Updated: Aug 30, 2021
Before I was 10, I was listening to my grandpa talk statistics and research practice about medicine and science. I found that I loved learning and teaching about pretty much any subject, especially nutrition. Once my friends had heard me geek out a few times about glycemic impact or inflammation markers, they knew who to call with random health questions. Learning a holistic approach to cycles allowed me to guide friends to food and life changes that would increase their fertility, regulate their cycles, and relieve many of their symptoms.
Again and again they said "Why wasn't I taught this as a teenager? I could have had a totally different experience," or "Why didn't my doctor tell me that food and exercise would change my cycle?" and I wondered, why don't we educate about health?
It's weird that as a culture we've decided that kids should learn Algebra II more often than Anatomy. It's odd that we teach "Health" classes to boys and girls together, with too many details they don't need to know, that become far more memorable than anything they could use every day.
We say "eat vegetables because they have vitamins", when a teen could readily appreciate how they regulate digestion, hormones, and the immune system.
We tell girls to talk to their doctor (and generally to use the Pill) for pretty much any menstrual, mood, or skin irregularity, rather than give them the information to take real steps for their health.
I looked for a health book that was current on research, detailed, short, and clean, and I couldn't find one, so I offered classes and wrote and updated chapters for several years before pulling it into two books with different levels of detail for younger and older girls. This is not sex ed. There are no cartoons of body development, hair growth, or saying no to drugs.
There is a whole chapter on managing your attitude, and another whole chapter about behaving well in relationships with family and friends, because I found myself discussing this again and again with my teen daughters.
The chapter on Body changes explains why teens put on weight before starting their period, what factors build strong bones, and some of the chemicals in your brain and gut that we've researched so far. The Food chapter emphasizes nutrient density, iron and protein intake, how to manage cravings, and how vegetables balance hormones.
Chapter 5 and 6 cover Sleep and Exercise, and Chapter 7 covers what happens with hormones, ovulation, and uterine lining each month; why you might feel different at certain times; what causes cramps and PMS; and what to do about cramps in the short and long term. The last chapter talks about forming habits, building routines, and working with your energy and focus level to use your time well.
Everything in the book is something that has come up in discussion with my own daughters or my friends' daughters; it's a collection of the tools, tips and knowledge that many women wish they had as teens and learned the hard way as adults.
Many moms have told me that doing the Girls Health Class changed their daughter's habits - especially eating habits - for years. In many cases, Mom was giving the same suggestions but without the reasons, and the class blesses these families because teens want to hear reasons from their peers and from other adults. Some moms buy the books as a reference for their daughters to browse, or for themselves to prepare to answer their daughters with more confidence.
My hope is that the books and classes help many families have healthier teens, and happier times together.