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Dealing with Peer Pressure

Being a teen with PKU can have its ups and downs. You need to stay on top of your diet but, like all everyone else, you may also have to deal with lots of outside pressures too. You may be confronted with many types of risky behavior. Always remember your future health is the most important thing, so don’t give in to the pressure to ‘fit in’. Talk to the people you trust about how you feel. It really can make a huge difference.

Everyone is ‘different’

It is normal to go through a period when you just want to ‘fit in’. No-one wants to feel judged by their peers, certainly not based on how we look or what we eat. You may feel particularly different because you can't enjoy the same foods that your peers can enjoy and many social occasions center around food. Despite the pressure, it is really important to stay on diet and avoid diets with unsafe PHE levels. Talk to your friends about it. Plan ahead. Focus on what you can eat and choose to frequent those places where you can enjoy what you do eat.

Tips to keep healthy

  • Be active
    Regular exercise puts you in a better mood and reduces anxiety. This gives you more confidence in yourself and the way you feel about your body. Staying active may also help you keep your blood PHE levels in the recommended range.

  • Engage in positive activities
    Find time every day for a rewarding activity - do some exercise, go for a swim, play a sport, have a walk with a friend, listen to music.

  • Avoid people who give body shape or weight too much importance
    Real friends will accept you for who you are.

  • Judge yourself as a whole person
    Create a list of people you admire who have contributed to your life, school, community and the world. Was their appearance important to their success and accomplishments?

*Adapted from Reference Source: My PKU Binder. National PKU Alliance. Chapter 7: Ages 13 to 17 Years, Page 61.

Partying and socialising

A Teen's View*

"I was always very open with my classmates and friends about my diet. When people asked what my formula was, I told them it was my 'milkshake' that I had to drink because I couldn't eat protein. I then rattled off all the foods I couldn't eat and told them that eating protein would cause brain damage. By explaining everything up front, people realised how serious PKU was and respected any special requests I would make. It made it much easier to suggest PKU-friendly restaurants or tell my friends that I had to stop by at my dorm room to take my formula. Every person you meet provides an opportunity to spread awareness for PKU!"

Many social gatherings often involve food. Here are some tips to help you be prepared.

  • Take a low PHE food to a party to share with everyone. That way you’ll know there is at least one “safe” food you can eat.

  • Keep a list of suitable low PHE ‘snack foods’ handy in case you’re invited somewhere unexpectedly

  • It’s OK to say 'no' to foods that you’re offered

  • Be prepared for any questions you may be asked in social situations

  • Share your condition with a friend – they’ll be a great support

  • Find a network of PKU teens to connect with over the internet or through your PKU team

*Adapted from Reference Source: My PKU Binder. National PKU Alliance. Chapter 7: Ages 13 to 17 Years, Page 60.

Don’t take risks

Stick to your diet

As you get older it is more important than ever to continue to stick with your PKU diet. If you are embarrassed or are being teased about your diet, please talk to someone you trust. Going off diet is not worth the risk to your health and there are people in your life who care about you and will want to help.

*Adapted from Reference Source: My PKU Binder. National PKU Alliance. Chapter 7: Ages 13 to 17 Years, Page 62.