The Missing Link In Your Search For a Healthy Diet For Your Daughter
by Harriet Morris
There is a very simple guideline if you want to find a healthy diet for your teenage daughter.
Here it is: prevent the energy emergency.
This is about much more than hunger or calories.
The problem with most diets is that they create energy emergencies - even so called healthy "it's not a diet it's a way of life" systems.
Let me explain.
If food is fuel, an energy emergency can be caused by the body getting inadequate fuel (the classic extreme 500 calories a day nightmare).
Fuel is obviously calories, but it is also nutrients.
A second kind of energy emergency can also be created by having adequate calories, but the wrong kind of nutrients.
This is very, very important and something that the diet industry has not caught on to (or cannot make cash from - you decide). Stick with me here - you are about to meet the elephant in the room of your daughter's dieting problems.
What do I mean by the wrong kind of nutrients?
Most people's breakfasts are unbalanced in favour of carbohydrates. Now there is nothing wrong with good quality carbs. What is wrong for many people is that carbs are not enough for their bodily and mental needs throughout the day.
Carbohydrates are what we call a macronutrient - something we need in greater quantities than micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.
There are three other macronutrients - protein, fat and water.
The thing is that our bodies are designed to do most of our working, thinking, hunting, gathering, mating etc in the day. So no matter when your main nutrient-packed meal of the day is (and it's usually early evening for most people), your body wants ALL of these macronutrients in the daytime. Our metabolism is faster when the sun is up for this very reason. Just look where your solar plexus is situated - right over your digestive tract. See - even the labels we give our bodily parts (solar = sun) are trying to tell us something here! If your body could talk, it would ask you for more energy in the daytime, but also better quality energy in the form of ALL the macronutrients - carbohydrates, protein and fat (and let's make that fat healthy).
So what happens when we fail to provide our bodies with not only carbohydrates but protein and a moderate amount of healthy fat is it goes into a the second kind of energy emergency caused by lack of nutrients. Cereal for breakfast followed by a sandwich at lunchtime is the perfect recipe for such an energy emergency.
What does this emergency look like?
It looks like intense cravings, most commonly in the afternoon.
Cravings for what? All that missed protein and healthy fat? That would make sense.
If only your daughter came in from school or college desperate for a nice juicy avocado, or some grilled meat, or a handful of nuts, or a protein smoothie.
But here's the thing. When you are in a state of emergency, it's hard to communicate your needs properly sometimes.
And when your body is in a nutrient-deprived energy emergency, it cannot tell you what it really needs.
It just screams GIVE ME ENERGY.
And carbs provide that energy fast. Correction: junk carbs provide that energy fast. And junk carbs are what your daughter is probably craving around 3 or 4pm. Cue the crisps or potato chips, chocolate, cake, toast and jam. Complete eating chaos.
Here is the real tragedy of this situation: your daughter starts feeling guilty the minute the fires of her energy emergency have been put out. But that toxic guilt is completely misplaced - she cannot fight her bodily needs. Because none of us can when our body goes into red alert. And let's face it, we have created a society where the junk carbs are hyper-available. There is a dealer on every corner.
Junk carbs are the most acceptable legal high in the world.
Don't Believe A Word I Say
The best thing about preventing this energy emergency is you don't even have to believe a word I say. After all, the diet and wellness industries are full of self-proclaimed experts promising you that THEIR solution is THE answer. But have any of them ever asked you to just try their wonder solution for a few days and see if it works for you?
All I am asking you to do is have a go, to get your daughter to try eating a different kind of breakfast 3 days over the coming week. Or one day. Let her empower herself by experimenting. Many people report that a change in their breakfast can prevent that emergency on the very same day.
But what should she actually eat?
Non-Boring Breakfasts For Food Rebels
As an eating psychology specialist, I know that shoving a meal plan under my clients' noses and ordering them to slavishly follow it is about as much help as suggesting that The Grand Prix convert to pedal-powered go karts.
This is because many people (not just teens - not by a long chalk) who suffer from energy-emergency-chaotic-eating are also food rebels. The reasons for this food rebellion could fill a book, and I will not be covering them here.
The important point here is that when we make any eating change, we need to respect that food rebel, while offering her healthy choices.
Surely that's not possible?
I can tell you that it is. I was a food rebel for 3 decades. Chaotic energy emergencies were my life for most of that time. I was a sugar addict and had a completely compulsive relationship with food.
The key for me was to take back control. Control I had given over to the diet industry. Control that I was ceding to my sabotage self. To transform my food rebellion from a tool to attack myself into a tool to attack the real sources of my misery.
I became the curious scientist of my own food compulsion.
This is how you get the food rebel in your daughter to not only calm down, but come out and become her ally. Because what greater rebellion is there than sticking it to the diet industry by finding out what actually works for you, then making diet X surplus to requirements?
You start by getting her to do a breakfast experiment: