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 Post subject: Talking to teens about healthy diets/body image
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 9:50 am 
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Baking In The Flavor

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A friend recently asked me to start writing a column for her blog about healthy diet which includes recipes. I'm quite keen on the idea but I wanted to ask for the PPK's advice first because I think this is a community which is generally very wise on the subject of body image/body shaming.

The blog is for teenagers and it's mainly about body image. My friend tries to promote healthy body image by, for example, using all shapes and sizes of model, she's written about why those "this is what a real woman looks like" memes are rubbish. It's just generally about how health is important not "getting a hot body so boys fancy you" like most teen magazines want to tell girls.

I want to write about my idea of a healthy diet which includes the occasional slice of chocolate cake. I don't ever attribute qualities like "bad" or "naughty" to foods, I wouldn't encourage dieting or elimination of any foodstuff and I wouldn't write about losing weight. I'd discourage crash dieting and skipping meals. I think my approach to food is a fairly healthy one BUT I'm a little worried about writing about healthy diets for teenagers. It's such a touchy subject and I'm worried even if I'm trying to promote a healthy attitude it might actually just make people think about their diets more than they would otherwise. As a teenager I had a healthy attitude to food but I didn't have a particularly healthy diet (I wasn't worried about my weight or dieting but I did skip meals out of laziness and I ate a lot of chocolate), if I'd started reading an article about eating healthily it might have made me more worried about what I was eating, and it definitely isn't my aim to make people worry they don't eat healthily enough.

So what I suppose I'm really asking is how should we be talking to teenagers about eating well? Is talking about how to have a healthy diet the best way? Could it be opening a can of worms by making people overly concerned with health and therefore make it just as bad as all the magazines already out there telling girls how to make themselves "better" and "hotter"?

Thanks to anyone who has taken the time to read this!

(I hope this is the right place to post this, I wasn't sure but I thought as the body shaming thread was here it would be ok)


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 Post subject: Re: Talking to teens about healthy diets/body image
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:11 am 
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I think Ellyn Satter has some pretty good things to say about healthy eating. Healthy as in flexible, joyful, and guilt-free.

http://www.ellynsatter.com/


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 Post subject: Re: Talking to teens about healthy diets/body image
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 3:27 pm 
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mollyjade wrote:
I think Ellyn Satter has some pretty good things to say about healthy eating. Healthy as in flexible, joyful, and guilt-free.

http://www.ellynsatter.com/


plus one to Ellyn Satter for sure.

Also, you might want to try to find some studies/books/dissertations about what works and what doesn't when talking to teens about body image. the journal of nutrition education and behavior might have some things that would be relevant and you might be able to access them at your local library.
This is just one example of something I found when doing research for my master's project and it might be helpful - http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedi ... -737-W.pdf

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 Post subject: Re: Talking to teens about healthy diets/body image
PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 3:45 pm 
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thank you so much for both of these links. as someone who has tried to always be supportive and non-dogmatic about body image and diet with my own teenager, and sometimes thinks i really screwed it up, i appreciate all the help i can get. i mean, i think on the whole we've been really helpful, non-judgmental and empowering, but i still hear my daughter say she's unhappy with her body, which hurts. let me also add that i grew up very uncomfortable with my own body and it took me almost 30 years to accept myself for what i really am and take responsibility for my health and my own happiness.

then i remember i'm one person fighting a constant flow of negative press ("hotness" "fad diets" etc) and realize that it ain't gonna be easy. so all help is greatly appreciated.

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 Post subject: Re: Talking to teens about healthy diets/body image
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:03 am 
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I don't have any links, but as a teenager, I'll give you my two cents (of course I don't speak for all teenagers). It sounds to me like you're on the right track. Just keep away from alarmist tactics and don't condescend. I think that it would make you and what you're saying more relatable if you do go ahead and mention that you yourself didn't have the greatest diet as a teen. I really like that you're not pathologizing dessert/junk food, because those kind of antics are enough to make anyone a neurotic eater. Also, I can't believe I'm about to give the advice "make it fun and easy!" because I hate when people say that in regarding to educating teenagers. I just think if you don't go into the super-technical aspects of nutrition, the message will sink into more minds. And then those that are interested, you can provide links for them or it's likely that they'll take initiative and do their own research. Like you mentioned, refrain from any of the diet-appearance links (i.e. If you don't eat chocolate, you won't get acne!"). Oh, and I don't know how to word this... but try not to make your readership feel vulnerable? No one likes to think they aren't in control of themselves. State facts about nutrition but I think putting the emphasis on being proactive instead of delving into eating disorder statistics is probably best (although I'm the sort of person who is interested in eating disorder stats from a constantly-researching-gender-and-sexuality-and-food-justice POV, but I'm not sure a lot of other girls my age are!). You seem like a very intelligent person, so I trust that you'll write a great article!

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 Post subject: Re: Talking to teens about healthy diets/body image
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:31 am 
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Out of curiosity and wanting do to the right thing, can I ask if your friend specifically addresses male eating disorders and body image issues? An acquaintance of mine runs a registered charity called Men Get Eating Disorders Too!, and I feel it's important to mention that issues for both genders can differ greatly.

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 Post subject: Re: Talking to teens about healthy diets/body image
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:05 am 
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Personally, I find it very empowering to know enough about the nutritional value of my food to know how it fuels my body. I think some very basic sports nutrition (think "carbs are what gives your body immediate energy, for when you're swimming or riding your bike or playing soccer," etc.) might be useful. There's a lot of scaremongering out there ("carbs are bad!") that I think can be confusing and overwhelming for folks. If you give kids some basic tools to figure out what their bodies need and use to do the things they do, then I think that might be very helpful for them navigating through all the fad diets and bad information out there.

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 Post subject: Re: Talking to teens about healthy diets/body image
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 1:25 pm 
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^ Yeah, sort of like Jopa says, this is how I've thought about food for many years now--in terms of it's nutritative value for my body and how quality fuel best maintains my energy, rather than the focus on fat or physiques or whatevs.

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 Post subject: Re: Talking to teens about healthy diets/body image
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 2:00 pm 
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Baking In The Flavor

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Thanks so much for all the wonderful advice! I'm feeling much more confident about the project now.
The links were both great and thank you for the journal recommendation ijdi. And I really appreciate you giving your opinion as a teenager Opium des Volkes.
Jordanpattern- thanks for the suggestion of explaining about basic sports nutrition, I'll definitely be doing that.
Gulliver- The blog is aimed at girls (no idea why I neglected to mention that in my original post!) My friend had originally wanted to write for both sexes but, due in part to the fact that the issues do differ between genders, she decided just to write for girls as she has more experience working with girls with eating disorders.


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