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 2024, February 29 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 2024, February 29 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 2024, February 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/sex/body-image/lots-of-food-no-sex-time-for-rehab

Last Updated: March 26, 2022

Yes, You Can Be Who You Needed When You Were Younger

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While randomly browsing the Internet in 2015, I came across a powerful phrase: Be who you needed when you were younger. At the time, I was a recent college graduate who had no idea what to do with her life. As a result, the phrase seemed irrelevant to someone like me. However, knowing what I know now, I am convinced that anyone can live by this motto if they want to. 

What Does It Mean To "Be Who You Needed When You Were Younger"? 

From what I understand, "Be who you needed when you were younger" is a mantra that means you must give someone the support you wish you had received at a younger age. For example, do you remember your teenage years when you were angry with the world and had no one to guide you? The next time you see a teenager, remember that angst. Now, think: what if you could be the supportive adult you wished you had met when you were a teen? Sure, you never met such an adult then. But you could be that adult now if you wanted to -- and it wouldn't even take up much of your time or effort. Generally, all it takes is a listening ear, a word of encouragement, or a small act of kindness to make a meaningful impact on a younger person's life. 

The Mental Health Benefits of Being Who You Needed When You Were Younger

Apart from attracting good karma, I believe there are several mental health benefits of being who you needed when you were younger. Firstly, offering support and guidance to others can give you direction and a sense of purpose. For example, when I was a teen, I longed to hear from someone who shared and overcame their mental health struggles. So today, this is exactly what I do as a mental health blogger at HealthyPlace and on my blog, Mahevash Muses. Simply knowing that I am helping distressed teenagers and young people, in general, navigate mental health challenges helps me feel that I am doing something meaningful with my life. You don't have to share your stories on a public platform to help and support someone. You can change lives simply by daring to be authentic and sharing vulnerable stories from your past. 

Secondly, when you offer support and guidance to people, you build and strengthen relationships. According to research, when the quality of your social relationships improves, your mental health also improves.

"Social support refers to the emotionally sustaining qualities of relationships (e.g., a sense that one is loved, cared for, and listened to.) Hundreds of studies establish that social support benefits mental and physical health. Social support may have indirect effects on health through enhanced mental health, by reducing the impact of stress. Personal control refers to individuals' beliefs that they can control their life outcomes through their own actions. Social ties may enhance personal control, and, in turn, personal control is advantageous for health habits, mental health, and physical health."1

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, being who you needed when you were younger can improve your self-esteem. By sharing your struggles and coping mechanisms with others, you demonstrate your value to others -- and yourself. The fact that I can help others helps boost my confidence, and I am positive you will feel the same way when you help someone. The question is, are you ready to step up and make a difference?  

Source

  1. Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010). Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51(1_suppl), S54–S66. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022146510383501

Trauma Splitting: One Side Effect of Verbal Abuse

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Trauma splitting can be a common side effect after facing verbal abuse. This coping mechanism can happen to individuals of any age. However, children with verbally abusive parents will often develop trauma splitting to separate their normal personality from the traumatized one. 

Not everyone will experience the same side effects from verbal abuse. Unfortunately, trauma splitting is just one of the many adverse reactions I've had after being in a verbally abusive relationship. 

Is Trauma Splitting Like Disassociation From Verbal Abuse? 

Some individuals consider trauma splitting to be the same as dissociation. In some situations, it can be. In my life, I've experienced several instances where I've lost time and memories. Unfortunately, it's just one side effect I've used as a coping tool. 

When I was younger, I noticed odd, confusing things. They included situations where:

  • People would tell me they saw me somewhere doing something, and I don't remember going there or doing the activity.
  • Depending on the day, my penmanship would change drastically from scratchy, thin lines to large, looping, curled letters.
  • I would look in the mirror and not recognize the person staring back at me. 
  • Sometimes, I would zone out and then forget where I was or what I was doing. 
  • I would be in situations where I should react emotionally but feel nothing at all. 

At first, I would chalk these situations up to being overtired or distracted and inattentive. Now, I realize I've had many trauma-splitting moments throughout my life.

How Trauma Splitting Helps Verbal Abuse Recovery 

Although my coping mechanisms started as a result of verbal abuse, trauma splitting helped me when I needed it most. The ability to separate harmful words and protect my psyche got me through some of the worst circumstances. 

Of course, dissociation from reality isn't ideal as a typical response to everyday activities. As I recover from verbal abuse, the coping skills I once relied on are no longer useful. If I experience trauma-splitting behaviors now, I would be in contact with my therapist.

A professional counselor helped me work through many past situations where my dissociation interfered with my daily life. Thankfully, these coping mechanisms aren't as common as they once were. 

If you're experiencing some trauma splitting because of verbal abuse, you aren't alone. You shouldn't feel ashamed if you notice this behavior. It can help to talk to a professional who understands trauma splitting and its effects on your life.

 

An Anorexic Mindset Is All About Earning My Worth

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When I revert back into an anorexic mindset, it becomes all about earning my worth. Even if I resist the urge to act out in eating disorder behaviors, I can still be susceptible to the anorexic mindset, which tells me I need to strive past my own limitations and prove that I am strong, capable, resilient, and valuable. I have a difficult time believing that my self-worth is inherent, so I force myself to achieve it—even if that means I hustle to the edge of burnout with no room to pause, breathe, and rest. An anorexic mindset is all about earning my worth, but l will be honest: This performance-based mentality creates a miserable existence at times.   

The Anorexic Mindset Tells Me to Earn My Worth

Lately, I have been working almost nonstop. I am exhausted, but I will not give myself permission to slow down the intensity. I operate under the control of an anorexic mindset, which shouts at me to keep moving at all costs and to deprive myself of affirmation until I have done enough to earn a sense of accomplishment or validation. I know this pattern is both unhealthy and unsustainable, but I cannot seem to break the relentless cycle. I perceive rest as a luxury that I have no business asking for. I view stillness as an indication that I have left something undone on my task list. I am constantly looking for ways to strive harder or push farther because anything less feels unacceptable—the anorexic mindset is all about earning my worth.  

The irony is that I would never impose this anorexic mindset on anyone else. If I saw a loved one (or even just an acquaintance) conflating self-worth and performance metrics, I would want them to know that human value is intrinsic. I would want to offer reassurance that no action or lack thereof can diminish an ounce of their worth. I would want to encourage them to honor the need for stillness and rest. I would extol the virtues of balance over restriction or deprivation. I would tell them how much they matter—not because they have earned it, but rather, because it's the truth. Evidently, I use a different measuring stick when it comes to my self-worth.

Earning My Worth Feels Exhausting and Defeating

So, where do I take it from here? Do I continue allowing this mentality to influence how I view and treat myself? Do I surrender to an anorexic mindset that's all about earning my worth—no matter the physical, mental, and emotional burnout it so often causes? As I write this paragraph, I actually feel sick due to the rigorous, frenetic pace I have been forcing myself to sustain. That is not a life of vitality and freedom. It results in pure exhaustion and sheer defeat. I have come too far in eating disorder recovery to let this anorexic mindset pressure me to reach the breaking point. I still wrestle with the belief that I need to earn my self-worth in a tangible and measurable way, but I can choose to speak truth over myself as I would for someone else. I am worthy, enough said. I no longer need to accept my anorexic mindset as the status quo.

Cutting Back on a Treatment for Schizoaffective Disorder

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One part of my treatment for schizoaffective disorder is an antianxiety medication I take as needed. I’ve been taking it for decades, but now my psychiatric nurse practitioner (NP) wants to ween me off of it. I have mixed feelings about this change in my schizoaffective treatment.

I Needed This Schizoaffective Treatment Most When I Heard Voices

One of the most important things I’ve used this particular schizoaffective treatment for is that, when I used to hear voices, I would take it to calm down the voices, and it worked. Now that I no longer hear voices, or have any delusions, it might be a good time for going off the medication. Although I am in no way at all antipsychiatry, I would like to be on less medication.

