Updated: Mar 14
I had a blog follower reach out and ask this question. “What do I do for my older teenage daughter that is under weight?”. Since I am not an expert in this field, my goal is to share some resources and give some suggestions for looking further.
One of the scariest things as a parent is when your teenage daughter doesn't seem to be eating enough. You may start to worry that she has an eating disorder, or that she's not getting the nutrition she needs. This can be a difficult time for both parents and teenagers, but it's important to get help if you're concerned about your daughter's weight. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the reasons why adolescent girls may be underweight, and what you can do to help them gain weight safely.
As a nurse, one of the things that first come to mind with dealing with being underweight and a female is making sure we are not dealing with an eating disorder. As females, we are much more likely to worry about our appearance and our self-image. As a matter of fact, this has been seen in some circles as a “Top 10 Trend in Health Care”. This topic of weight, as well as others, are in the spotlight for making girl’s physical and mental health a priority. The push is to give girls and women a focused effort going into 2022.
There could be many reasons why a teen age girl might be under weight. Let's explore some here.
My first suggestion would be to reach out to your health care provider. It would be important to have a plan in place to do an assessment to see if counseling may be needed for a potential eating disorder or to determine if there is a medical diagnosis that needs to be addressed with further testing.
Another good step would be to have a conversation with your daughter. Do you have an open relationship where you both can speak freely? If not, is there a female relative that your daughter might be comfortable talking to in confidence? Sometimes that is hard to realize that your own child may not want to talk to you but that is a top for another day. Often times my daughters have been able to talk in confidence with my sisters, their aunts, before they would talk to me. It doesn’t matter who they talk to as long as it is someone that would have their best interest at heart and is willing to take the next step in seeking help.
One of the reasons why your daughter is not gaining weight may be because of her activity level. If she is very active, then she may need more food to support her growth and development. The teen age years is a time with a lot of changes in the body are occurring at a rapid pace. How active is your teen? If they are active in sports or other activities, they may need some extra calories to keep up.
When it comes to eating what do you notice?
· Is your teen skipping meals for any reason? Is she going to school without breakfast? · Are they complaining of any mouth or teeth issues? · Does she complain of any nausea or vomiting? · Are they having abdominal pain with eating or are they often constipated or have loose stools? · Any chance they may have picked up a habit of smoking or drug use? · Does your teen appear to be under stress from school, friends, extra activities, peer pressure, or being worried about her weight? · How are the teen’s sleep habits? Is she getting enough rest?
This is one of the most social periods of their life and peer pressure is often at its peak. What are her friends like? Is there pressure to be “skinny”. As a parent it is always good to know everything you can about the friends they associate with.
Another reason why adolescent girls may be underweight is malnutrition. This could be due to a lack of nutrients in their diet or not eating enough overall. Does your teen have access to the right foods and snacks? To try and gain weight adding healthy oils into the diet such as nuts, olive oil, and avocados could be helpful.
One concern could be Diabetes. Does your teen daughter complain about excessive thirst or urination?
Thyroid conditions could cause weight loss as well.
Another question to ask is there has been changes in her menstrual cycle? Light or heavy periods?
The most important thing is to first rule out any medical reason for not gaining weight. Secondly, rule out any possibility of an eating disorder. Lastly, look at healthy ways to add calories and weight to your teen. Some ideas for promoting healthy weight gain in your teen are as follows:
1. Eat 5-6 times per day. Drink your water or other beverages before or after your meal so you don’t “fill up” on the liquids. 2. Continue to try and eat healthy foods but stay away from the “light” or “low fat” versions. Go for the gusto in regular yogurt or regular cottage cheese vs. the low fat or light versions. Same with cheese or other foods. 3. Peanut butter or nuts have a powerful pack of calories for a small amount. These “nut” fats are also the good fats for you. Trail Mix would be a good snack option. 4. As mentioned earlier, the good fats and oils added to such as salad dressings, guacamole, and olive oil. 5. Lastly, find a Registered Dietician possibly through your clinic that can help put a meal plan together based on your likes and dislikes and make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need daily.
Losing weight is a cause for concern for any parent, but when your teenage daughter seems to be losing weight inexplicably, it can be downright alarming. In this blog post, we’ve outlined some of the most common causes of weight loss in teenagers and ways that you can encourage them to start gaining weight again. Although it might be difficult to see your child struggle with their health, know that there are things you can do to help them get healthy and back on track. We hope this information was helpful and that you will subscribe to our website so you can stay up-to-date on our latest posts.
As always, thank you for taking time out of your busy day to stop by and spend a few minutes on the website. Feel free to suggest a topic or ask a question and I will do my very best to get you the information.
Until next time,
Resources for more information: