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, July 24 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, July 24 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, July 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/sex/body-image/lots-of-food-no-sex-time-for-rehab

Last Updated: March 26, 2022

Having a Clean Space Reduces My Anxiety

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Keeping my home as my clean space helps clear my mind and reduce anxious thoughts. I can't think straight when my surroundings are cluttered, and my mind feels bogged down by the mess. A structured cleaning routine encourages me to keep my space organized, which helps me focus during working hours and leisure time.

How a Clean Space Calms Anxiety

I've found that having a clean space helps calm my anxiety in multiple ways. First, when my home is tidy, it feels like my mind is more organized, too. There's less visual clutter to distract me, which makes it easier to focus and relax. This way, I can stay productive when I need to work at my desk instead of being anxious about the mess around me. 

Second, knowing where everything is and not having to search through piles of products or clothing reduces anxious thoughts. Having a place for everything feels great, and it prevents me from feeling overwhelmed by chaos. 

Lastly, I've noticed that keeping my space clean gives me a sense of control. When life feels unpredictable, or I'm experiencing increased levels of anxiety due to work or personal reasons, a tidy environment reminds me that I can create order in my home.

Practical Tips for Maintaining a Clean Space to Reduce Anxiety

Here are some practical tips I use to keep my space clean to de-stress and reduce anxious thoughts. 

  1. Break up chores throughout the week -- Instead of tackling everything in one big cleaning session on the weekend, I spread out tasks throughout the week. For example, I might vacuum on Mondays and do laundry on Fridays. This approach makes chores feel less overwhelming and keeps my space consistently tidy. 
  2. Put things back right away -- Returning items to where I found them as soon as I'm done using them helps prevent clutter from piling up and reduces my anxiety about missing items.
  3. Declutter regularly -- I go through my belongings and donate or discard items I no longer need or use. Decluttering my home calms my anxiety because I feel lighter and more in control when I remove excess items I don't need. 
  4. Create storage areas -- I invest in storage solutions like bins and shelves to keep my items neatly arranged. Having designated storage areas reduces my anxiety because they give my environment a sense of order and predictability. 
  5. Use a checklist -- I rely on a digital to-do list to monitor my cleaning schedule and track my accomplishments. This practice helps me stay accountable and brings a sense of calm as I organize all my tasks on my phone. 

What are your favorite tips for maintaining an organized and clean space to help reduce anxiety? Share it in the comments below.

The Art of Masking Borderline PD: Practical Coping Skills

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Masking borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a high-wire act, teetering between societal acceptance and personal exhaustion. it's an everyday performance where I suppress traits that might draw judgment, becoming a chameleon to blend into what's deemed acceptable. BPD masking is draining, leaving me feeling like I've been hit by a truck by the time I get home. the car ride home is a solitary purge of pent-up frustration and angst.

Masking BPD involves hiding the symptoms of borderline, such as emotional volatility and impulsive behavior due to perceived rejection or abandonment, to fit into social norms. It's an adaptive strategy to avoid rejection and criticism, but it comes at a cost. The constant effort to monitor and modify my behavior is tiring. It's like wearing a heavy mask that you can't take off until you're safely alone. The act of masking BPD includes monitoring the people around me, changing my opinions and beliefs, and suppressing self-soothing behaviors like stimming. When I'm around others, I often find myself agreeing with their viewpoints, even if I don't truly believe them, just to avoid conflict and fit in.

Understanding Stimming: Self-Soothing and Anxiety Management

Stimming, short for self-stimulatory behavior, is a way to self-soothe and manage anxiety. For me, stimming can involve actions like picking at my skin or scalp in stressful situations. These behaviors help calm me down but are not always socially acceptable. In the past, I've had to learn to suppress these behaviors in public to avoid ridicule. Instead, I've found alternative sensory experiences that help me relax. At home, I might run a hot bath or change my sheets so they feel nice against my skin. These sensory experiences provide the comfort and calm I need when I'm overwhelmed emotionally due to heavily masking BPD symptoms. But it's hard when I'm out in public. The muscle tension from hours of suppressing these behaviors is palpable, and the discomfort is worth shedding light on.

The danger of masking BPD for too long is that when I'm finally alone with people I'm comfortable with, I tend to release my frustrations on them. Sometimes, I direct these frustrations inward, leading to harmful behaviors like skin-picking and negative self-talk. It's crucial for me to understand when I need to stop masking BPD in public and respect my limits. Leaving the party early or calling out sick at work isn't the cardinal sin it used to be. I've learned that prioritizing my mental health is essential if I want to maintain a sense of well-being.

Balancing Masking BPD and Authenticity

I'm still fumbling through the coping strategies for masking BPD. It's an endless learning curve, figuring out when it's safe to drop the mask. I've found a couple of safe people to be real with. They're the ones who have been raw with me, who get my specific triggers, or who are just good with words and validation. With these friends, I can let my guard down, admit the triggers I want to dodge, and they can navigate the relationship by actually communicating with me (and vice versa).

Another strategy, besides reminding myself that I can bail on situations, is taking frequent breaks to be alone and collect my thoughts. That's why my notes app or notebook is always within reach. These tools let me communicate with myself so I'm not bottling up sensations and emotions. It's like a mental restroom break: essential and non-negotiable.

Recognizing my limits and knowing when to take a step back has become a vital part of managing my BPD. It's not always easy, but it's necessary. By being mindful of my needs and allowing myself the space to decompress, I can better navigate the challenges of living with BPD. This journey of self-awareness and self-care is ongoing, and each day brings new lessons in balancing the demands of masking BPD with the need for authenticity and self-preservation.

How I Organize My Fridge to Manage Binge Eating Disorder

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Dealing with binge eating disorder has been challenging for me, but I found that organizing my fridge to promote healthier eating habits has been effective. By carefully arranging my food, I've reduced my temptation to binge and supported more mindful eating. In short, an organized fridge helps quell my binge eating disorder.

An Organized Fridge Helps My Binge Eating Disorder

Here's how I have organized my fridge to help manage my binge eating disorder.

An Organized Fridge Helps Binge Eating by Prioritizing Healthy Foods

I organize my fridge to help my binge eating in the following ways. I place healthy, nutrient-dense foods at eye level. When I open the fridge, I see fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Using clear containers makes these options more appealing and accessible. I also wash and pre-cut fruits and vegetables, making them easy grab-and-go snacks. I position items like yogurt, hummus, and low-fat cheese at the front of the shelves. The foods serve as satisfying snacks that prevent me from reaching for less healthy options. By making more nutritious choices visible and convenient, I'm more likely to choose them first.

My Meals and Snacks Are Organized in My Fridge to Help with Binge Eating

I organize my fridge to help with binge eating by designating specific sections of my fridge for different types of meals and snacks. For example, I reserve the top shelf for breakfast items like eggs, yogurt, and whole-grain bread. Another shelf is dedicated to lunch and dinner ingredients such as pre-cooked proteins, salad greens, and whole grains. This organization helps me quickly find what I need for my balanced meal.

My snack drawer with healthy options has been organized to prevent binge eating, too. It's filled with cut-up veggies, small portions of nuts, and low-calorie snacks. I keep high-calorie, processed snacks out of sight or out of the house altogether. Having a designated snack area helps control portions and reduces the likelihood of mindless eating. I use smaller containers to store leftovers and pre-portioned snacks. This method helps control portion sizes and prevent overeating.

I label containers with contents and date prepared. This not only helps me keep track of what I have but encourages me to eat older items first, reducing food waste, ensuring I always have fresh, appealing options available.

I rotate fresh foods regularly to ensure that older foods are consumed before newer ones. Rotating fresh products, dairy, and other perishable to the front as I restock my fridge helps me maintain a supply of fresh, appealing options and reduces food waste, making healthy eating more consistent.

I Organize My Fridge to Help with Binge Eating by Keeping Temptations Out of Sight

I store indulgent foods like desserts and sugary drinks at the back of the fridge or in opaque containers. Out of sight, out of mind. This simple trick has significantly reduced my urge to binge on these items. I also consider storing less healthy foods in a cabinet or out of the kitchen altogether. By making them less accessible, I create an environment that supports healthy eating habits.

