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Sometimes it can seem like new and contradictory reports on “good nutrition” come out every day. Scientists and their research are misunderstood by journalists looking for the best story, nutritionists seek to stand out from the crowd, and ordinary people are just trying to eat well. For young women, this can be a particularly difficult path to tread, as they struggle with new ideals of beauty which are forming in urban India; the habits they develop now might stay with them forever, so finding a grasp on the idea of eating well and holding on tightly is critical despite its difficulty. Luckily, parents can empower their daughters in a variety of ways: by understanding the issue themselves, by modelling good eating habits and thoughtful approaches towards food, and by encouraging young women to listen to their bodies and think for themselves. With love and determination, we can raise a generation of young women who understand the difference between ‘thin’ and ‘healthy’, and who are able to see through the hype around the latest nutritional discoveries and scams.
Getting To The Root
Are high-fat diets good or bad for the body [Fat, Not Glucose, Is The Preferred Fuel For Your Body, 20/08/2014]? What about carbohydrates? Is weight gain caused by genetics, calories, the balance of nutrients in our diet, processed food, or a complicated combination of these factors? Can someone be obese but healthy? How can we prevent the rising rates of diseases such as cancer in India? [50 Years Of Cancer Control In India, 20/08/2014] All of these questions are critical, yet a wide range of reliable sources deliver an even wider range of answers, making it difficult to find the truth amidst overblown news reports and even scientific confusion. If we as adults find it incredibly difficult to know what and how to eat in order to stay healthy, the confusion is even greater for our daughters.
One important factor to keep in mind is that news reports are usually written by reporters who, even if they are well-meaning, may not be any more familiar with scientific principles than we are. In addition, their job is to find the best headline [Lloyds And Carbon Monoxide, 20/08/2014], so studies may be misrepresented due to both misunderstanding and the need to catch the interest of readers. Numbers in particular may be misleading; for example, if eating a certain food causes a 50 per cent increase in a health problem, but the problem only occurred twice for every 10000 people who didn’t eat that certain food, that’s only one extra person; hardly something to worry ourselves sick about.
Recognising Real Problems
Women have specialised dietary needs throughout their life, as well as ailments which may be caused or aggravated by an incorrect diet. Eating habits established in adolescence can lead to conditions such as osteoporosis later in life [Complete Video Guide to Osteoporosis and Bone Health, 20/08/2014], pregnancy and breast-feeding place additional demands on a woman’s diet [National Guidelines On Infant and Young Child Feeding, 20/08/2014], and the pressure to remain beautiful (which all too often means “thin”) makes juggling all of these current and future dietary issues all that more difficult. However, trying to micromanage what we eat in order to cover all of our bases ranges from difficult to impossible – the stress of doing so might trigger its own problems! [Prevalence of Eating Disorders and Psychiatric Co-morbidity among Children and Adolescents, 20/08/2014] With this in mind, it seems more important to focus on eating a balanced diet, including as wide a range of food as possible, with enough of the essential nutrients and as little processed food as we can manage [Dietary Guidelines For Indians, 20/08/2014]. This is difficult enough, so it’s important to teach young women to be kind to themselves if they don’t manage it “well enough”, or all the time. Furthermore, the best new research indicates that eating this way has more of an effect on our health than our weight, particularly in women, who are naturally built to carry a certain amount of weight in order to protect vital organs and allow for child-rearing [Learn why women carry more fat than men, 20/08/2014]
How To Support Our Daughters
Many of us are unaware of our own relationship with food. Parents may inadvertently model a poor relationship by talking about how they shouldn’t have eaten a particular food, worrying excessively about their weight or how they eat, or – at the other end of the spectrum – by not caring enough about how they eat. It’s also easy to become overly critical of how our daughters eat, whether it’s too much, not enough, or the wrong kind of food. Instead, it is important to support them and guide them through this complicated terrain. Cooking together can be both a bonding and a teaching experience, allowing young women to feel capable of taking care of themselves and feeling empowered to eat healthily, with an eye to both what’s healthy and what tastes delicious. By encouraging our daughters to see through the hype, to eat what makes them feel good physically and mentally, and to focus on overall health, we will empower them to make good dietary choices throughout their lives.
“Contributed by Susan Myerson”