Your Budding Daughter: Some Practical Suggestions for Parents

What? Already?
Puberty in Girls, Step By Step
The Stages of Development
'Is This Normal?' When to See Your Physician
Helping Your Daughter to Be Well-Informed
Sex Education
Menstruation, tampons and pads
Bras
In Closing

What? Already?

Puberty! It started happening to my 10-year-old daughter this spring. She needed new sandals - women's size 7 sandals! She got those little bumps under her nipples that we doctors call 'breast buds'. Next, I was 'excused' from joining her in the dressing room when we shopped for her clothes, and the bathroom door was locked when she showered. The pants I hemmed up in June were too short by October, despite only being washed once. And she admits to 'maybe' having a few hairs 'down there'.

As a loving mom and adolescent medicine specialist, these are heady times for me. I am proud of my daughter and thrilled to see her embark on this road toward womanhood. I know that she is progressing normally. But still, I think, 'Hold on, she's only in fifth grade!'

My daughter is perfectly normal. Puberty, often first recognized at the onset of breast development, usually begins about the time a girl turns 10. There is a wide range of 'normal' starting times, and the onset time varies in different ethnic groups. For instance, it may occur between the ages of 8 and 14 in white girls, and may begin as early as 7 years of age in African American girls.

Puberty in Girls, Step by Step

Puberty is outwardly manifested by two main sets of changes:

  • Rapid increases in height and weight, referred to as the height and weight spurts

  • Development of breasts, and pubic and axillary (underarm) hair

Tracking the changes during puberty

These changes, and the other physical changes of puberty, occur in a predictable sequence. We use sexual maturity rating (SMR) scales to track a youngster's progression through puberty. Knowing the timing of these changes, related to each other and related to the sexual maturity ratings, is very helpful. After all, most of us like to know what to expect. For example, when my daughter developed breast buds, I was able to tell her that she'd start finding little hairs near her labia majora (outer lips of the vagina) within six months or so. And she knows that she is likely to have her first menstrual period about 2 years after her breasts first started developing. This means she'll be a little over 12 years of age, close to the national average of 12 years and 4 months.

The height spurt

Ultimately, 20-25% of a girl's adult height is acquired in puberty. The height spurt usually begins just before or after breast budding develops. Over a period of about 4 years, girls grow close to a foot taller than they were at the beginning of the height spurt. The bones that grow first are those furthest from the center of the body. This is why my daughter's shoe size shot up before the rest of her body began growing faster. The earlier growth in the arms and legs accounts for the awkwardness and 'gangly' appearance of many teenagers. Their center of gravity is shifting, and they haven't gotten used to those long arms and legs. The growth in the spinal column alone accounts for 20% of the height increase. This is why it is important to check for scoliosis (sideways curvature of the back) before puberty begins. A slight curve can turn into a much larger one during all that growth.

The weight spurt

A girl's height spurt is followed about 6 months later by her weight spurt. This is, of course, when she can never get enough to eat. Fully 50% of ideal adult body weight is gained in puberty. In girls, the proportion of body weight in fat increases from about 16% to nearly 27%. Lean body mass, especially muscle and bones, also increase substantially. It's the growth and maturation of bones, in particular, which makes calcium intake so important.

Getting enough calcium

Most of you know of the importance of good calcium intake for all women, especially growing teenagers, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. Milk and other dairy products are the least expensive, most convenient sources. Nonfat milk has just as much calcium as whole milk. If your daughter doesn't like milk, try doctoring it up with chocolate powder or syrup (this is the only way I can get my daughter to drink it). Calcium is also available as a nutritional supplement in tablet form, but many teenagers find the tablets too large to swallow comfortably. Your daughter may like the fruit or chocolate-flavored calcium-supplement chews available in drugstores now.


The Stages of Development

The table below summarizes the events at each stage of development. The average (mean) age listed here can vary widely; about 2 years either side of these listed ages will usually be considered normal.

Sexual Maturity Rating Average Age (Years) Features What Happens
1 8 2/3 Growth, breasts and pubic hair Height spurt begins. Body fat at 15.7%. Breasts are prepubertal; no glandular tissue. No pubic hair.
2 11 1/4 Breasts The areola (pigmented area around the nipple) enlarges and becomes darker. It raises to become a mound with a small amount of breast tissue underneath. This is called a 'bud'.
2 11 3/4 Pubic hair and growth A few long, downy, slightly darkened hairs appear along the labia majora. At the end of this stage, the body fat has increased to 18.9%.
3 11 2/3 Growth Peak height velocity (maximum growth rate) is reached. Body fat is now 21.6%.
3 12 Breasts Development of breast tissue past the edge of the areola.
3 12 1/3 Pubic hair Moderate amount of more curly, pigmented, and coarser hair on the mons pubis (the raised, fatty area above the labia majora). Hair begins to spread more laterally. Menarche (first menstrual period) occurs in 20% of girls during this pubic hair stage
4 12 3/4 Pubic hair Hair is close to adult pubic hair in curliness and coarseness. Area of pubis covered is smaller than adults, and there are no hairs on the middle surfaces of the thighs. Menarche occurs in 50% of girls.
4 13 Breasts Continued development of breast tissue; in side view, areola and nipple protrude.
4 13 Growth End of growth spurt. Body fat reaches mature proportion: 26.7%. After menstruation begins, girls grow at most 4-5", usually less.
5 14 1/2 Pubic hair and Body fat Adult. It is normal for some long pigmented hairs to grow on the inner thighs. Body fat remains at 26.7%.
5 15 1/4 Breasts Adult breasts.

'Is This Normal?' When to See Your Physician

Parents often have concerns about whether their daughter is starting puberty too early or too late, or whether she is progressing normally. Occasionally they may also notice a physical feature which seems 'different' and want to check it out. Hopefully, the information provided above will be useful in charting your daughter's progress. But whenever you are uncertain, it is best to seek out medical advice. Every girl is different.

Some 'differences' that should lead you to the doctor

There are a few things that should definitely lead you to the pediatrician (or adolescent medicine specialist, if there is one in your area). They are:

  • No breast development by age 13.

  • No menstrual period by between the ages of 13 ½ to 14.

  • In a girl who is at Sexual Maturity Rating 3 or higher, cyclic abdominal pain (pain similar to period cramps) every 3 to 5 weeks, but no menstrual periods. This is rare.

  • Development of pubic hair but no breast development within 6 to 9 months.

Breast development is a very individual thing. There are, however, a number of potential 'dilemmas' to be aware of in this process. They are:

  • Asymmetry (one breast much larger than the other): This may be minimal, or it may be visible even when your daughter is dressed. Some girls with asymmetric breast size are embarrassed to wear a swimsuit, regardless of the extent of asymmetry. In severe cases, plastic surgery is the ultimate answer. This can be performed in teenagers after puberty and after the breasts are fully grown.

  • Very large breasts: Very large breasts can be a source of constant embarrassment and self-consciousness from puberty onwards. They can also cause medical difficulties, namely back problems. Plastic surgery is 'medically indicated' and may well be covered by a health plan, particularly if you and your surgeon are persistent.

  • 'Too small' breasts: Breasts that are 'too small' may also cause embarrassment. Small breasts do not cause medical problems; they do not affect a woman's ability to nurse a baby. With that said, I live in southern California, where breast augmentation seems to be 'de rigeur' for anyone who wants it. Regardless of where you live, I suggest trying some of the ideas in the 'tips' section below before delving into the intense debate about breast augmention surgery. Remember also that teenagers are famously self-conscious about their appearance. Once your daughter is older, she will hopefully have developed more self-confidence. She will then be in a better position to make an educated decision about breast augmentation.

  • Inverted nipple(s): An inverted nipple means just that: the nipple is pointed inwards, rather than outwards. Looking at the breast from the side, you do not see the tip of the nipple protruding. This condition occurs occasionally. It can interfere with breast-feeding. If you notice it, bring it to your doctor's attention. A new non-surgical treatment has recently become available.

  • Tuberous breast disorder: This is a fairly uncommon disorder that often goes unrecognized until a new mother has difficulty breast-feeding. In this condition, growth at the base of the breast (where it attaches to the chest wall) is restricted by a band of tissue. Breast tissue, therefore, grows outwardly while the base remains narrow. This results in a breast shaped like a tuber (for example, a potato). Tuberous breast disorder is surgically correctable.

Helping Your Daughter to Be Well-Informed

Hopefully, your daughter is already well-informed about puberty and the menstrual cycle. It is also important at this time that she be well-informed about sexual intercourse and sexuality.

Sex Education

I recommend that you and your spouse/partner talk with your daughter about when you think it is acceptable to have sexual intercourse. Please be sure that she is well equipped to decline or refuse sexual intercourse - and that she knows that anyone, including a friend or a date, who forces her to have sex, is committing a crime.

She should know that pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are the common consequences of teenage sexual activity. And, despite your own recommendations, she needs to know about contraception - including emergency contraception. Emergency contraception refers to the 'morning after pill', and it is much less unpleasant and much easier to obtain nowadays.

Menstruation, tampons, and pads

  • I suggest that girls make themselves familiar with their bodies by using a hand-held mirror to look at their genitals, early in puberty if possible. Having a drawing on hand is helpful in identifying the different parts of their anatomy. I believe that this helps girls to become more comfortable with their developing bodies. And when the discussion comes to tampons, as it almost inevitably does, they have a better sense of what is involved.

  • Within a year of the time your daughter begins breast development, purchase several different packages of sanitary supplies for your daughter and invite her to check them out. I consider this part of 'de-mystifying' menstrual periods. (And, one of her visiting friends might need something).

  • Every girl should maintain a menstrual calendar to keep track of her periods. I suggest she keep a small calendar and pen right with her sanitary supplies. It is most helpful for physicans reviewing the calendar if the first day of flow is marked, say, with a circle and the last day with an 'X'.

  • What about tampons? There are pluses and minuses. Sports involvement may be limited or impossible for girls who are having their period but not using tampons. Other girls are fastidious and do not want to risk a bloodstain on their clothes. Still others are uncomfortable about touching their genitals or fearful that using tampons may be painful. Here is what I recommend to my teenage patients:

    • Talk about tampon use with your mother. Some mothers are concerned that using tampons means that a girl will no longer be a virgin. Actually, the opening in the hymen (membrane that partially covers the opening of the vagina) is usually large enough for a mini-sized tampon by the time of a girl's first period. Other mothers are rightfully concerned about the risk of toxic shock syndrome. This has become a rarity since the materials used to make tampons were changed some years ago. I believe that tampons are safe for all women, provided that they are changed at least every 4 hours during the daytime and do not leave the tampon in place for more than 8 hours at night. Some women prefer to use tampons during the daytime only.

    • If staining, and not sports participation, is the primary concern, then an investment in black panties might be all that is needed.

