Body Fat Frustrates Teen Vegan

Body conscious teen vegan has diet and nutrition concerns

Hi! I'm 16 and I've been vegan for almost 2 years. Pretty recently I've been focusing on diet and nutrition more so than usual. I've been running for 20 minutes a day, doing a yoga/pilates workout for 20 minutes a day after that, and also doing some separate ab exercises.

I make sure to drink the recommended amount of water, I take a daily multivitamin every morning, I only allow myself whole grain foods (no white breads, etc.), I don't drink pop, I don't eat candy, I don't take in alcohol or caffene, I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, I combine whole grain foods with healthy veggie oils, and I've just recently sworn off table salt. I also won't touch hydrogenated oils, junk food, or high fructose corn syrup.

I feel like I'm making great health choices, but I'm frustrated with my body. I'm about 5'3 and 120 lbs, but I seem to have extra fat on my face, under my chin, on my stomach, and on my back. I think it may be my body preparing for womanhood because I didn't have this problem a year ago. It just makes me self-conscious, which is frustrating because I shouldn't feel that way with a healthy lifestyle.

I'm concerned I may be deficient in something, which would indicate my body doesn't handle a vegan diet well. I'm afraid I may be stunting my growth or damaging my bones, because I've noticed that when I run, my knees and hips get sore very quickly. Do you have any suggestions? -S. Z.

Savvy Vegetarian Advice

Dear S. Z.,

I have the impression that you're going a little overboard, and taking your vegan diet too seriously. I'd suggest being a lot more relaxed about it, eating what you feel like eating more than what you think you should be eating, and enjoying your food more.

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Your height/weight ratio seem fine. It's normal to have a layer of fat on your body - and nothing to be self-conscious about. The ideal image of female beauty is not just false, but unhealthy. Your body is unique in the universe, and ideal for you.

If running makes your knees and hips sore, it means you're overdoing it, and should back off on your exercise program. You could do permanent damage to your joints if you force yourself to run through pain - walk or swim or do gentle yoga exercises rather than strength yoga.

You are making great health choices, but these seem to be fairly recent. It's may be that you haven't been getting the best vegan nutrition in the last two years. Vitamin B12 defiency is possible, and is quite serious. See the SV article about B12. Please, go to a doctor and have blood tests done for B12 deficiency, folic acid deficiency, and iron deficiency.

Follow the general guidelines in the attached vegetarian nutrition report, give it time, and don't beat yourself up about your imperfections. Aim for balance, instead, and have much more fun!

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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