By Kim Beavers

uberty is a loaded word. Long-standing humor about how we parents make our teens mad by simply breathing hits close to home. So, how in the world is a well-meaning, breathing, anger-inspiring parent supposed to help a child gain a positive body image through puberty? Well, as the mother of a teenager, I cannot say I know for sure, but what I can say is that looking to the experts for guidance is a good start.

What is body image? 

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. It encompasses: 

● What you believe about your appearance

● How you feel about your body (height, shape, and weight) 

● How you feel in your body

How do we set the stage for our children (both male and female) to have a positive body image? Here is some important information, and a few resources, to help jumpstart some healthy conversations. 

Teaching and modeling
Teaching children to respect and embrace diversity, including body diversity, sets the foundation for body appreciation. Modeling this desired behavior is even more important than teaching it. Begin by appreciating your own body— even the undesirable or “needing improvement” parts. This can be hard, right? Your body is strong, it is resilient, it is worth caring for and taking care of. Do you give your body rest? Is there time scheduled into your day for adequate sleep? Do you honor your body with activity, and fuel it when needed? Are you practicing self-care? Setting the example of body care and kindness in your home will help start your children in the right direction.

Family Mealtime
Make family mealtime positive. Celebrate food as nourishment (not good or bad). Prioritize the importance of being together as a family, not portion sizes or weight. Engage in conversation and unity as a family, and keep in mind, elaborate meals are not required. Teens can be pulled in other directions around dinner time so remember to make this category creative— mealtimes can include breakfast or snack.  The Mexican Pita Pizza recipe included is simple enough for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack. It’s a sure food to bring the family together!

Be the Resource
Talk openly about puberty changes and monitor media messages. Be your child’s resource. Make efforts to foster an open, honest relationship so that he or she can come to you for answers to questions regarding body concerns. 

Resources for more information: 

• “Body Kindness” by Rebecca Scritchfield;

• “My Body’s Superpower: The Girls Guide to Growing Up Healthy During Puberty” by Maryann Jacobsen; 

• Podcast TNC 103: “Puberty, Body Dissatisfaction and Girls”;

~ Eat well, live well ~ Kim

Mexican Pita Pizza
This is a great alternative to nachos— the whole wheat pita is higher in fiber than chips! You can customize the flavor by using mild, medium or hot salsa. Top with chicken or shrimp for extra protein. 

Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 teaspoon organic canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can lower-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
¾ cup prepared salsa of choice
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 ½ cup reduced-fat Mexican cheese
6 whole wheat pita rounds

Preheat oven to 400°.
Place pitas on a baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes flipping after about 4 minutes. 
For the topping, spray a non-stick pan with vegetable oil. Add Canola oil over medium heat. Once hot, sauté onions and garlic for 3 minutes. Add beans and salsa, stirring to combine. Heat for an additional 3 minutes before removing from heat and stirring in the cilantro. Top each pita with 1/3 cup bean mixture and top with ¼ cup cheese. Place pitas back in the oven for 4 minutes to melt the cheese. Serve warm.

Yield:  6 servings
Nutrition Breakdown: Calories 260, Fat 5g (3g saturated), Cholesterol 15mg, Sodium 830mg, Carbohydrate 41g, Fiber 8g, Protein 15g
Diabetes Plate Plan: 2 Starches, 1 Lean meat, 1 Vegetable

Photo by Rahul Upadhyay on Unsplash