of bed to make sure he’s OK and to ask him how his evening was. As I walk sleepily down the hallway, I unintentionally catch a glimpse of his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He’s standing there, shirtless, flexing his muscles in the mirror and pulling in his abdominals. “Really?”…I think to myself. Not knowing quite what to say at that exact moment, I utter something innocuous: “OK. You can look at yourself tomorrow. It’s past midnight. Get into bed.” He quickly pulls on his shirt, and I, in turn, make a mental note about it.

 

As the days followed, I became aware of a noticeable decrease in his food intake…especially one night while we were eating dinner together. So I asked him: “Aren’t you hungry?” He answered: “Well, I’ve just been watching how much I eat and my stomach looks smaller when I eat less.” Because I’m a registered dietitian who specializes in counseling clients with eating disorders, I almost had a heart attack when I heard his response! “Listen to me, dude!” I said. “Your body is strong from karate and the recreational sports you participate in during the year. Your body is healthy from all the different foods you eat. You’re getting bigger and taller because you’re a teenager. Your body is changing so much right now! You’re starting to become a man! Your belly has gone through many changes throughout the last two years. It’s gotten bigger and then, when you grew taller, your belly became smaller again because that’s precisely what happens when you go through puberty!” He seemed to listen to what I was telling him, looked at me briefly, and simply said “Hmm….” He came into the kitchen a little bit later and, without any hesitation, ate some cookies. I didn’t say a word. The conversation hasn’t come up again since!

Photo Credit: Aka Hige via Compfight cc

Here’s what I’ve learned: The knowledge that boys (as well as girls) can and do fall prey to those troubling messages in the media about body image and dieting. In addition, puberty is often a very difficult life passage for any tween. When our bodies undergo various changes during puberty, our psyches do too. Many suffer with dismal thoughts and awkward feelings; throwing in the need to “fit in” by “looking a certain way” during this adolescent stage directs even more attention to their bodies. Please understand that it’s natural for your tween to be curious about his/her body’s new changes and how food affects those changes. And it’s most important for you to know that this is a crucial time for us, as parents, to watch our words and to keep our eyes pried wide open for the little (sometimes almost microscopic) clues our kids may be displaying. A particularly vital task at hand is helping our boys understand how food helps their bodies and that the changes to their tummies, their voices, and their broadness are all normal and need to be balanced with the consumption of healthy foods and fun physical activities…but most definitely not controlled!

 

Elyse Falk is a registered dietitian who specializes with clients who have disordered eating/eating disorders and practices in Northern Westchester and can be reached at ebfalkrd@gmail.com.