Although teen boys’ appetites are legendary, teen girls are less likely to eat the huge meals plus frequent snacks a growing teen boy seems to require. However, teen girls are growing, as well, and their growth spurts need fuel, too. But it's always a good idea to consider other factors that might be causing an increased appetite in your daughter, such as a medical condition or emotional stress, and consult a physician if necessary.
Most girls go through a growth spurt during puberty. Their body require more calories to deal with the dramatic changes, so they eat more. This phenomenon can occur as early as one to two years prior to the onset of puberty. Each girl is an individual, so you cannot pinpoint exactly when she will experience puberty. However, an increased appetite could be one of the first signals. She may gain some weight, which is perfectly normal, and as she grows, this extra weight will be redistributed to prepare her body for the reproductive cycle.
Hormonal imbalances can also affect appetite. So if your teen is on hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills -- which contain estrogen or estrogen and progesterone -- this could be the reason for her increased eating. Or she could have a medical issue such as hyperthyroidism, which is an increased secretion of thyroid hormone that results in weight loss despite an increased appetite. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is another hormonally related disease that can cause increased appetite, binge eating and weight gain.
KidsHealth from Nemours notes that 13,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year in the U.S. Type 1 diabetes is an endocrine disease in which insulin production diminishes or stops. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes can happen very suddenly or more gradually. When a teen develops diabetes, her body starts to break down muscle and fat to feed the body cells. She may develop an increased appetite, yet lose weight because of the metabolic dysfunction.
Pregnancy might not be the first thing many parents would consider when a teen girl’s appetite increases, but it is a possibility. Morning sickness and decreased appetite are more typical in the first three months of pregnancy -- although some women also experience food cravings. But the second trimester -- when the baby is beginning to grow and extra nourishment is required -- is typically a time when appetite increases, especially if a teen had severe morning sickness and lost weight during the first trimester.
Just like adults, teens can use foods for comfort or to manage emotions. In fact, according to TeensHealth from Nemours, there are actually some foods that are high in fat that can activate certain chemicals in the body that make a teen feel comforted and fulfilled. However, eating does not solve the underlying issue, which is that your teen is feeling stressed and is struggling to deal with the pressures of her life. Talk with your child, and offer alternative suggestions for dealing with the stress. If she seems too overwhelmed to handle things, though, consult your family doctor or pediatrician to avoid the development of an eating disorder.
- MedlinePlus: Appetite -- Increased
- HealthyChildren.org: A Teenager’s Nutritional Needs
- Balanced Hormones & Health: Weight Loss
- Johns Hopkins Children’s Center: Hyperthyroidism
- KidsHealth from Nemours: Type 1 Diabetes: What Is It?
- Gynecological Endocrinology: Impaired Cholecystokinin Secretion and Disturbed Appetite Regulation in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- What to Expect: Increased Appetite during Pregnancy
- TeensHealth from Nemours: Emotional Eating
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images