By: Jess Berger, Regular Contributor
Image from www.cdc.gov
Most teenage girls are pretty self-conscious when it comes to body image. But what happens when your daughter starts gaining weight and she doesn’t seem to care? Do you keep quiet or speak up? And if you do speak up but she still doesn’t hear you, should you put her on a diet?
Recently, the mother of one of my teen clients put her young daughter on a diet. From what I could tell, although this 14-year-old girl had a few extra pounds on her frame (no more than 10 pounds), it didn’t seem to bother her one bit. The mom enlisted the help of a meal delivery service and quickly got her daughter on a regimented eating plan. As I reflected on the mom’s choice to put her daughter on a diet, I wondered what the girl must be learning from this experience and what alternative solutions might set her up to succeed in the long run.
The bottom line is that dieting is not the answer. It is, at best, a short-term solution for a long term problem. If you genuinely want to support your daughter in achieving maximum health without compromising her self-esteem, check out my go-to tips below:
1. Shift the conversation from weight to health: Come on mom and dad, how would you like it if someone started attacking you about your weight? Chances are you’d get defensive and shut down pretty quickly. Your daughter is no different. Instead of harping on the numbers on the scale or the size of her jeans, engage her in a conversation about good health. Health is a broader, less stigmatized focal point, and includes everything from sleep habits to nutrition to mental wellbeing. Discuss what good health looks like and help your daughter to identify any current habits that don’t support that vision. Brainstorm some alternative actions she can take and help her implement them consistently.
2. Education is key: One major reason this country has an obesity epidemic is lack of education. Knowing the calorie count of your Big Mac does not an education make. Help your daughter learn the fundamentals of wholesome foods, appropriate exercise, and how the body functions. There are more resources available than ever-- magazines, books, websites, blogs, articles, etc. NOTE: Refrain from offering your daughter materials that focus on dieting and opt for information about optimal health.
3. Make exercise fun: If your daughter doesn’t like to play the traditional sports that are offered at most schools and she detests the gym, encourage her to think outside the box! Consider alternatives like rock climbing, rowing, hiking, fencing, scuba diving, wrestling (yes I said wrestling!), horseback riding, ice skating, dance, etc…the list goes on and on. Help her find ways to stay active that keep her coming back for more!
4. Choose lifestyle over diets: Diets don’t work. Period. Diets fail because they are impossible to maintain forever. Eliminating carbs might be easy enough for a week, but by week four your spaghetti craving will have you chomping at the bit (no, seriously.) In the end, dieters end up bingeing on their “off-limits” foods, leaving them feeling guilty and unsuccessful. Instead, help your daughter to focus on creating a healthy lifestyle that she can maintain for the long haul. Engage her in a conversation about balance and moderation and highlight the importance of consistently making smart, self-honoring choices around food and exercise.
5. Join the party! Heads up mom and dad: There is absolutely no better way to get your daughter on track towards a healthy lifestyle than to jump right in and do it with her! First of all, joining her in the process will make her feel less criticized, judged, and isolated. Second, by working towards optimal health together, you can be each others’ accountability buddy and keep one another on track. Lastly, your daughter will have good days and bad days on her path towards a healthy lifestyle-- and you will too. By walking alongside her, you can be her personal cheerleader, providing an extra dose of inspiration on those days when the going gets tough!
About Jess: Jess Berger is a Certified Teen Girl Life Coach who supports girls in maximizing their potential. Jess' coaching provides girls a space to deepen their self-awareness and truly value themselves as confident, powerful and insightful young women. For more info on Jess and her process, check out her website here: www.MyCoachJess.com