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Fuel your body

13 Years & Older

Food, glorious food!

Food is such an enjoyable part of life. Not only does it keep us alive and well, but it also represents sustainable gardening and farming, and cooking and kitchen skills. It’s a way to connect with our culture, build relationships and celebrate special occasions (birthday cake, anyone?)

These days, there are so many rules and mixed messages about what we ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be eating for the healthiest body that it can completely take the enjoyment out of food. Here, you’ll find all the latest information from nutrition experts to help you embrace food as well as your body.

There is SO MUCH information in the real and digital world about food and eating, but all the mixed messages make it impossible to figure out what we should actually be doing to fuel our bodies for growth and energy.

Across the globe, there are thousands of companies competing for our attention and money and they’re way more interested in selling a diet or product than looking out for our health or wellbeing. In fact, they often make more money when they make us feel bad about our body or convince us that we need to change it.

The thing is though, food is pretty incredible. It fuels our bodies for all the crazy growth happening during puberty – up to 8cm in height each year. Teens also double their body weight between the ages of 9 and 18, as adult bodies have more muscle mass and more fat stored than kids’ bodies. We are all unique, and your body has its own plan to grow into an adult body in terms of size, shape and composition. The thing it needs to get there? Food!

Human bodies are pretty clever, if you think about it. Through physical feeling and hormonal signals, our body can tell us when we’re hungry and when we’re full, what foods we feel like eating, and even remind us to eat a wide variety of different foods. Our bodies have got it all figured out!

If we threw out the rule book and forgot everything we have seen about diets or diets-in-disguise, it wouldn’t take long to realise that we can in fact trust ourselves to eat and move in ways that are good for us.

When we listen to our body’s signals, we actually end up eating enough food to fuel our body, eat more fruits and veggies, and get the mix of foods we need to provide us with nutrients. It has also been shown to improve our mental health and reduce stress.

By eating in this way, instead of getting hung up on rules about what we ‘should’ be eating, we have enough fuel to keep growing, do all the things we love, pay attention in class and even fight off sicknesses and heal injuries. See, we told you human bodies are clever!

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    Eat to fuel your body.
When it comes to eating, it’s your job to make sure you eat the foods your body wants and that you eat enough to fuel your body for the day. If we don’t eat enough, it doesn’t take long for the mood swings to set in! It also makes it harder to pay attention in class or find the energy to join in on things you care about, like sports or social events.
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    Listen to your body.
Our body can tell us when we are hungry and when we are full – it’s a good idea to keep listening for these signals and act on them. When we’re hungry, our body releases hormones that tell our brain to start looking for food or what foods we would like to eat. When we’re full, we have hormonal signals to tell us we are satisfied with our meal and our interest in food reduces. There are also physical feelings we can look out for, like our stomach feeling progressively empty (hungry) or full and rounded (full).
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    Eat as many colours as you can.
You don’t need to focus too much on what you are eating – listen to your body, not your brain! Our bodies tell us what foods we feel like eating, and remind us to mix it up a bit if we’ve been eating the same thing over and over again. Trust this. If you want to eat to improve your health, focus on eating enough food and adding in lots of colour from fresh foods like fruit and veggies.
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    Try new foods – you may be surprised by what you discover!
As your body changes throughout adolescence, your tastes, senses and preferences are likely to change too. This can be an opportunity to try foods you thought were ‘gross’ when you were a kid. The more variety we have in what we eat, the better – and trying new things is a great way to open up your options!
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    Don’t make food the ‘bad guy’.
You’ve probably heard people talk about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, or ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ foods. Some people might even use the term ‘junk food’. These labels aren’t very helpful though because food is food, and all food is fuel. Diet companies are trying to make money by pressuring you into signing up for their latest trending diet or buying their supplements. A ‘diet’ usually involves cutting out food groups and uses messages that make us fearful of food – don’t let these messages suck you in and have a negative effect on your life and body.
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    Food first.
Eating a mix of foods will provide you with plenty of nutrients to keep your body working well. In fact, getting nutrients from food is so much better for your body than using pills or powders! Remember that the companies and influencers advertising these products are doing it to make money, they aren’t really looking out for your wellbeing.

Interactive Downloads

Download these free resources to help you embrace your body!

Embrace Key Messages To Remember Printable

Food, Health & Wellness Red Flags Fact Sheet

Social
Media Clean
Out

Quick
Fuel Ideas Worksheet

Move Nourish Respect Enjoy Printable

Sparkle
From The
Inside Printable

ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS

Use your mouse (or finger if you’re on mobile) to select each tile and check out the answers to the Embrace Kids Questions from our experts.

Q: Do I need sports drinks to rehydrate or help with my performance?

A: Unless you’re an elite athlete or running a marathon, you probably don’t need a sports drink. Studies show that water is actually the best thing to rehydrate your body - everything else is marketing! Of course, if you like the taste, it’s OK to have one every now and then as long as you know that you don’t really neeeed it.

Q: I see so much content on TikTok and Instagram about diets, supplements and more. What can help?

A: When you’re scrolling through content, start thinking about whether the posts you see are helping you to feel better or worse about your body, the food you eat and the way you move. Unfollow any influencers and pages that don’t help you feel good!

Q: What is so bad about ‘my day on a plate’ videos?

A: The message behind these videos is often, “If you eat like me, you could have the same body as me”. Red flag! In reality, even if two people ate the exact same things, their bodies would process and store fuel differently, and they would continue to look different (except maybe for identical twins). There are more than 100 different factors that influence our weight and shape - and what we eat and how we move our bodies don’t have as much influence as you think! What someone else is eating is not a good guide of how much or what foods YOU should be eating to best fuel your body.

Q: Some days I am just SO hungry, I could keep eating all day. Is this OK?

A: What does it feel like to feel good in my body? Be specific. Do you feel better in your brain, does your mood improve, does it mean you wake up from sleep feeling well rested…

Q: Sometimes I feel bloated after eating, is there something wrong with my gut?

A: Bloating is a really normal thing that our body does after eating. Lots of factors influence whether we end up bloating after a meal, such as the amount of food you eat (it has to go somewhere!), drinking fizzy drinks, how quickly you eat, and if you’re drinking enough water each day. Going for a walk or stretching your body can help to move things around if you are feeling uncomfortably bloated.

Q: Do I need to cut out certain foods or food groups to eat healthily?

A: Unless you have an allergy or intolerance diagnosed by a health professional - no! Cutting out whole food groups or certain types of food isn’t a good idea because when we avoid foods, we end up making a bigger deal about them than we need to. You can eat all foods and have a healthy body. Listen to what your body wants and trust this.

Q: How do I know what information I can trust on social media about food and nutrition?

A: A good place to start is by checking if the person has a qualification in nutrition, such as a nutritionist or dietitian. Some red flags to look out for are words and phrases like detox, cleanse, boost your metabolism, healing your gut, asking you to cut out foods or whole food groups, or selling quick weight loss.

Q: Do I need to change the foods I eat or go on a ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse’ to reduce toxins in my body?

A: The short answer is no. Our liver and kidneys do an excellent job of monitoring toxins in our blood and working to get rid of them at all hours of the day. There aren’t any foods or ways of eating that will change the amount of toxins in our body. Drinking enough water each day is the best thing you can do to help your liver and kidneys do their thing!

My commitment to myself

I will accept and appreciate my body.
I will fuel and move my body because it feels good!
I know that I have special magic – unique only to me.
What I look like is not as important as what I do and who I am being in this world.
I will Embrace my body and encourage other people to do the same.

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