    • Try different brands and types of pads and/or tampons to see what works best for you. 'Super' pads can feel (and look) like a diaper on a diminutive teenager. On the other hand, a 'mini' tampon may not absorb enough flow to last more than a few hours, and this can be a problem at school. I suggest a combination of a mini-tampon and a pad for maximal protection.

    • If your daughter wants to try tampons, I recommend trying teen-sized tampons (marketed as such). I think that a slim plastic applicator is easier for a girl to use than tampons without an applicator or with a cardboard applicator. Also, a bit of lubricating jelly or Vaseline placed on the tip of the applicator may make the insertion easier at first.

 


Bras

  • When to wear a bra? I think that whenever your daughter requests one, it's time. Developing breasts are quite tender, and even the logo on a sports T-shirt may cause discomfort. Fortunately, those smooth cotton 'sports' bras are available everywhere.

  • If your daughter is concerned about breast asymmetry, consider purchasing a padded bra and removing the padding from one side. In more marked cases, you might wish to order a set of the bra inserts advertised in newspapers and women's magazines. Again, use the insert in one side only. If this is inadequate, I recommend that my patients who are too young for surgery, or who can't arrange payment, seek out assistance at a shop specializing in breast prostheses (artificial breasts). Although generally used by women who have had a mastectomy (removal of a breast), a prosthesis can also be helpful for severe breast asymmetry.

  • Given the emphasis on 'normalcy' and on breasts in our society, I think it is reasonable for her to wear a padded or lined bra if she wishes. Most commonly, only older girls (SMR 4 or 5) have this concern. As mentioned earlier, this is a temporary concern for many adolescents.

  • If your daughter has very large breasts, it is important that she wear a bra designed especially to provide extra support, often by use of a criss-cross design in the back. If possible, it should be purchased at a department store that has specially trained undergarment fitters.

Getting more information

If you need help or more information on any of these topics, there are some great web sites operated by SIECUS (the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States) and Planned Parenthood. SIECUS has a special 'For Parents' section. Planned Parenthood has a special section for teens, and there is also a special website for adolescents called 'Go Ask Alice' from Columbia University. For the most up-to-date information about emergency contraception, check the Emergency Contraception website at Princeton University.

If you haven't already done so, purchase or borrow books about puberty, sexuality, and teen issues for your daughter. SIECUS provides an excellent bibliography of resources for parents, children, and adolescents. Here are a few of my personal favorites. You'll find more information about them in the SIECUS bibliography.

It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Sex and Sexual Health, by Robie H. Harris

My Body, My Self, by Lynda Madaras and Area Madaras

What's Happening to My Body? For Girls, by Lynda Madaras

What's Happening to Me?, by Peter Mayle

The Period Book: Everything You Don't Want to Ask (But Need to Know), by Karen Gravelle and Jennifer Gravelle (When it comes to periods, this is the most practical book; it's fun, too.)

In Closing

This article has focused mostly on normal and non-gynecological aspects of puberty. While my suggestions and recommendations are far from complete and definitely not inclusive, I hope that the information provided above have given you some information on what physical changes to expect during your daughter's puberty.

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2027, December 27). Your Budding Daughter: Some Practical Suggestions for Parents, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, October 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/sex/teen-sex/your-budding-daughter-practical-suggestions-for-parents

Last Updated: March 26, 2022

Being Overweight Affects Your Sex Drive

Being overweight hampers your sex life

Add a bad time in bed to the list of ways excess weight can impede your life satisfaction. In a survey of more than 1,000 obese and normal-weight men and women, more than half of obese people reported problems with sexual enjoyment, sex drive or sexual performance or avoided sex altogether, compared with only 5 percent of their normal-weight counterparts. It's unknown whether the problems are physical or psychological. However, losing weight makes obese women feel more confident, says Martin Binks, Ph.D., co-lead researcher and director of behavioral health at Duke Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, N.C. And that's true for women who are merely overweight too: After dropping 10 or 20 pounds, women told Binks "they feel younger sexually."

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2025, December 21). Being Overweight Affects Your Sex Drive, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, October 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/sex/body-image/being-overweight-affects-your-sex-drive

Last Updated: March 26, 2022

Lots of Food. No Sex. Time for Rehab

I'M AN ADDICT. My drug of choice isn't heroin, crystal meth, or crack cocaine, but it's just as destructive and impossible to kick cold turkey. I'm strung out on food.

I'm 35 years old, stand 5'10" tall, and weigh 300 pounds. I am obese. Over the years, I've tried every diet to hit The New York Times best-seller list, yo-yoing all over the scale, from a rotund 315 pounds down to a burly 245, and rebounding back to a plump 300. Nothing seems to work, and inevitably the jones to graze always gets the best of me.

Every evening, I eat myself into a coma, then crash in front of the TV or down enough Jack Daniels and ginger ale to dull my senses. My edibles-as-drugs problem is compounded by the fact that I live in New York City, home of the world's best food fixes--thick, juicy steaks at Smith & Wollensky's, the world's greatest pizza at John's, dry-rub baby-back ribs at Virgil's BBQ, and the tastiest ethnic restaurants. But, let's face it, even if I lived in a gastronomic backwater, I'd still do the same thing.

This is what it's like being a walking fat body: I have to shop at big-and-tall stores, paying top dollar because nothing in the pages of this or any magazine fits me off the rack. I need a seat-belt extender on airplanes. And I have a hard time stuffing myself into the cheap seats at Knicks games.

