Oak Knoll Champions Nutrition for the Teenage Girl with Expert-Led Panel
Continuing its long-standing commitment to student health and wellness, Oak Knoll School held an assembly on February 1, 2024, titled “Fueling Body & Mind: Nutrition for the Teenage Girl.” This event, spearheaded by Assistant Athletic Director Dr. Melissa White, reflects the school’s ongoing advocacy for adolescent nutrition and healthy habits. A panel of esteemed experts engaged in a comprehensive analysis of the unique nutritional requirements for young women, a topic at the heart of Oak Knoll’s sustained health education initiatives.
“Proper nutrition affects everyone in this room, and knowledge is power,” White stated in her introduction. “I enlisted this panel with a specific focus on the needs of young women and how important proper nutrition is during this period of growth and development.”
The panel included Oak Knoll alumna Meghan Caffrey ’11, a professional ballet dancer, sideline sports reporter, and certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine; Alicia Ferriere, a doctor of physical therapy with a specialty in women’s health; and Eliza Heberlein, a registered dietitian with her own private practice focusing on helping her clients build a better relationship with food and their bodies.
The panelists began by explaining why they felt self-care and healthy habits were essential and led each into careers related to these issues. They explained the key differences between many terms surrounding disordered eating and restrictive diets and how they register differently among individuals. They discussed the importance of engaging with food in a way that aligns with meeting nutritional needs and that anyone struggling in their relationship with food, regardless of terminology, needs support.
The panelists also stressed the importance of getting facts from the proper authorities on health-related issues and not getting swayed by influencers on social media.
“There is some excellent content out there,“ stressed Heberlein. “It’s important to check your resources, though. Look at who these people are. Are they professionals, or are they just attractive people who want to have a following?”
After a review of the primary food groups and some discussion about being curious as to how foods make one feel and how one might have unique reactions to certain foods, the panel emphasized the importance of fueling the body at this age and level of activity.
Throughout the assembly, the experts reviewed essential food groups, encouraged mindful eating, and underscored the significance of heeding one’s bodily cues. Dr. Ferriere reminded the audience that “Your body is fantastic at giving you signals. Listening to those signals is half the battle, and listening to what it’s telling you will allow you to stay healthy for a long time. So, knowing how things feel in the moment is helpful.”
The panel then entered a very informative review of the signals a body may give a person, indicating an imbalance in health, such as hunger, fatigue, diminished focus, trouble in class, difficulty in sports, and dehydration, among others. They answered various specific questions from students and summarized with words of encouragement.
“You’re beautiful for what you are,” Caffrey said. “Our bodies are homes. They’re going to take us throughout our lives, to our next class as the next period comes, to Europe if you’re studying abroad, to college, to national championships, to medical school, to a Broadway performance if you want to do that. Our bodies are our home. They’re our vessels. Love them.”