Are Cleanses the New Eating Disorder?

juice cleanse

Are juice cleanses the new eating disorder? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Cleanses are healthy, right?  They are touted on major talk shows, endorsed by celebrities, and billed as a healthy way to lose weight and rid the body of toxins.  But are they actually good for your body?  And is the “cleanse culture” ushering in a new kind of eating disorder? To answer these questions, let’s start by looking at some of the most popular cleanses and the benefits they promise to bring.

  • The Master Cleanse – 10 day liquid diet consisting primarily of lemon juice, water, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup.  Promises rapid weight loss and toxin removal.
  • LemonAid 48 Hour Detox Diet – 2 day liquid diet consisting of a specific lemonade formula.  Promises a lighter, leaner you.
  • iZO JuiceFeast Cleanse – Liquid diet consisting of organic juice that people can do for any length of time.  Promises everything from quick weight loss to spiritual renewal.
  • 21 Day Clean Detox Program – 21 day program that includes specific shakes, supplements, and one small daily meal consisting of food from an approved list.   Promises to remove common food allergens, rebuild the body, and gain a better understanding of how your body reacts to certain foods.
  • Blueprint Cleanse – 3 day cleanse that features juice all day, two snacks, and a vegetarian meal at dinner.  Promises to relieve stress on the digestive system and alleviate toxins.
  • The Quantum Wellness Cleanse – 21 day program that eliminates alcohol, gluten, added sugar, caffeine, and animal products from the diet.  Promises to kick-start physical and mental wellbeing.

While many experts agree that short cleanses like the LemonAid 48 hour detox or the Blueprint cleanse may not necessarily deliver significant benefit, they also agree that extreme calorie reduction for a few days isn’t going to do any harm either.  But when this kind of extreme calorie restriction goes on for a week or more, concerns are being raised about how that is impacting the body.  But even doing something like the Master Cleanse for 10 days isn’t the real issue nutritionists and experts in this area are worried about.

The concern over the popularity of these cleanses is that when people, especially women, go through one of these programs and experience rapid weight loss from extreme calorie restriction or other temporary benefits, they can become obsessed with cleansing.  This can lead to going through a new cleanse every week or two.  Since most cleanses involve extreme calorie reduction and intake of a very limited group of nutrients, this healthy fad, when taken to extremes, can have serious health consequences.    Some have even raised concerns that this type of behavior may be developing into a new kind of eating disorder.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) defines an eating disorder as a serious emotional and physical problem that involves extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors around weight and food.  Given that definition, it is easy to understand why there are growing concerns about the cleansing craze.  NEDA has recently added a category of eating disorder to their website called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder that encompasses behavioral patterns where a person fails to take in enough food and experiences serious nutritional deficiencies but without the psychological factors seen with Anorexia Nervosa.  While not specifically related to cleanse craziness, this new disorder seems to encompass the problem that would result from extreme cleansing.

5 Signs Your Child is Being Bullied Online

Cyber Bullying

Know the warning signs to help protect your child from cyber bullying (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

There is no question that being a teenager today is different than it was when we were teenagers but one of the things many parents don’t realize is that bullying today is different too.  The stereotypical bully from our childhood is not our teen’s bully and the way today’s teens are being bullied is very different than the kind of bullying we may have experienced.  When parents don’t recognize the signs of bullying in their teens, their teens are at risk.  This risk only increases when you consider the fact that research show that when the bullying is happening online, only 5% of teens will tell an adult.  The best way to protect your child is to know how to recognize the signs that your child is being bullied online.

1.     Changes in Online Behaviors

If your normally chatty teenager suddenly seems quiet and sullen, it may be a sign that something is going on.  The teen years are all about social interaction and seeking the acceptance of peers.   For today’s teens their social universe includes texting, snapchatting, skyping, and gaming.  Watch for changes in your teen’s behavior in relation to online activity.  If they have been playing Xbox with their friends for months and suddenly stop playing or they seem upset or angry after checking SnapChat or Facebook, these are online bullying red flags.

2.     Avoiding Online Interactions

Teens that are experiencing online bullying may begin avoiding any interaction with others online.  Kids who used to fight for more online time may stop using the time they have.  The number of text messages they send or receive may drop.  They may close online accounts like Facebook and Twitter or seem hesitant to do anything online.

3.     Secretive Behavior in Regards to Online Activity

Many teens who are being cyberbullied become secretive around adults, especially parents.  They may stop reading a text message or close their browser window when you enter the room.   If your teen suddenly seems more secretive or as if they are trying to hide something, this is another red flag.

4.     Spending More Time Online

While some teens will respond to cyberbullying by trying to avoid the source of that bullying, other teens have the opposite reaction.  These teens may spend even more time online, checking and rechecking things.  If your teen starts spending more time involved in online interaction, especially if they are tense, stressed, or upset during or after that time, they may be the victim of a cyberbully.

