Think health, not weight

Share Button

I regularly get asked about teens’ changes in eating habits or teens’ hyper-focus on body shape and size. With the deluge of fitspo sites (fitness inspiration: sites masked as inspiration for health and fitness, but in reality present  unrealistic or unhealthy lifestyle habits) it is no wonder many parents and teenagers are left confused.

In my home we emphasise - exercise for enjoyment, not to punish your body (walking the dog is exercise!) and eat to nourish your body.

I asked my colleague Meg McClintock, to share her advice with our community:


Childhood is over, and that is exciting. You are old enough to be making more and more of your own decisions. Mum and Dad are hopefully beginning to hand over some control of the decisions that affect your health, like the food you eat or the activities you choose to do. But with this increase in control, comes greater responsibility. The habits you set up now, may well shape the kind of adult you become.

Here are 6 ways that you can set yourself up for a healthier future.


1. Think health, not weight.

If you focus on weight instead of health, then you leave yourself open to doing clearly unhealthy things to lose weight. Restrictive diets, laxative abuse or appetite suppressant use, excessive exercise, purging… to name a few. None are successful in actually achieving long-term weight loss and more often than not, they come back to bite you with nasty side effects and health problems. Rather than setting a ‘weightloss’ goal, set achievable, healthy, food and exercise goals. Aim for activities you enjoy doing and healthy foods you like to eat.

2. Don’t think ‘diet’.

Research suggests that teenagers who diet, or try to control their food intake to lose weight, are 3 times more likely to be overweight as adults. ‘Diets’ teach you not to respond your body’s feelings or ‘cues’ of fullness and hunger. Ignore these cues long enough and you lose touch of your body signals. This makes it very hard to eat according to your body’s needs. ‘Dieters’ are shown to be more susceptible to food marketing and a small ‘break’ of their diet is much more likely to lead to a food binge. Better than dieting, focus on healthy behaviours and habits that you can do everyday. Aiming for 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables everyday and reducing processed food, is a great place to start.

3. Listen to your body.

Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are satisfied and try to limit non-hungry or mindless eating. There are lots of different reasons why we eat. Hunger is just one. Some non-hungry eating is normal and healthy. Doing lots of non-hungry eating, of unhealthy choices, leads to unhealthy habits around food. This in turn leads to unhealthy bodies, regardless of body size or shape. When you find yourself about to eat ask yourself if you are actually hungry. If you are not, try to identify why you are about to eat, and if eating is how you want to deal with the issue or if there is something else you could do.

4. Don’t skip meals – especially breakfast.

You should be hungry in the morning, if not, perhaps you are eating more than your body needs in the evening. You don’t need to eat ‘by the clock’ but deliberately skipping meals, in an effort to cut calories, backfires by leaving you vulnerable to overeating later. It’s pretty normal to find yourself hungry every 3 hours or so. Listen and respond accordingly. It’s all part of listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues.

5. Clean up your social media.

If ‘fItspiration’ and ‘thinspiration’ is everywhere on your Facebook feed, your Pinterest and Instagram, then you are being bombarded with unrealistic messages about how bodies ‘should’ look. Even if you don’t mean to, you will compare your body to these images and find your body not up to scratch – because your body is real and not digitally enhanced. Rather than inspiring you to be healthy, if these images make you feel bad about your body, then they are causing you harm and making it more likely that you will make unhealthy choices. Replace them with truly positive pages such as Beauty Redefined, Body Positive Australia, Endangered Bodies Australia or Positive Body Image Inspiration to name a few. You can find all of these and more information via my Facebook page.

6. Want or need to make big diet changes? – Get advice!

There are lots of ways to eat a healthy diet, different people like to eat differently. Some people may also need, or want, to avoid different foods. But dietary restrictions, whether necessary, or by choice, make it harder to get all the different nutrients your body needs to be healthy. If you need to avoid a lot of foods because they just don’t agree with you, if you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease and need to completely avoid gluten or you want to go vegetarian, for example, getting professional advice from an Accredited Practicing Dietitian will help you do it in a healthy and balanced way.



Meg is founder of Choose Nutrition and is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian with a special interest in Women’s, Adolescent and Children’s Health. Meg is particularly interested in exploring the link between body image and food choice. Meg is dedicated to helping people develop healthy attitudes to their bodies and create a healthy relationship with food.

Share Button


  1. RT @FionaWiller: Think health, not weight

  2. Think health, not weight

  3. RT @cn_meg: Think health, not weight. My top health tips for teens. via @collettsmart