I have taught teenagers in private and public education for close to a decade, and it has been both a wonderful and challenging experience. In terms of their personalities, teenagers vary greatly. Some are idealistic, others are angry, some are apathetic, others are intensely motivated to achieve. Some can be cruel, defensive, selfish, judgmental, and deceitful. Many are funny, tolerant, perceptive, clever, honest, and generous.
Unfortunately, I have witnessed one specific quality that currently unites all adolescents and teenagers, and that is their poor physical health. Even the top athletes in school do not maintain a robust energy and immunity. Within a single school year I have had students experience hospitalizations for what began as a common cold, weeks of school missed for tonsillitis and an eventual tonsillectomy, medicated depression and anxiety, thyroid imbalances causing a frequent need to visit the nurse and an inability to stay awake in class, diabetes complications, ADHD causing outbursts in class for some and then those with ADD paralyzed with an inability to finish their tests because they can’t concentrate. This litany of ailments could continue into the realm of autoimmune disorders and autism, not to mention that almost all students complain of either allergies or asthma. It is a sad moment when, for example, my student asks me (as an adult he trusts) to explain why, after weeks of coughing and trying to get better, he is still sick. One of the primary reasons I became a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner was to get to the root of his question. Adolescence is a challenging time, with having to come to terms with body development, self esteem concerns, and the pressure to succeed and lay the foundation for adult life. In my experience working with teenagers, I know they are often overwhelmed, unsure, and confused. They do want to “eat healthy and exercise”, but are mis-guided as to how general “healthy eating” differs from truly supportive traditional nutrition. They want to run faster, jump higher, and work out stronger, but don’t know what foods most accelerate athletic performance and improve endurance. What an added burden for so many to subsequently struggle with weak immunity, injury, or a condition that requires medication and lowers their daily quality of life.
My three main observations are that:
- Adolescents are getting sick more frequently, and are not able to mount efficient immune attacks against viruses and infections which drag on for weeks or even months.
- Adolescents are presenting with an inability to concentrate and complete required tasks. This often evolves into more debilitating conditions.
- Adolescents are very confused about what constitutes the “nutrient-dense food” which will build their bodies, optimize performance, and protect against disease. Many are under the impression, for example, that pasteurized orange juice is health-promoting and good for colds, which it is not.
But! There can be another path for children to take as they move through puberty, into adolescence and then onto adulthood. Instead of them traveling a difficult path crowded with increasing health challenges, young people counseled in traditional nutrition will take a path that moves away from the low-fat, high-carbohydrate, or empty calorie aspects of the food pyramid guidelines. To address these challenges, I have developed the Freedom of Health™ program to educate and guide young people and their parents in implementing the foundations of traditional nutrition.