5.     Exhibiting Other Signs of Bullying

Cyberbullying is still bullying which means that teens who are victims may also exhibit all the other signs that they are being bullied.  These signs can include changes in eating habits, difficulties sleeping, unwillingness to go to school, withdrawing from teams and favorite activities, and falling grades.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, talk to your teen and then seek support from the school, the local police, and a mental health provider to develop a plan to end the bullying and take care of your teen.

Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias, Oh My!

teen phobias

Make sure you know the difference between a simple fear and when your teen’s phobia needs treatment (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Everyone gets scared or anxious sometimes; it is an important part of being human.  Fear and anxiety are useful emotional responses because they can cause us to change our behavior in ways that protect us from danger.  The teen years are full of situations that create fear and cause anxiety and learning to navigate through those situations is a normal part of moving through the teen years.  However, sometimes those fears and anxieties can become overwhelming and all-encompassing, limiting the potential and progress of our teens.  In order for parents to know when their teen’s fear or anxiety has crossed the threshold from healthy to hindering, they need a solid understanding of the biology of fear, anxiety, and phobias and how to tell when their teen is in trouble and needs help.

Fear

Fear is an emotional response to a specific situation.  The emotion causes several immediate changes in our bodies that are aimed at preparing us to handle the danger at hand.  These changes are also called the fight or flight response because our body is getting ready for us to either run for our life or flight for it.  To do that, our heart rate increases as does our breathing.  This helps get more oxygenated blood to the parts of the body that will need it most for fighting or fleeing, the arms and legs.  This can cause a queasy stomach, paleness, and perspiration.  All of this is our natural, healthy response to a specific threatening situation.

Anxiety

Fear is to anxiety as a tree is to a forest.  Where fear is a direct response to a specific, immediate situation as in “something is happening”, anxiety is a generalized feeling of unease as in “something might happen”.   Anxiety also serves us well from a survival standpoint as it can alert us to the potential for danger before we find ourselves in the position of having to flee or fight.  It can make us more cautious and can help us avoid danger or discomfort.  Anxiety, to a certain degree, is also a healthy, normal response to perceived or potential dangers.

Phobias

While fear and anxiety can be healthy responses, they can also expand beyond healthy to become unhealthy, hindering, and even harmful.  When fear takes on a life of its own and expands to encompass things that are not actually a direct and immediate threat, that fear becomes a phobia.   Phobias are fueled by fearful emotions that are severe, extreme, and persistent and can trip the fight or flight response even when there is no direct and immediate threat of harm.   Anxiety can also expand beyond what is normal and helpful to become a phobia, an anxiety disorder, or and anxiety disorder tied to a phobia.

When it comes to fear and anxiety, the primary differences between a normal, healthy response and a harmful, hindering response are the direct nature of the threat, the magnitude of the response, how appropriate the response is to the situation, and the persistence of the emotional response even after any actual threat has passed.

Teens experiencing normal fear and anxiety may need their parents’ guidance and support to get through the trials and tribulations of the teen years.  But for those teens whose fear and anxiety have crossed the threshold into phobia and disordered response professional help from a mental health provider may be needed to help them learn to how to manage their fear and anxiety so they can have a normal life.

5 Tips for Dealing with Teen Drama

teen drama

Use these tips to navigate the years of teen drama (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

It is almost time for the Academy Awards to be handed out and you might be thinking that the award for the most dramatic performance should go to…..your teenager.  There is no question that were teenagers go, drama will follow but many parents don’t feel equipped to step into the supporting actor roles our teens need us to play during these difficult times.  But in truth, our teens need us to not only to fill that supporting role but also to act as producer, director, and possibly personal assistant as they make their way from childhood to adulthood.  If you often feel like you are ready to storm off the set, here are some tips to help you keep your cool and deal with your teen’s drama.

1.     Don’t Dive Into the Drama

As any moviegoer knows, the job of the supporting actor is to stay above the fray so that they can be available to help the hero or heroine at the most critical point in the storyline.  Keeping yourself out of the emotions will ensure you have a clear head and can offer your teen the right kind of guidance and advice.

2.     Don’t Dish It Out, They Can’t Take It

Inevitably, almost every teenager at one point in their life will utter the most devastating words a parent can hear.  “I hate you!”  And because we are all human, our immediate response when stung is often to sting back.  In these situations, your role shifts from supporting role to public relations rep and your goal is to mitigate the damage these words can do specifically by preventing the worst possible outcome from happening, and stopping yourself from lashing out too.

3.     Remember That Even Big Budget Films Still Have a Budget

No matter what is causing your teen’s current drama, there isn’t an amount of money in the world that will make it go away.  These are the times when you have to become the producer who understands that not all problems can be solved simply by throwing money at them.  The lessons about money that you teach your teens during these times will be more important than almost anything else you tell them on the topic.

4.     Great Actors Have to Be Great Listeners

One of the biggest challenges to the parent-teen relationship through these trying times is communication.  It can seem like you are speaking different languages or as if you are operating from different pages in the same script.  But as any actor knows, the key to a great performance is being good at listening to what others are saying to you.  To ensure you stay on the same page, make time to listen to what your teen has to say.

5.     Leave the Judging to the Academy

There are so many points in your teen’s life where they already feel like they are being judged that one of the most positive things you can do for them is to not be one of the judges.

 

5 Tips for Helping Teens Develop Healthy Relationships

teen dating relationship

Help your teen know how to be in a healthy relationship (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention month which offers parents the perfect opportunity to talk about the realities of dating violence with their teens.  Helping your teenager understand the signs of an unhealthy relationship and making sure they know the difference between love and abuse are important steps parents can take to help prevent this problem.  And while it is important for teens to know the signs and dangers of teen dating violence, this month also offers the perfect opportunity to talk about the other side of that coin, healthy teen relationships.

In our role as parents, it is often as important to provide a good example to emulate as it is to provide cautionary tales.  While we can’t always model the perfect relationship for our children, we can understand how our relationships impact their attitudes about and understanding of romantic attachments and the rules of those relationships.  Here are some of the things parents can do to help teens learn the right rules of the road when it comes to romantic relationships.

1.     Be A Good Role Model

Your relationship with your spouse or significant other is one of the most important factors in how your teen will behave in a relationship.  This means that if you are modeling healthy behaviors, that it what they will expect and provide in their relationships.

2.     Don’t Confuse Picture Perfect with Healthy

Healthy doesn’t mean perfect and it doesn’t mean everyone is happy all the time.  It is as important for your teens to see how you treat each other when things are not going well as it is for them to see you during happy times.  This doesn’t mean air your dirty laundry in the living room, but rather that witnessing healthy conflict resolution, good communication, and supportive partnerships will model important parts of romantic relationships.

3.     Arm Them With Information

While it may be uncomfortable for both you and your teens, you need to talk to them about sex and intimacy.  Providing factual information and answering their questions can empower your teen to make the best decision possible if they find themselves in an unhealthy situation or environment.

4.     Give Them the Lead

Sometimes, in our effort to shield and protect our teens from the worst of the world, we do them a great disservice.  In order to have the confidence to say “No” to the cute boy at school or to break up with the hottest girl in class because she is manipulative and mean, our teens need to know that we have faith in their ability to make good decisions and that they have our support if they stray off course.

5.     Help Them Define Their Own Boundaries

One of the most important factors in any healthy relationship is boundaries that both people respect.  This is one of the things that can be most challenging to teens.  The excitement of new love can turn a grown woman into a giddy school girl, which is why we need to talk to teens about healthy boundaries.

Benefits of Family Counseling

Family Counseling

Read more to learn the benefits of family counseling (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

When one person in a family unit is struggling, the entire family suffers, and it can be difficult to make real changes unless the family is working together.  This is the foundation on which family counseling is built.  Families can seek this kind of counseling for a variety of reasons and it can be very beneficial in families with a teenager in trouble.

The end goal of family counseling should always be to build a strong, healthy, happy family.  Depending on the issues at hand, the family counseling sessions may include two, three, or any other number of family members.  Counseling sessions can include some family members on certain days and others on different days.  Who attends is as personal to each family as what brought them there in the first place.

If you are considering family counseling, here are some of the benefits you and your family can get from participating:

1.     Improved Communication

Family counseling is an excellent way to overcome communication challenges and for everyone in the family to learn how to communicate more effectively.  For many families, communication is a key starting point because until the lines of communication are open and operating, it can be very difficult to tackle other issues successfully.

2.     Support for Substance Abuse Treatment

For families dealing with the aftermath of a substance abuse problem, family counseling can provide a safe place to learn how to support the family member with the problem.  It can also help to heal the wounds to other family members caused by the addiction.

3.     Building Stronger Bonds

One of the most rewarding and little recognized benefits of family counseling is building stronger family bonds.  With the guidance of their chosen provider, families can learn to listen more effectively, empathize more completely, and understand the wants and needs of the others in their family.  The skills learned in family counseling help build these bonds and strengthen the overall family structure.

4.     Dealing with Grief and Loss

One of the most difficult things for families to survive is the loss of a family member.  Regardless of whether the person lost was a parent, child, or sibling, learning to accept the loss and move through the grieving process together can not only build those strong bonds but ensure that everyone makes it through that process healthy and whole.

5.     Managing Mental Health Conditions

Families who are dealing with an ongoing or chronic mental health condition can also benefit from family counseling.  These kinds of conditions can include depression, anxiety disorders like OCD, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and self harm.

6.     Dealing with Dysfunction

The bottom line is that family counseling can help family units learn to understand and overcome whatever dysfunction is currently plaguing them.  By providing family members with a safe space to share feelings and teaching them how to communicate and be supportive of each other, family counseling helps build the kind of bonds that keep families together, even during the toughest times.