Dealing with Peer Pressure and PKU

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 as your peers and many social occasions centre around food. Despite the pressure, it is really important to stay on diet and avoid foods with high protein levels. Talk to your friends about it. Plan ahead. Focus on what you can eat and choose to frequently visit the places where you can enjoy the food. The more you know about your diet, the easier it will be.

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 and enjoyable activity. Some exercise, go for a swim, play a sport, take a walk with a friend, listen to music. Take up a hobby, read a book, learn how to cook.
  • Avoid letting appearance have too much importance
  • 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?
  • Avoid people who give body shape or weight too much importance. Real friends will accept you for who you are.

Adapted from Reference Sources:
My PKU Binder [2011]. National PKU Alliance (USA). Chapter 7: Ages 13 to 17 Years.
PKU Handbook [2005]. Australasian Society for Inborn Errors of Metabolism (ASIEM) (Australia and New Zealand). Chapter 11: PKU teenagers and adults.
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 supplement 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 home to take my formula. Every person you meet provides an opportunity to spread awareness for PKU!”

Tips for social gatherings

  • Think about where you are going, and plan ahead for what you might eat there.
  • Eat properly beforehand so that you are less hungry if there is not going to be enough food that you can eat easily within your protein allowance.
  • Take low protein food to parties 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 protein ‘snack foods’ handy in case you’re invited somewhere unexpectedly.
  • It’s okay 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. Post a question on the PKU Connect forum to start up a group.
  • Don’t take risks.
  • Stick to your diet

As you get older it is just as important to continue to stick to 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.

Please Note: The dietary management for PKU varies for each person so all information presented here is for guidance only. Your own dietitian and/or doctor will advise you on all aspects relating to management of PKU for you and your family.”

My PKU Binder [2011]. National PKU Alliance (USA). Chapter 7: Ages 13 to 17 Years.

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