Parenting Teens 4: Care and Feeding

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Parents are the primary influence in a young person’s life with regard to eating habits, a healthy lifestyle, and the disposition towards drug interventions. Parents are a teen’s personal Food and Drug Administration. Most teens do not make the healthiest food choices. However, this subject is actually more indicative of the parent’s inability to instill healthy habits. Behind every food choice is the underlying architecture for deeper issues such as control, satisfaction, pleasure, and self-image. Here, the family home profoundly shapes a child’s relationship with food, portion size, and health. These familial patterns establish the biochemical addictions and emotional associations which will follow a person into their adult life.

Our parenting philosophy is visible in our meals. It’s profoundly revealing.

Nutrition is vital to physical, mental and emotional health. It has been proven that the governments guidelines for what constitutes a healthy diet is not universally reliable, and even if it were, few would follow it’s advice. The “My Plate” promoted by Michelle Obama is a great idea to reframe portions and types of food, but how many restaurants or homes gave it any consideration. The new food pyramid relies heavily upon grains, cereals, and carbohydrates which comprise almost all processed foods. Of course, behind all these studies are the dollars from the food industry that lobbies for such outcomes. My point here is that whether or not we believe the FDA is trustworthy has little to do with our ability to manage our appetites. Do we really think the government can solve the deeper problem here, if most people are blissfully unaware of it?

The obesity and poor health epidemic is first and foremost a parenting problem, which is first a spiritual problem.

So why does this matter?

So far in this series I’ve shown how the underlying worldview and sense of self are the foundations for whole and healthy teen development. From these “spiritually discerned” realities, grow either a pathos or an ethos with regard to everything else. The way most people relate to food is pathological. Food in our culture is viewed not as the building blocks to build, heal, and repair the body, but the means to satisfy our cravings and give us pleasure even if it is making us sick and weak. This is proven by the prominence of restaurants, TV shows, and commercials that cater to appetite rather than health. The most common causes of sickness, death, and emotional decline are directly linked to lifestyle choices which impact health, and we all pay the price for it.

The path of progression from poor food and lifestyle choices is linked directly to world of prescription drugs and the function of modern medicine. The connection between poor food and poor health is often diminished or viewed as “unchangeable” when a pill or a therapy can alleviate the symptoms caused by poor choices. The pharmaceutical industry and the medical system divides people into sub-specialties that don’t always speak to each other. The result is an ongoing cascade of medical interventions that address symptoms and not root causes. Yes, there are conditions for which drug therapies are truly helpful and life saving, but the sheer volume of direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs should cause us to reflect more deeply on the underlying philosophy.

We became sick from our parent’s eating philosophies, now we remain sick by adopting the philosophy of world of medicine and pharmaceutical drug pushers. Behind the whole system, is the negation of our personal responsibility and our power to choose and regain our health.

Food alters mood. Sugar is highly addictive. The negative flow is obvious. However, the positive flow is often diminished and called junk science. Choosing food for it’s effect of stabilizing our mood, lowering anxiety, balancing our hormones, reducing inflammatory disease, reducing the impact of insulin, or managing our gut microbiome, are too often viewed as fringe science. We must keep in mind that the same science that told us high-sugar, low-fat diets were heart healthy according to the AHA, are no longer saying so. Follow the money and the truth is revealed.

Our confused world is unwilling to connect the rampant over-prescription of ADHD, Anxiety, and other therapies for mood and emotional disorders, to the negative impact of the modern Western diet on such mental health conditions, I want to bring it to the foreground for your consideration. Do you think a diet which produces insulin resistance, vitamin/mineral deficiencies, and obesity in 69% of Americans, is somehow adequate for producing mental health and stability? Yes there are cases where these therapies are necessary. And if you or a family are on one, do not discontinue it without the supervision of a doctor, as that can create dangerous levels of biochemistry in our brains.

My point is that the pathology of the world obscures the fact that food is a spiritual discipline which sets our life on a course. Spirituality and diet always go hand in hand. That which is inside directs what happens outside. A parent who has lost this spiritual connection in themselves, will have teens who lack this vital key to success in life. If you have ever consumed something and then felt guilty afterward, then you know this spiritual claim is true. The world says; “Don’t feel guilty, you did nothing wrong.” but spirituality says; “The guilt is real, listen to it because you have sinned against yourself and you know it.”

“When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.” (Proverbs 23:1-3)

“The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.” (Proverbs 28:7)

“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” (Proverbs 10:4)

What I’m inviting you to consider is that the path offered to us in our world is a partial truth. It takes the integrated whole of creation and sub-divides it into disintegrated, controllable pieces, leaving one’s spirituality as an unimportant option. Then it addicts each of us to our appetites (which are horrible guides) and then imprisons us in a closed system which alters our chemistry. Thus the path from food to drug intervention is seamless and trained into us from very early on.

If I were raised today, I’d likely be told that I have ADHD and given some medication to control spazzy behavior. I needed to run, and wear myself out riding my bike and explore everything, I didn’t need a drug to calm me down. My anxiety and melancholy as a teen was uncomfortable, but normal, and I learned how to work through it. There are many studies which show how a healthy diet and lots of exercise perform within 1-2% as effective as psychotropic medication. This means that for all but the most severe cases, lifestyle choice can eradicate the need for drug interventions. The American diet is making us very sick. That diet is a choice which is spiritually discerned.

I know this may seem harsh if you are living within the cascade of the wide road to destruction. Please don’t make massive overcorrections which will bring more harm. STAY ON YOUR MEDICATION until told otherwise. This problem came to exist over time and will be healed over time. Now that you have been jolted awake, you are free to begin arming yourself with helpful information. Work in conjunction with your therapists, doctors, and care teams to chart your specific course correction. What you can do today, is make a slightly healthier choice than what your appetites says to choose. Eat a bit less. Purchase less junk, processed foods and more healthy, whole foods. Focus on reducing the impact of insulin and inflammation in the body, not on losing weight or cutting calories. Focus on feeding your body with the goal of healing it and restoring it and over time, you’ll discover just how much power you have over all these issues. You’ll discover that your thinking is superior to your appetite for lifestyle choices. If as a parent we do this, our teens will see it and learn. They will feel better and do much better.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

How does a family have an authentic relationship with each other and the world around them if we are only interacting with the biochemically enhanced version of each other? The right food and supplementation can make a huge difference and it frees a person from taking on the negative self-identity of a sick or drug dependent person, which is perhaps the worst part.

We are not our therapies, or addictions, or our weight or our shape, we are The Beloved, but most of us have never known it. The world teaches us to love our sickness which comes from appetite, and wisdom teaches us that healing is a lifestyle of right living (righteousness) which is comes from an illuminated Spirit.

Life and Death are set before our teens every day. It’s our job to train them Choose Life.