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1. Malnourishing

What it is: A newly published peer-reviewed study in the journal PLoS found that “healthy” TikTok content was mostly just about losing weight.
Why parents should understand it: This particular analysis broke down the way the health information was being presented on TikTok, using hashtags to identify trending content. #nutrition, #weightloss, #whatieatinaday and #weightlossjourney were all part of the study. The researchers found that, though many posts were ostensibly about healthy eating and feeling good, most of them portrayed “health” as only attainable through the lens of thinness—what the researchers referred to as “weight normative messaging.” Teens watching this content might think they are learning the tentpoles of health, when they’re really just experiencing repackaged diet culture. Being a healthy weight can be part of having a healthy body, but being thin doesn’t mean your body is at its healthy best. TikTok is unique in that a user who starts out interested in nutrition might click on a smoothie recipe and end up with a FYP of endless weight-loss content posted by college students and high schoolers with no formalized training or expertise. Questions about this? Ask here. 

2. Passing the Ballot

What it is: A report by Neighborly Faith in partnership with the Springtide Research Institute gives insight into what shapes young evangelicals’ civic engagement and political opinions.
Why it matters: This study included participants of several religions in the 18-25 age bracket. It found that young evangelicals were more likely than others to say their civic engagement was shaped by religious texts and religious leaders. Evangelicals were also much more likely to take part in activities that serve and shape the community, such as activism and community service. The study also found that young evangelicals were more likely to see certain religious leaders as mentors, and that their personal faith and local faith leaders affect their political points of view more than any other source of influence in their lives. It’s just one survey, but it’s pretty indicative of how young people consistently look to faith leaders as mentors and sources of good information when it comes to being a good citizen and acting as a steward of the voting privilege. Questions about this? Ask here. 

3. Love and Strategy

What it is: Writing for the Atlantic, David French suggests that the parenting model you choose when raising your kids is less relevant than choosing some way, any way, to be intentional and consistent.
Why it’s hopeful: French points to recent debates on whether “intensive parenting” can set kids up for success, or if it kneecaps future adults by limiting their freedoms. Other parenting models, such as “gentle,” “freerange,” and even “good enough” parenting all have their pros and cons. Parenting that really works has enough flexibility built in to account for what individual children need. It also requires humility (as some of us already know all too well) to recognize when something isn’t working and to make changes when they’re necessary for everybody’s well-being. As Christians, we know that humans aren’t so good at knowing the “best” ways of raising children. When we love our kids unconditionally, give them tools to spot and run from evil, and point them toward God’s goodness, we’re setting our family members up for a lifetime of learning who God is and so many fruitful, rich conversations about what that means for us on earth. Questions about this? Ask here. 

Song of the Week

“Lavender Haze” by Taylor Swift: climbing to #2 on Billboard, Spotify, and #3 on Apple Music (just under her song “Anti-Hero”), this song is about finding refuge in a romantic relationship from the gossip and expectations of others. Swift particularly expresses resentment over questions about whether she and her lover will marry. The phrase “lavender haze” is 1950s lingo for falling in love, and Swift uses the phrase to criticize “the 1950s s*** they want from me,” suggesting instead that being in love matters way more than whether or not someone is married. For the lyric video (which contains some profanity), click here; for the lyrics alone, click here. Questions about this? Ask here.

Translation: Malnourishing

In 1 Timothy 4:8, the Apostle Paul writes, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” He doesn’t say physical training is the most valuable thing, and he also doesn’t say that it has no value. It’s somewhere in between all or nothing; it has some value.

But in our culture of shame and body hatred, for some people, “some value” turns into a body-destroying quest to meet impossible standards.

According to Christianity, our bodies are gifts from God. We are called to steward our bodies to the best of our ability—which sometimes means exercising, and sometimes means  nourishing ourselves with food. “Weight normative” messaging can make stewarding our bodies confusing, as a certain weight or body shape is amplified as “the picture of health.” But what would happen if the community of faith had discussions about body image framed not only by the first half of 1 Timothy 4:8, but the second half? The second half, again, is: “…but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Godliness means, simply, “conforming to the laws and wishes of God”—and this may in fact include physical training. But when godliness is the goal, then nutrition and exercise become a means of stewarding the lives that He’s given us, not an end in themselves used to determine our value.

This is a complex conversation, and one well worth having with your teen. Here are a few questions to get the conversation started:

  • What do you think it means to be healthy?
  • Do you think celebrating weight loss can be harmful? Why or why not?
  • What’s good about the body positivity movement? What’s not so good?