Teen girls are self-conscious even without talking about how much they're eating. Approach yours delicately, but most importantly, model a healthy diet and self-image or she won't believe your words of wisdom.
- Step 1: Lead by example. Adjust your own lifestyle and eat healthy and sensible portions to demonstrate your words mean something. Don't belittle yourself or your figure in front of your teen girl.
- Step 2: Treat all the children equally, instead of allowing one to have a cookie while giving the teenage girl a stalk of celery. The disparity in treatment breeds resentment and negativity.
- TIP: Role models who demean themselves and their own figures can make a negative self-image contagious for impressionable teenage girls.
- Step 3: Spend more active time together as a family, making eating together a sacred daily ritual of talking about food and self-control, or sharing feelings about yourselves. Be there for your teenage girl and she will learn to be there for herself.
- FACT: An average American woman is 5-foot-4 and 140 pounds, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. The average American female model is 5-foot-11 tall and weighs only 117 pounds.
- TIP: Avoid parent-child battlegrounds that only engender shame and anger. The worse your teen feels about herself, the more likely she is to develop an eating disorder.
- Step 4: Encourage your teen daughter to talk to someone else if she is not receptive to your message. Suggest a counselor, or someone in the family with whom she may be more comfortable, but keep the conversation going.
- Step 5: Emphasize health and feeling good over appearance. Get educated about how eating affects energy and productivity and share the facts with your teen. Be consistent and don't stoop to bribes to get her either to eat or lose weight.
- Step 6: Disallow labeling or teasing in the home. Teach all your children the difference between what they eat and who they are.
- Step 7: Point your teen's attention to damaging media messages about acceptable body type and discuss the reality -- that bodies and people vary. Especially address websites that equate anorexia to a lifestyle choice rather than a disorder.
- TIP: Consider taking your teen to the doctor to check body-mass index and weight percentiles. A physician can sometimes objectively explore issues with your teenage girl without seeming threatening.
- Step 8: Be sensitive. Preface anything you say to your teenage girl about her diet with reassurance of your love. Compliment her positive behaviors and character rather than mentioning or focusing specifically on weight.