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Feeling fat affects your teen’s feeding habits

Adolescence is the stage of gender- specific biological changes, self-awareness; a stage of establishing a sense of independence, a transition into adulthood. It is during this time that eating habits are developed. The trend has however been such that more adolescents are consuming less vegetables and fruits, consuming more sweets and soft drinks, and skipping meals.

This is a concern since behaviors picked in adolescence then are likely to persist in adulthood. Moreover, overweight and obesity in children is more likely to persist in adulthood, with an increased risk of weight related non-communicable diseases.

Now researchers in Sweden investigated eating habits among adolescents and found body perception as the strongest risk factor for dieting behaviors in both boys and girls. In both cases, individuals that were not comfortable with their weight skipped breakfast, with more girls who felt overweight skipping more meals, than those who felt comfortable. They also found that more girls than boys felt the need to lose weight.

Independent to this however was a high body mass index or waist circumference which also increased the skipping of breakfast and other meals, and reduced consumption of fruits and vegetables. Now we have the habit of treating adolescents like ‘grown-ups’. They can eat what and when they please. And while it is fine to allow them to have autonomy, it is important to remain involved in their growing up, and especially in their meals.

Standard rules should include: no one leaves the house without breakfast, meals will be had together at the dining, and everyone will pack their break in the morning.

Also educate. Let them understand that during adolescence, muscles grow, and girls get a little more fat, but healthy food and physical activity can keep it in check.


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Christine Nderitu

As a licensed Nutritionist and Public Health Practitioner, Christine, helps people lead healthy lifestyles through education and behaviour change practices that are simple and practical. Her area of expertise lies not just in nutrition management but in health education and promotion in HIV/AIDS, Adolescent Health, Maternal and Child Health as well as Non-Communicable Diseases, which she has engaged in for a decade. She is also a columnist in a leading local Daily. Christine has a keen interest in Non-Communicable Diseases prevention and control. She feels that the world needs more stories that celebrate and normalize desired (good) behaviour, and humanity. “We have many preventable and often manmade public health issues today.”