Even more disturbing: My weight is harshing my sex life. Performance isn't the issue--it's just getting in the game. Usually hesitant to approach women, I often rely on friends to make the opening move. I shrug it off to shyness, but I know the real reason: I'm afraid to have relationships with women because I don't find myself attractive, so why, I figure, should they?

I'm not looking for your pity. Fuck that. I'm comfortable in my skin. While the looks and sneers sting, they usually come from superficial assholes I wouldn't want to know anyway. But the health implications do terrify me: limited mobility, diabetes, liver damage, gout (from which I already suffer), heart disease, and stroke. All point to an early grave.

Then came the assignment: Spend two weeks at the Duke University Diet & Fitness Center (DFC) in Durham, N.C., and write about it for Men's Fitness. I felt like I had just won the lottery.

Orientation: May 9

Established in 1969, the DFC is one of the country's oldest weight-management centers. From the outside, this one-story brick building looks like my old grammar school. But inside, it's more like a clinic, with its large gym, 25-meter pool, and many doctors' offices. Its program teaches health and wellness through diet, exercise, and behavior modification--voluntary rehab for the weight-challenged.

Looking around orientation, I size up my hefty comrades. They, too, seem to think, "What the hell did I get myself into?" When the time comes for introductions, this might as well be A.A. "Hi, my name is Chuck, and I'm obese."

I was sure the other attendees would wallow in self-pity: "I ate myself into a blob because life dealt me crappy cards." Boo-fucking-hoo. But in reality, I get a positive vibe from my fellow food fiends. Most are fired up for the coming battle and unafraid to share experiences. I admire that.

Day One: May 10

Enrolling in the DFC is like earning a master's degree in healthy living. The most repeated lesson: The keys to fitness are time management and organization. But to me, the idea of planning out meals and exercise is non-spontaneous and unappealing--I've always flown by the seat of my extra-large pants. This will be the hardest adjustment.

Medical, nutritional, physical, and psychological evaluations begin today. I'm poked and prodded by anyone in a lab coat. The goal of this interrogation, explains DFC director Dr. Howard Eisenson, is to produce a clinical profile to ensure I'm healthy enough to go through the program. It's humiliating--I can't go more than seven minutes on the treadmill during my stress test. My lab results show no abnormalities, but I still feel like a big whale.

Day Two: May 11

Today we focus on good nutrition. You need a comprehensive understanding of what healthy comestibles are and how they affect your body. Indeed, as Funkadelic once put it, "Free your mind and your ass will follow."

During my physical assessment, I realize exercise doesn't have to be monotonous and shouldn't be painful. The slogan "No pain, no gain" is bull-shit. "If you're hurt," cautions Gerald Endress, DFC's fitness manager, "you won't get off the couch. Your success in this program and in life depends on getting out and doing some physical activity."

As the day ends, one thing is clear: Losing weight and getting healthy will be a long process. I didn't wake up one morning with this huge gut. It took years of lethargy to eat and drink myself into this shape. I simply let my consumption spiral out of control in college--and never stopped.


Day Three: May 12

This morning, I attend a meditation class to learn how to "communicate" with my body and make peace with my inner-hunger demon. Sounds ludicrous, but I am actually able to converse with my pained parts--specifically, my sore back muscles, pounding head, and grumbling stomach--simply by concentrating and asking each what it wants. By recognizing there is a problem, my body feels better. This type of touchy-feely crap normally doesn't fly with me. This experience, however, is enlightening. (It still freaks me out, though.)

Next up, I meet with nutrition manager Elisabetta Politi, who corroborates my worst fear: I eat too much shit. Who would've thought fast food, Chinese delivery, and pizza aren't good for you? "Proper eating is all common sense" she says. "Stay away from heavy fats, count calories, eat less processed sugar, limit your sodium intake, and you'll be fine."

Uh, easy for her to say. In my world, eating isn't just a means of sustenance--it's a social event. Food should be enjoyed, even celebrated. "You can still eat out in restaurants with friends," she assures me. "Just choose the right things off the menu and manage your portions. You'll learn."

Behavior modification, then, is the gateway to shedding pounds. Of course, when I was young, my parents practically taught me the opposite--that leaving food on my plate was a waste of money. Or they'd say, "Clean your plate: Kids are going hungry all over the world." This was clearly a mistake of good intentions, but it's not their fault I have self-control issues. They were looking out for my best interests. Now I'm an adult. I have to learn to leave more food on my plate.

Day Four: May 13

Let's talk alternative exercise--yoga, for instance. I thought that was a chicks-ercise. But after road-testing these simple stretching movements and correct breathing and relaxation techniques, I'm invigorated, my focus and mental acuity enhanced. Also in my new routine are water aerobics, a daily one-hour walk, and, three times a week, a half-mile swim and weight workout. This healthy-living "crap" might just work.

Later, my group gathers to interpret our lab results. Mine are not good. Suddenly, my newfound enthusiasm takes one to the gut--I have quantitative evidence that I'm on the road to an early grave.

My glucose is high. (I'm, like, one candy bar away from diabetes.) My cholesterol's good/bad ratio is bad/bad. (It's 6.2--it should be under 5.0.) And my triglycerides (fat stored in the bloodstream) are double the norm. Plus, I display four of the five indicators for increased risk of heart disease. (My father, while not overweight, died of a heart attack at age 59.)

Graded on a curve, my results aren't so horrible: A couple of people in the group learn they have serious medical conditions needing immediate attention. Others' cholesterol levels are as high as the population of Hong Kong. Still, this doesn't comfort me. After all, I'm on what is derisively called a "fat farm." And I'm not vying for the DFC's coveted Most Weight Lost prize. I'm fighting my own demons.