But this treatment helps my schizoaffective anxiety. I have very high anxiety. Yesterday, I got extremely anxious when my shopping cart grazed a display of Cheez-It bags at the grocery store. And I would never go grocery shopping alone. I always go with my husband Tom. And usually, when I go with him, I stay in the car. There are so many things I could knock over and so many people who make me feel that I’m in the way. The point is that when we got home from this trip to the grocery store I had to take my as-needed anxiety medication.

Using Therapy Skills as Schizoaffective Treatment

I am happy, though, that I no longer need as much of this schizoaffective treatment as I used to because my NP and I are decreasing it. And I’ve been using skills I’ve learned in therapy to fill in the gaps. Medication is important, but therapy skills are another crucial schizoaffective treatment for me.

Right now, the therapy skill that helps me the most, especially as my as-needed anxiety medication is being decreased, is telling myself, if I’m worrying about something (which is all the time), to put it aside and worry about it later. Another is labeling worries as what-if thinking.

Writing this has made me realize that I can handle slowly going off of this medication. So thank you, my readers, because you are why I write these articles. I mean, I quit smoking, I quit drinking, and I’m lowering my sugar intake. (I was getting most of my sugar from juice, so now I’m going back to drinking lots of water.) My whole point is: having done all that, how hard can this be?

How to Deal With Anxiety When You Go Through Change

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It's hard to deal with change when you experience anxiety. Change can feel scary and unpredictable, and even more so when you are already feeling stress and pressure in other areas of life.

This is something I have experienced recently. Over the years, this anxiety trigger has been something I have worked hard on learning how to cope with. Years ago, I would find that any time any major life changes occurred, I would feel extremely anxious.

Why Change Is Difficult for Someone With Anxiety

One of the reasons I've noticed it is hard for me to deal with change is related to the unpredictability of the situation. When I experience new transitions in life, life isn't as predictable as it normally would be. Usually, I know what to expect from day-to-day but if there are changes taking place and things are new, then I don't know what to expect.

That unpredictability taps into the overwhelming worry that often happens with anxiety. The rumination, the persistent thoughts and worries that can become overpowering. Instead of feeling confident that I can cope with what may happen, I feel overwhelmed because I feel as though I don't know what is going to happen.

This also often results in withdrawing from others and wanting to isolate. I know, though, from experience, that this is actually not helpful for me, and can ultimately have the opposite effect in making my anxiety worse.

Essentially, I've been pushed out of my comfort zone, my daily habits and routine, and along with that comes feelings of disarray. I then notice that the worry that I often feel that something bad is going to happen -- which is characteristic of anxiety -- becomes something that I feel very noticeably.

Dealing with Anxiety That Comes With Change

The problem with this is that it makes it hard for me to function on a daily basis. That becomes challenging when you need to be able to function effectively every day but, at the same time, you are having difficulty focusing because your thoughts are mired in worries about the future.

Things that I know are helpful and that I am continuing to try to work on, include practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, and meditation.

And while calming my nervous system helps, I think the most helpful strategy that I need to focus on is reframing my negative thought process. Recognizing the patterns of thinking that lead me to feel overwhelmed, without control, and just worse overall. Sometimes writing these thoughts down helps me to organize them in my mind and make sense of them to where I can regain a sense of control.

Are there strategies you use to help you cope with change? If so, share them in the comments below.

Co-fronting with Alters

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Living with dissociative identity disorder (DID) can present a unique set of challenges in everyday interactions. Sharing my mind with multiple identities, each with thoughts, feelings, and perspectives lends itself to interesting conversations. These internal complexities can lead to co-fronting while significantly influencing how conversations unfold internally and externally depending on the factors present at the time. 

Co-fronting & Conversations

Thus, for me every conversation becomes a delicate dance of managing identities and external interactions, working to ensure everyone feels heard and respected. This isn't easy as even seemingly mundane discussions can trigger co-fronting between alters, disrupting the flow of dialogue externally. It's like juggling multiple conversations at once, maintaining coherence while staying present in the moment and accommodating the diverse voices within. All of which can be disorienting. 

While my switching has decreased significantly over the past few years, co-fronting still impacts my relationships and everyday conversations. We've found the impact comes when triggered alters begin co-fronting, but they may not have the same skills or emotional regulation as I do. These conversations can look like a mini rollercoaster with twists and turns all on the topic of the financial budget for the week, which may have sparked high anxiety for one of my alters. 

