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4 Tips to Help Teens Struggling with Low Body Mass Index (BMI)

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The adolescence period is more than just a transitional phase from childhood to adulthood. It is a sensitive stage where many teenagers inevitably fall into destructive habits. 

Research has found that social media has a lot to do with teen body image problems. At least 2% of the population suffers from body dysmorphia. Many teens isolate themselves and may even starve themselves just to attain an idolized body figure. 

This tug of war with their health can lead to anxiety, depression, and the need to take extreme measures. Such clinical conditions last even in adulthood. It’s high time that parents and educators take charge to help struggling adolescents. 

In this article, we will discuss four tips that can help struggling teens gain (and maintain) a healthy weight. 

The No-Skipping-Breakfast Rule

Every teen is unique, and while some look forward to enjoying the first meal of the day, others don’t. The Conversation states that the three common reasons why teenagers may skip breakfast include –

  • They may not feel that hungry
  • They’re running late
  • They may be on a restrictive diet

There could be other (personal) reasons as well, such as staying up late and grazing on snacks. Breaking the fast of seven to eight hours with a healthy, nutrition-packed meal is vital. This is especially true for underweight teenagers with high body metabolism.

However, just about anything will not work. For instance – some teenagers may grab highly refined cereal with sugary fruit juice. These will only starve the body of nutrition, making them more lethargic. Parents must encourage their teens to not only avoid skipping breakfast but also consume a balanced meal in the morning.

Ideally, breakfast should be had within two hours of waking up. If the teen has early morning classes, prepare nutritious overnight oats or easy burritos. A protein-packed first meal with healthy fats will help them gain body mass. Examples include egg and avocado sandwiches, peanut oatmeal porridge, and tofu scramble.

Moving Beyond Bigger Portions

Most parents and educators encourage underweight teenagers to increase their meal portions. While the logic behind this seems straightforward, it’s a bit complicated. Underweight teens have a fast metabolism, but many consume imbalanced nutrition.

Suppose your teenager frequently eats large portions of tinned vegetables, cheese, ready-to-cook meals, and packaged buns and bread, among others. Given their metabolism, they may be able to easily shed the calories gained from these processed foods.

However, since such meals are lacking in nutrition, they offer nothing to sustain healthy mass. It’s time to prepare scrumptious portions using whole (preferably organic) ingredients that instill a love for balanced meals in your teen.

Let’s see what a day of three balanced meals would look like for a 16-year-old. They can start their morning with an egg and avocado sandwich along with a protein shake. At lunchtime, pack them a chicken pita wrap or salad with a side of some fruits and flavored kefir.

Finally, end the day with a nutritious dinner like pesto pasta or a Mexican rice casserole. They will start looking forward to enjoying their meals each day.

Nursing Interventions to Spark Behavioral Change

Teenage years are often volatile, as an individual’s body goes through emotional, biological, and mental changes. Often rebellious, teens rarely pay attention to their parents or educators. This fact applies to their eating habits as well.

It is not uncommon to find teenagers skipping meals and trying out fad diets to achieve an ideal weight. Some take it to the extreme and end up with harmful eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

The UMass Chan Medical School states that eating disorders among teens have doubled since the pandemic. Even today, these conditions are on the rise. Such delicate cases require nursing intervention. Expert nurses are well-trained through an offline or online Master’s FNP program to make a subjective assessment beyond all stigma and shame.

Getting a teen to open up about their disorder can be really difficult. Nurses may impart knowledge in community centers or schools, but a one-on-one assessment is the best. According to Wilkes University, family nurse practitioners caring for those with eating disorders use diagnostic reasoning to impact individual outcomes.

Some ways in which nurses help teens to open up about their condition and accept help include –

  • Active listening
  • Honest and open communication
  • Keeping a non-judgmental attitude throughout
  • Allowing the teen to participate in their recovery treatment plan

Encouraging Regular Exercise

Don’t people exercise only to lose weight? No, because certain weight training exercises may help teenagers to gain healthy body mass. This is not to say that parents must allow their teenagers to take a gym membership.

Some exercises can easily be done at home. For instance – squats, push-ups, and lunges are three effective ones. Your teen may resist this notion. As their parent, you must set an example to model. Get up early to exercise and invite your teen to join you.

Also, try to make these sessions fun. Maybe ask your teen to explore nature through a biking adventure in a local park. You can also watch an exercise video together while imitating the steps. As they gradually show interest and make progress, appreciate their efforts.

The three main types of exercise that teens need are aerobics, those that strengthen their muscles, and those useful for bone strength. Examples are as follows –

  • Aerobics – swimming, dancing, or biking
  • Muscle-Strengthening – climbing stairs, squats, and sit-ups
  • Bone-Strengthening – running, skipping, and brisk walk

Parting Thoughts

Never before was teenage life so stressful and complicated. Teens must not be allowed to fend for themselves, especially when it comes to life-altering decisions like what to eat, who to hang out with, and what to do on social media. 

The Guardian published an article in which Instagram was found to be the main culprit behind body image issues. The algorithms are set in such a manner that brief browsing through fitness content floods the feed with weight-loss images. 

It’s time to give the power back into the hands of our teens. Otherwise, they will continue to suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression. 


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