Day Five: May 14

What a turnaround--I'm on top of the world this morning! I've lost nearly eight pounds.

Portion control helped get me to this point. They're not starving me, just giving me smaller amounts of healthier foods. Instead of eating lots of starchy fillers--potatoes, rice, etc.--my plate is filled with fresh vegetables, salad, and fruits. Food preparation is also key: limiting oil, mayonnaise, and fatty condiments, and grilling or steaming foods, not frying.

The result: I feel better, I have more stamina, and I'm thinking more clearly--after just five days!

I'm also really digging Pilates. The stretching and strength-enhancing movements have loosened my limbs, improved my flexibility, and tightened my stomach muscles. (It's even better in a coed class: Some of the positions are very sexually suggestive.)

Though I'm enjoying my time in this sheltered environment, I wonder how I'm going to translate my experiences here to the real world. That's where today's Planning Your Restaurant Experience class comes in handy. It teaches us how to order off the menu by asking the waiter about ingredients and preparation. And we're reminded about portion control, a difficult hurdle for me because I've always enjoyed the supersize, more-for-my-money mentality.


WEEK 2

Day Eight: May 17

Eating healthier starts with buying healthier foods. This afternoon, nutritionist Monette Williams takes me and another patient, Warren, on a tour of a Kroger's supermarket. Instead of grabbing items off the shelves impulsively (as I would at home), we stroll the aisles and carefully read nutrition labels. The foods Warren and I normally buy are loaded with sodium, processed sugars, and wasted calories. Now we're empowered, knowing which foods to reject and which to embrace.

Last Day: May 22

I'm a convert. Two weeks ago, I would never have predicted such a change in lifestyle and attitude. Now I know that pessimism is what killed my other healthy-living attempts.

Still, going home is a little scary. I'm worried about falling back into gluttony. But I've resolved to join a gym, mapped out my exercise regimen, and worked out some menus. I've lost 12.5 pounds and more than halved my triglycerides to normal. Last Thursday, I was ready to buy burial insurance--now I'm looking into mountain bikes.

One Month Later

The real world isn't as scary as I predicted. I'm still losing weight (I'm down 24 pounds), and I exercise daily. Every morning I stretch, then walk an hour. I lift twice a week, play racquetball, and do yoga and Pilates. And I can't imagine powering down Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough on the couch.

The DFC taught me we all need to get off our fat asses, exercise, and eat healthier foods. More important, I learned I have an amazing support system. My family and friends are here for me, and I can call them anytime.

I'm still hardly slim--I strive to be 200 pounds by May. At that point, I'll be a changed man. Well, a thinner, more fit one, anyway.

THE WAR ON FAT

SUCK IT IN

According to Harvard research, Body Mass Index (BMI) measurements may incorrectly classify some men as being over-weight when they are, in fact, in very good shape. Why? Muscle weighs more than fat, so a 250-pound weightlifter and a similar-sized office drone can often have the same BMI. That's why--if you're trying to get fit--it's better to focus on your waist circumference, rather than your actual poundage. You can mark progress with a tape measure, or simply grab a pair of jeans you can't fit into anymore and try them on once a week. Even if your weight and BMI aren't changing with your workout, the jeans should gradually start to fit you better--a sure sign your program is working.

CHUBBY HUBBY

It's not just your imagination that having a wife weighs you down. Most married men are thinner pre-vow than post--as those wedding pictures (and cruel friends) are sure to point out. One theory suggests that not being on the lookout for a partner allows you to get comfortable (i.e., fat). On the flip side, marital problems also lead to stress-eating and the inevitable weight gain that follows. But before you swear yourself to the single life or call that divorce attorney, there is one more twist to the equation. You may be thinner when you're single, but studies show that married guys live significantly longer than bachelors. The choice is yours, cowboy.

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2025, December 16). Lots of Food. No Sex. Time for Rehab, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, October 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/sex/body-image/lots-of-food-no-sex-time-for-rehab

Last Updated: March 26, 2022

Sometimes I'm Afraid of Complete ED Recovery

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Confession: sometimes I'm afraid of complete eating disorder (ED) recovery. What does this mean exactly? It's hard to articulate, but there is a small (albeit influential and persistent) voice in the back of my head that warns me not to lose the ED behaviors I relied on for so long. As irrational as this might sound, I feel a sense of comfort and reassurance in knowing I can re-access the eating disorder anytime I need it.

After all, it was my secret weapon—a source of identity, an outlet for control, an area I excelled in, an ability that made me feel special and unique. As I type all this out, I am aware none of those beliefs are actually true. But even with that self-awareness, I still can't deny what lives inside of me: sometimes I'm afraid of complete ED recovery.      

Here's What Scares Me About Complete ED Recovery Sometimes

I haven't acted on those ED temptations and behaviors in at least four years, but sometimes I fantasize about dipping my toes into the metaphorical waters again. I wonder if I'm still capable of the extreme level of physical and mental discipline (or abuse, to be honest) an eating disorder requires. I suspect that's where the fear comes from—if I heal entirely, will I abandon a part of myself who felt exceptional, strong, relentless, and powerful?

If I step away from the behaviors that inflated this feeling of power, does it mean I'm weak? What if a circumstance arises, which becomes too much to handle without the ED crutch to lean on? Do I have it in me to cut permanent ties with an illness that was once my religion? The answer is: yes, of course, I do. Continuously, I prove those fears and insecurities wrong. I have enough life experience to know I can thrive in the absence of an eating disorder. I realize how much I eat, weigh, or exercise is not the measurement of my worth. I understand there's no reason to be miserable when healing is possible and attainable. 