Learning to Co-front with Alters

Co-fronting has taught me each alter may have different preferences, opinions, likes, dislikes, and communication styles making collaboration essential for navigating daily interactions smoothly. Picture a roundtable discussion where every voice has a seat and decisions are made collectively. However, the ins and outs of the day provide little to no time for roundtable discussions, which is why my system exists more as a mini rollercoaster with two or more drivers at the wheel as we continue working to navigate co-fronting. 

Moreover, conversations can serve as triggers for switches or co-fronting especially when the topic touches upon past trauma or deeply held beliefs within my system. What may seem like a harmless remark to one alter could evoke intense emotions or memories for another, prompting a sudden shift in demeanor or communication style. 

Despite these challenges, everyday conversations also provide opportunities for growth and understanding. Through dialogue, I've gained more insight into the experiences and perspectives of my alters. Over time, this has fostered a deeper sense of empathy and cooperation within the system. Not every alter may be comfortable co-fronting in external conversations. Other alters may have much to say or be easily triggered, making for a bumpier co-fronting ride. Nevertheless, continuing to learn from my experiences has allowed me to understand what co-fronting means for our internal system and how this relates to our everyday conversations. 

My experience continues to show me that, while complex, everyday conversations while living with DID are a dance of managing internal and external dialogues. It's a journey of self-discovery, communication, and collaboration among alters, with each conversation offering opportunities for growth, insight, and understanding. 

Recognizing My Unhealthy Habits to Change Them

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Everyone has habits -- both healthy and unhealthy habits. Healthy habits might be drinking enough water throughout the day. Unhealthy might be drinking excessively every night. Lately, I am finding that some of my past behaviors and thought patterns have contributed to some of my unhealthy habits today. To learn more about my discoveries and experiences with habits, continue reading this blog post.

Unhealthy Habits Around Comfort Food and Gambling

As a child, I loved fast food and chocolate. At first, it was not an issue because I was slim and fairly active. But as the years passed, I couldn't get my hands on enough cookies and candy.

In middle school, I started to gain quite a bit of weight. It got a little worse in high school. But I thought that since I was young, I could change my eating habits at any time.

Eventually, it worked. I gave up fast food and started packing healthy lunches for school. I worked out for an hour every night. Toward the end of my senior year, I felt really good about my body. So, throughout the rest of high school and college, I kept going to the gym and restricting my calories. But these habits did not last.

In my mid-20s, I started to get chronic back pain. I became severely depressed and lost my interest in exercising. Since then, I have found my weight slowly increasing. Last year, in addition to eating fast food and chocolate, I started playing slots when I was stressed out. I thought that it would help me feel better when I needed a win. But after losing my money, that was not the case.

My Unhealthy Habits Are Triggered by Shame

When it comes to impulsive, unhealthy habits, there is a thought pattern I recognize. Here it is.

  • I made some money today. I'm going to reward myself with a Big Mac meal.
  • Now I should probably exercise. But the bar is right around the corner. It is time to play slots.
  • I just lost 20 dollars. Maybe if I just spend 10 more dollars, I will win it all back and then some.
  • I just lost all my money. I'm more disappointed than I was before. Maybe a sundae will help me feel better.

But before I knew it, my unhealthy habits had a tight grip on my mind, body, and self-esteem. Every time I looked at myself in the mirror or checked my bank account balance, I hated myself. To feel better, I turned to my unhealthy habits all over again.

Before I started writing this blog post, I had lost a lot of my hard-earned money on slots. Tonight, it hit me: Every time I give in to an unhealthy habit, I lose something that I could have been gaining by creating a healthier one. I am wasting the time, money, and energy that I need to thrive in the long run. So, now that I have written all this down, this is the first step to change.

If you are struggling with an unhealthy habit or an addiction, please know that you are not alone. You are human, and you are allowed to make mistakes. Everyone is a work in progress. It can be easy to fall sometimes. But if you can fall, you can also rise and become stronger than before. The most important thing is to keep looking forward and be intentional about making healthy changes.