Teenager body image eating disorder

As parents, supporting teenage self-confidence and well-being of your teen can be both fulfilling and tough. During their teenage years, they experience quick changes in both body and emotions, which can relate to how they eat and view their bodies. Finding the right mix between promoting healthy eating and helping them feel good about their bodies can be tricky.

How to Help Your Teen Eat Well & Feel Better

Teenagers’ eating habits can sometimes be puzzling, leaving you as the parent feeling at a loss. It’s not uncommon for teens to resist meals despite your effort to provide healthy, nutritious options. And we understand how frustrating this can also be! With influences from social media and societal pressures setting unrealistic standards, teens can often compare and perceive themselves to other peers, and those they see online, which can have an effect on their eating habits.

Recognise The Warning Signs

It’s crucial for parents to remain vigilant for signs that might indicate a struggle with eating or body image, so you can act quickly when you see these signs. After all, you want to you’re your teen as much as possible through this challenging time. Changes in behaviour, daily routines, or bodily functions could signal underlying issues:

  • Behavioural changes like irritability, anxiety, or loss of motivation.
  • Disrupted daily routines such as sleepiness or difficulty concentrating.
  • Physical symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, or abdominal discomfort.

If you see any of these signs, this is the time to take action and help your teen navigate through it. It’s also the time to open up the lines of communication.

4 Supportive Strategies for Healthy Eating

Empowering your teen to adopt mindful eating practices firstly requires understanding and support from parents. Here are four effective strategies to encourage healthier eating habits:

  1. Compassionate Approach: Approach meal times with empathy and avoid taking their food choices personally. Recognise that their priorities might differ from your own and be understanding of their needs.
  2. Education on Nutrition: Engage in conversations about how food fuels both the body and mind. Educate them on the impact that nutrition has on their behaviour and daily routines, emphasising the importance of a balanced diet. Giving them a ‘why’ and a reason is important, rather then just telling them that they need to eat well. Explaining the impact it has on their brain, which affects their mood, behaviours and sleep, will help them to see the reasoning behind ‘why’ nutrition is so important.
  3. Small Steps Towards Change: Start with achievable goals, such as starting the day with some breakfast (if they don’t normally eat breakfast). Even if it’s just some fruit. Start small, and gradually encourage increased food intake based on their readiness. Be patient with them through this process.
  4. Celebrate Small Victories: Acknowledge and celebrate every positive step they take towards healthier eating habits. Giving them some recognition will motivate them, and show then that you’re on their side. Offer support without pressure, allowing them to progress at their own pace.

If you notice persistent signs of distress, significant changes in eating behaviours, or if your teen expresses feelings of anxiety or inadequacy regarding their body, consider seeking guidance from a psychologist or a mental health professional. This is where you can access specialised support tailored to your teenager’s specific needs, where we introduce valuable tools to navigate these challenges as a family. After all, one family member feeling this way can have a roll on effect to your entire house hold.

Supporting your teens with their eating habits and how they feel about their bodies takes time, empathy, and talking openly. When parents create a supportive atmosphere and encourage thoughtful eating, you assist in building a good connection with food. Keep in mind, getting healthier happens bit by bit, and every step forward is a big win.

Written by Lana Jaff – Provisional Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au