However, this doesn't change the harsh reality that sometimes I'm afraid of complete ED recovery. I miss the rush of dopamine from thinking I could exert superhuman control over my own body. I crave the satisfaction of running for hours on an empty stomach. The illness was like an addictive high—a potentially fatal one, but so enticing nonetheless. I will not let the eating disorder lure back me into its clutches, though. I can spot these lies it wants me to believe, and while I acknowledge the temptation, I also reject the impulse to give in. I'm afraid of complete ED recovery, but I'll never stop re-committing myself to it.

Complete ED Recovery Feels Scary Sometimes—And That's Alright

This is not one of those articles where I sign off with a clear, practical solution or a series of useful action steps. The truth is, I don't have much insight on how to overcome a fear of complete ED recovery once and for all. In this moment, I just need to share the confession because, as one of my former therapists often told me: "Secrets keep you sick." It's quite possible I will wrestle with missing certain behaviors, while still choosing to heal for the rest of my life. I sure hope not, but it remains to be seen. Right now, I'll simply own that sometimes I'm afraid of complete ED recovery—and this feels like a normal human emotion.

Wanting To Give Up on Everything After Abusive Relationships

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When you are the victim of verbal abuse, making decisions and navigating everyday activities can be overwhelming. I have noticed that when my anxiety levels climb due to external stressors, my brain and body want to shut down. Then, I would return to my old coping skills from when I suffered abuse by giving up, abstaining from fighting against any opposition, and retreating internally. 

Of course, this isn't always the case, but I do notice it is more prevalent when I disagree with someone, when I am trying to complete a task that seems unattainable, or when I am facing extreme obstacles in my daily life. Thankfully, recognizing these emotions before they get too much to bear helps me heal from my past trauma. 

Giving up Can Be Difficult to Understand 

Unfortunately, it can be highly confusing if you know someone who reaches the point of mental exhaustion and wants to give up. Lately, I have been dealing with multiple mental and physical health issues that are exceptionally draining on me and those in my life. Some days, I don't want to talk about it or think of new ways to seek the support I should be getting. 

I have some terrific people around me who are encouraging, supportive, and want to help. However, they are on the outside looking in, coming up with terrific ideas for things I can do or avenues to explore for assistance. Lately, in my daily life, I struggle with completing mundane tasks, and even small jobs can be exhausting, leaving me with no motivation to continue seeking support. 

Don't Give Up on Us 

Although it can be hard to watch a friend or family member retreat and give up on their drive to find support or assistance with challenges, it's vital that you don't give up as someone on the outside looking in. Although verbal abuse victims like myself do not always have the energy to fight the good fight and be productive, knowing someone supportive is behind us helps bring back our motivation. 

Keeping in contact with your friend or family member who is struggling can make all the difference in the world. Regular text messages or phone calls can help solidify the idea that they are never alone, even when they want to shut down and ignore everything.  

Remember, it is completely normal if you feel like you need to take a step away from everything to regroup and find your inner strength to carry on. However, you must find the resources you need to help deal with external stressors so you can continue to work on healing through your journey to better health. 

What Do You Say When You Hurt Yourself on Purpose?

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It's one thing to tell someone you've hurt yourself accidentally. But what do you say when you hurt yourself on purpose? What's the best way to tell someone you self-harm—and who should you tell first?

When You Hurt Yourself, Who Do You Tell?

Everybody's situation is different—as such, there is no one right answer here that will work for everyone. Some people have supportive family members who they can turn to for help, but others are not so lucky. Likewise, not everyone has access to the same mental health resources.

However, I can offer some tips for choosing the right person, or people, to tell first. Try to choose someone who will:

  • Reserve judgment and offer you an empathetic ear
  • Respect your boundaries and privacy (but can also be counted on to take action and help you in an emergency)
  • Offer help and support without enabling you (and will be open to learning the difference)
  • Have your best interests at heart, always

In my case, the first person I turned to was a friend—someone who knew me extremely well, and who I knew I could count on not to disclose my secret to others unless I became a danger to myself (or others). Later on, I was able to open up to a therapist, my parents, and—eventually—all of the lovely readers of this blog.

When Should You Tell Someone You Self-Harm?

Honestly, the sooner you can find someone to talk to, the better. The more support you have, the smoother the road to recovery will be. Take it from someone who walked it alone for far too long—it's not impossible to heal on your own, but the process is much easier when you have at least one person in your corner cheering you on. The more, the merrier!

This is especially true if you can connect with a mental health professional. Having the right medical support can be incredibly useful, and can help eliminate some (if not all) of the trial and error involved in discovering your best options for healing.

But even if you're not able or ready to talk to a therapist yet, simply having someone you can talk to about what you're going through—whether a friend, family member, or even a fellow member of your local or online support group—can make a big difference in your life. It's incredibly motivating to know you're not alone, and it's comforting to know that should a crisis occur, someone will have your back.

What Do You Say When You Hurt Yourself On Purpose?

Once you decide who to tell and when, the biggest hurdle becomes deciding how to tell them. What, exactly, do you say when you hurt yourself on purpose? How do you tell someone you love—or perhaps a stranger, such as a new therapist—about your self-harm?

Again, there's no specific wording or format here that will work for everyone. I can't give you a script to memorize, because your story belongs only to you—as such, it's up to you and you alone to tell it.

