How To Influence Teen Nutrition Positively
When my parents allowed me to follow my dream of playing hockey and having better academic opportunities at a prestigious New England preparatory school, they gave up the ability to guide my food choices in a direct way. Let me share with you why this matters.
When I was 16, I had a best friend who had an eating disorder.
Sometimes her secret pulled me into my own dark place around food. Her secret was hidden from view from everyone but me.
We were like regular teenagers to everyone around us. We would spend hours together talking about boys, sports, and playing soundtracks to Broadway musicals that had us singing and dancing around her room in pure joy.
We were both gifted athletes and good students (actually my friend was brilliant) and both of us went on to study at Ivy League universities. We were each other’s lifelines to feeling happy and accepted at boarding school. She gave me a place to feel at home when I was suffering from homesickness. In turn, I was her a partner in “crime” with eating. And, we did eat. But our food smarts were misguided. We were influenced by the 90’s fad of low fat EVERYTHING. We prided ourselves on eating practically fat-free. (side note: today, I am a firm believer in buying a small container of full fat ice-cream in part due to all of the super fat-free, sugar-free cardboard ice cream I ate from the vats my friend and I would buy).
I am sure that if my parents had known how I was eating in high school, they would have been concerned. But I was far away from them and any possible positive influence there cooking may have had on my food choices. While I did not have an eating disorder, my friend did. When you are that close to someone with an eating disorder, it is hard not to get negatively influenced by disordered thoughts towards food.
At least eating super low fat did not eliminate our primary fuel for the sports we did.
We played elite hockey, soccer, softball, field hockey and track. My friend was an elite ballerina. All of these sports require explosive movement. Today, I know that the fast twitch muscle fibres rely nearly exclusively on one type of energy which keto diets restrict in a BIG way. It scares me to think of what would have happened if the keto diet had been trendy when I was in high school. I simply would not have known better not to follow what other people were doing. If a lot of people are following a diet that must mean it must be good, right? Wrong!
When I was in high school, I was lucky in a way. The diet I was following as a teen did not starve my muscles of energy. But my diet did eliminate a primary source of antioxidants and hormone-supporting healthy fats. When I think back to those times of great anxiety and periods of depression, it is now easy for me to see that eating so little fat was one of the causes.
Many teen nutrition stories I read today still sound like mine. Teens who don’t have the whole picture start following a diet that is popular. When I work on a teen nutrition plan, I know the keto diet is attractive, so I start by explaining how keto works.
Here’s the thing, we don’t know what we don’t know. But then one day you might learn a little tidbit that will help you make a change or support someone you know to make a change. For my BF and me, the support and information wasn’t readily available. Sports nutrition was not a topic of conversation in our school. We filled in the blanks the best we could.
Unfortunately, sports nutrition is still missing from the conversation in a lot of sports venues. Wouldn’t it be nice if teen nutrition support was always there like a BF who would accept you for who you are and encourage you to eat in a way that makes you feel like a part of something? That is the feeling that I am creating here. Acceptance and support to take on high school sports with a pep in your step and a smile on your face. I know you have got this, so let’s keep it fun and trendy. I invite you to join me in the next great nutrition challenge here.
What do you think about teens and fad diets?
Share your thoughts in the comments.