Knowing How You're Growing

Bag on the floor with workout clothes and tampons
Except for the first year of life, your growth during the years around puberty happens to be the largest and fastest growing your body will ever do! That is why you often hear those words, “I can’t believe how much you’ve grown!” (Or “how tall you’re getting” or “how ‘big’ you are!”) Ouch! Don’t they know that last one is a little offensive – or at least it could be! But the truth is puberty is about growth.

Just before puberty, linear height slows down slightly, after which - for about two years - there is a rapid growth in height at about 3.5 inches per year on average. Weight gain during this time is typically about 18 pounds. After this period of rapid growth, both height and weight gain will again slow. Linear growth usually ends for girls within two years after your period starts. Weight typically follows this same pattern as it slows after linear growth ends.

Our society sends mixed messages about body size. Media images show us pictures that have been altered in many ways (breast enlargement or other shifts in weight distribution – a little off the thigh, a little off the tummy, round out the hips). Some electronic games even teach young girls how to alter pictures of themselves! Health care standards provide us with recommendations about body weight that help to prevent long-term diseases and promote health. Peers and parents have their own “words of wisdom”. Recently there has been some momentum to accept your body whatever its size might be. There’s also that little voice from inside that is likely a compilation of all of the above!

In my opinion, this is where the interest with weight begins; weight becomes personal, something to individualize, something to compare. Weight becomes something that can be controlled or ignored. Weight for some reflects their image of self-identity, attractiveness, fitness, self-loathing, self-control. Weight for others may be safety or security.

From my perspective of health (physical and emotional), we need to look at weight in a number of ways.

First, does your weight follow the pattern for YOUR own personal growth?

Second, does your weight correlate with your height in that growth pattern or for maintenance after your growing is done?

Third, what are your personal feelings about your weight? Do you compare yourself to your peers or to an idealized image of what you think or wish your body looked like? Are you often looking for ways to change the way that your body looks?

Fourth, weight aside, how are you fueling your body? Are you eating a balanced, healthy diet*?

Fifth, are you getting the right amount of exercise**?

If you find yourself not feeling good about your weight or your body or if you have other concerns about your growth, the most important thing is for you to talk to someone; a trusted adult or friend can help you find some answers or some help. Talk to your healthcare provider at your next check up about any questions you might have. Taking care of yourself means taking care of your body and your mind! They work together to make you the best you that you can be!

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