Here are some tips, however, that will hopefully help you figure out how to do that for yourself:

  • Try to wait until a calm, quiet moment to have this conversation—this will help lessen the stress of the situation
  • Don't memorize a script, but do think ahead about how much you're ready to share
  • Be as open and honest as you can about both the facts of your situation and how you feel
  • Clearly state what you want from the other person, whether you want them to listen, give advice, or help you get treatment (or something else)

It's been so many years since I first came out about my self-harm that I no longer remember what I said. But when I came out to my parents much more recently, I began the conversation (one of the hardest of my life) with something along the lines of, "I have something I need to talk to you about. It isn't easy for me to say, and it won't be easy for you to hear, but it's important to me that you hear it from me."

Feel free to steal that and adapt it to suit your situation better—or to ignore it entirely in favor of something that feels more authentic. As I said, this is your story—it's up to you to tell it in your own words.

My Life with Symptoms of Paranoid Schizophrenia

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When talking about schizophrenia, we must remember that everyone has a different experience with the illness. Some people live with few or no symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, while others live with significant symptoms. I had one period in my life where I lived symptom-free for almost a decade. During that time, I held a full-time job, completed training programs, was involved in hobbies, and was more independent than at any other period in my life. But I haven't had a day entirely symptom-free in the past ten years.

Symptoms of Paranoid Schizophrenia as Paranoia

My most frequent symptom of paranoid schizophrenia is paranoia, and much of my paranoia involves food. I struggle with thinking that food is poisoned or will make me sick. I rarely eat expired food. I never eat food left unattended in public, like in a car, at a picnic, or in an office break room. Many people delight in trying new foods, but if I taste something different than what I'm expecting or familiar with, I won't eat it.

These examples only touch the surface of my difficulties with food and are just one example of my daily paranoid schizophrenia symptoms. I also struggle with a lack of motivation, social isolation, anxiety, and occasional hallucinations.

Symptoms of Paranoid Schizophrenia as Hallucinations and Psychosis

My hallucinations are generally not visual but involve touch and smell. For me, psychosis is the most challenging state because I lose touch with reality completely, hear voices, and have delusions like believing Elvis is alive or that I'm a famous religious figure. When I'm psychotic, I often require hospitalization and a medication change. The last time I was in a state of psychosis, a period that lasted six months, I was able to stabilize after an increase in my dosage. I must work hard to stay stable, and I often tell people it is a full-time job.

To participate in life more fully, I stick to routines. I make sure to get enough sleep every night. I eat a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. I exercise almost daily. I schedule my meals around when I take medication because they must be taken with food. I have frequent doctor visits, and blood draws. And I have a partner who helps me with all of these things, like attending each doctor appointment with me, monitoring my medications, helping me overcome difficult symptoms, and helping with all of the chores of daily living like cooking, cleaning, and paying bills.

It is unlikely that I could live outside of a treatment facility without medication, but that is where my experience with schizophrenia falls on the spectrum. Even though I'm not entirely symptom-free with medication, I'm grateful for every bit of peace, comfort, clarity, and moments of creativity I experience. 

What are the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia that you experience? Share in the comments.

What Does Recovery from an Eating Disorder Mean to You?

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My birthday is coming up this week, and I've been writing and reflecting to prepare for it. When I reflect on my last year, so much change has happened, but those changes aren't obvious or visible from the outside. This is the reality of going through recovery from eating disorders like binge eating disorder (BED). There are so many emotions, habits, thought patterns, and behaviors to change, and these massive internal changes aren't easy to see from the outside. 

So here are my questions for you as the seasons shift, and we acknowledge the changes that we have gone through- what does "recovery from an eating disorder" mean to you? When you read the word recovery, what do you imagine in your mind's eye?  When you imagine yourself recovering from BED, what do you hope for? 

Decide What Eating Disorder Recovery Means and What You Want

When we are wading through recovery, and trying to change the cycle of binge eating, it is too easy to focus completely on what you don't want

I remember every time, the morning after a binge, I'd think, "I never want to feel this way again." Even now, I'm hard on myself about nighttime snacking because it feels too close to binge eating. I tell myself things like, "No more sugar. I don't want to overeat before bed. I don't want to feel gross in the morning."

All these thoughts I'd replay in my mind were focused on what I hated and what I did not want. Naturally, focusing on what I didn't want made me feel frustrated, depressed, and helpless. Those feelings tend to surface when you only focus on what you don't want in your life.

I have more power in recovery when I define and focus on what I do want. I want to feel energized when I wake up in the morning. I want to spend my energy on the things that I love to do. I want to feel gratitude for my body. The wants I have motivate me and give me something positive to look forward to in recovery, instead of constantly punishing myself for not being perfect.

Tips For Clarifying What You Want Eating Disorder Recovery to Mean for You

Instead of fixating on things we don't want and picking ourselves apart, it is so much more helpful to figure out what exactly you do want. That's why it's essential to define what eating disorder recovery means for you. What do you want to feel like? What do you want more of in your life? What do you want to spend your energy on?

I'll be honest, I shy away from journaling and responding to questions like these because they are direct, which makes it difficult to lie or ignore our needs and wants. Sometimes it's painful to admit what I want because I'm afraid I won't follow through or live up to what I hope for. It's okay to feel discomfort in the process of discovering your answers. That is part of the process.

I can acknowledge today I've made progress in my journey. Eating disorder recovery, for me, means a sense of peace and appreciation when I see my body. Recovery means that I have more mental and physical energy to focus my attention on making my dreams happen.

I hope you will spend a pinch of time thinking about these questions, and clarifying want recovery means for you. We can't know what we're aiming for if we have not made the destination clear. 

I believe the essential recovery progress is felt, and not seen. In this month's video, I share my thoughts on how to "measure" progress during recovery.

What does eating disorder recovery mean to you? I'd love to read your thoughts in the comments.

Don't Shame People for Not Having a Positive Outlook

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In our society, people are shamed for not having a positive outlook. In fact, I just read a comment on LinkedIn that said, "Maintaining a positive outlook, ALWAYS, is so very important. Always look for that silver lining. Trust me, in the end, everything is exactly where it should be." And that sums up how many people feel about a positive outlook: it's critical, and something's wrong with you and your line of thinking if you don't have a positive outlook.

What Is a Positive Outlook?

A positive outlook, of course, is precisely what that commenter said: always looking for the silver lining. It's looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. It's "turning that frown upside down." It's taking whatever you're given and reframing it in a positive light. We all do this sometimes, and we all know people who do this all the time. And let's be clear, a positive outlook can be healthy sometimes. Sometimes you need to look at the positives in a situation to get up and keep going. That's okay.

Why Would Someone Not Have a Positive Outlook?

If seeing the positive in things is so great, why wouldn't everyone have a positive outlook? There are many reasons. However, I feel there are two broad categories of reasons that people don't have a positive outlook: mood and reality.

Mood — People can be in a bad mood, a negative mood, for a variety of reasons. Something terrible might have happened, or they might have just woken up on the wrong side of the bed that day. Or, of course, they may have a mood disorder like depression. In the former cases, the negative mood is likely transient and no big deal. In the latter case, though, a negative outlook may be pervasive and ongoing. 

Reality — Some people have a negative outlook because they're looking out at negative things. It's hard to have a positive outlook when everything around you is dark and bleak. (Think of people in abusive relationships, for example.)

I would argue that in many of the above situations, having a negative mood is quite reasonable.

Not Having a Positive Outlook Is Not Bad

No matter why you don't have a positive outlook, it's not de facto a bad thing. In fact, it has no inherent value judgment at all. It is neither good nor bad; it just is. Other people, however, tend to impose their values on it. Other people tend to say it's "bad."

They do this because your negativity makes them uncomfortable because it puts a chink in their overly-positive outlook. The negative makes people question the positive — and heaven forbid people look at their own belief systems.

And while people experiencing reactive negativity (i.e., because something awful just happened) can often be encouraged to look at the other good things in their lives, dealing with people with pervasive, longstanding negative outlooks is not so simple. For example, people with longstanding depression have changes in their brains with which to contend. It's not a matter of reframing things; it's a matter of fixing their brains.

Don't Shame the People Without Positive Outlooks

And here's the thing, by saying that "maintaining a positive outlook is ALWAYS so very important," or other similar platitudes, you are actually shaming all the people who don't have a positive outlook. You're telling them that there's something wrong with them. You're telling them that good things won't happen to them because of their outlook. You're shaming them.

This isn't fair, and this isn't right. You are adding insult to injury. 

People without a positive outlook don't necessarily enjoy it. Being in a painful, dark cloud of depression is one of the worst things in the world. If I could trade that for anything, I would. And understand that when in that place, blackness and negativity abound. This is not my fault. This is the disease's fault. And how dare you shame me for the symptom of a brain illness?

So, look, if you want to bring up something positive, even to the most negative among us, that's fine, but don't shame us when we don't share your outlook. Sometimes that's just not possible. 

Why Does Mental Illness Recovery Feel So Scary?

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No matter how much someone covets mental illness recovery, some part of it feels scary. My struggles with mental health started when I was very young, and there were years and years when I was desperate for recovery—but I was also terrified of it. From what I’ve seen, my experience and feelings are not uncommon, so I wanted to take a closer look at that.

Reasons Recovery from Mental Illness Can Be Scary

I’ve tried to narrow down some of the key reasons I was so scared of taking the steps toward recovery even though I desperately wanted it. Here’s what I came up with.

  1. I didn’t know what life looked like beyond mental health struggles: Because my struggles started when I was so young, I didn’t know what life would look like in recovery. What if it was somehow worse?
  2. I didn’t know who I was apart from my mental illness: It’s common for mental illnesses to intertwine themselves with our identities because of how deeply they impact our lives. The idea of losing who I was was frightening.
  3. I worried it wouldn’t work, and I’d fail: Quite simply, what if I couldn’t recover from my mental illnesses?

As you can see, it mainly boils down to uncertainty. No matter how much I craved the change, the healing, and the peace promised with mental illness recovery, I was most familiar with the struggle. I knew what to expect. I knew the brand of terrible I’d be faced with.

The potential for failure was also a big factor. I had this thought that if whatever method I chose for mental health recovery didn’t work, then it meant I was even more messed up than I thought I was. This may surprise some, but as much as I write about and promote hope, I’m very cautious with it. I don’t like to get my hopes up because there have been too many times where I’ve done that only for them to be dashed. (That’s a discussion for another time.)

Identifying Why You Feel Scared of Mental Illness Recovery Helps

There are probably dozens more reasons people could come up with for being scared of recovering from mental illness. We’re individuals with our own back stories that contribute to how we feel about approaching recovery.

I didn’t do this when I started approaching recovery, but hindsight is 20/20, and, looking back, I think identifying these fears is an important part of the process. Feeling scared is one thing. Being able to identify why we feel scared helps us understand and begin to work through those fears, and ultimately take steps toward mental illness recovery.