My Binge Eating Disorder Really Is Helped by Fridge Organization

Organizing my fridge thoughtfully has helped manage my binge eating disorder. By prioritizing healthy foods, organizing meals and snacks, using smaller containers, and keeping temptations out of sight, I've created an environment that supports mindful eating and reduces the urge to binge. These small changes have made a big difference in my journey toward healthier eating habits.

Self-Compassion and Bipolar: Benefits and How to Practice

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I recently started wondering if self-compassion can help with bipolar disorder. This is because I'm in a dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) group, and people there seem crazy about it. It's also something I tend not to show myself. I have my reasons for being that way, but I'm reconsidering whether self-compassion can help with bipolar disorder.

Why I Don't Show Myself Self-Compassion with Bipolar

I admit it; I'm not big on self-compassion. It's not that I don't think other people with bipolar should show themselves self-compassion; I do; it's just that self-compassion has never been something I've shown myself.

And there's a reason for this. It's because I have an inner drill sergeant who runs my life. This inner drill sergeant is very important to me because he's what drives me to do anything. As a person with severe depression, I have no motivation, so screams from my inner drill sergeant are the stand-in.

Additionally, I'm often dealing with really awful things like the pain depression brings, and showing myself self-compassion about it has always read a little too close to self-pity for me. I try to take the stiff upper lip approach and move forward.

I'm not suggesting that any of this is the best way to be; it's just the way I am.

Self-Compassion Helping Bipolar?

But, as I said, self-compassion is a big part of the DBT group I'm in, and DBT has, indeed, been shown to help people with bipolar disorder.1 Additionally, according to Dr. Emma Seppala of The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford, there are scientific benefits to self-compassion. These benefits include an increase in productivity and a decrease in stress. Additionally, self-compassion leads to greater resilience, strength, and happiness.2

And if self-compassion can offer all those benefits to people with bipolar disorder, then I guess I'm all for it.

How to Show Yourself Self-Compassion When You Have Bipolar Disorder

Showing yourself compassion usually involves three steps. They are:

  1. Feeling your emotions without judging them or over-identifying with them (mindfulness)
  2. Understanding that we are not alone in our suffering; pain is a part of being human
  3. Showing yourself kindness, just like you would a friend

(I've used the typical self-compassion steps and broadened them slightly to take general pain into account. Self-compassion is usually applied when we've failed, but I think we can use it with any type of pain.)

An example of self-compassion for someone with bipolar disorder might be:

  1. I am feeling the pain of depression. I recognize this feeling without judging it or getting lost in it.
  2. I know that suffering is universal. I am not alone in my pain.
  3. I will be kind to myself. Being my own friend helps me more than being my own taskmaster.

I'm Trying Self-Compassion with Bipolar Disorder

I'm trying to use the above formula with my bipolar disorder. The jury is still out as to how it will go. My understanding is that self-compassion needs to be a consistent practice and that only develops over time. The steps can feel very forced initially but become more ingrained the more you do them.

I'd love to know in the comments if you find self-compassion useful when coping with bipolar disorder. 

(Self-compassion encompasses much more than just the above. If you're looking for more information, try the resources at self-compassion.org, written by Dr. Kristin Neff.3)

Sources

  1. Jones, B. D. M., Umer, M., Kittur, M. E., Finkelstein, O., Xue, S., Dimick, M. K., Ortiz, A., Goldstein, B. I., Mulsant, B. H., & Husain, M. I. (2023). A systematic review on the effectiveness of dialectical behavior therapy for improving mood symptoms in bipolar disorders. International Journal of Bipolar Disorders11(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40345-023-00288-6
  2. Seppala, E. (2023, March 23). The Scientific Benefits of Self-Compassion - The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. https://ccare.stanford.edu/uncategorized/the-scientific-benefits-of-self-compassion-infographic/
  3. Self-Compassion. (2024, July 9). Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff: Join the community now. https://self-compassion.org/

Introduction to Kelly Waters, Author of ‘Bipolar Vida’

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My name is Kelly Waters, the new author of Bipolar Vida, and I live with bipolar disorder type 1, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism. I am a creative, free-spirited person with a passion for sharing my mental health story, working to erase mental health stigma, and making others feel less alone with their mental health struggles. I am excited to bring my experiences to Bipolar Vida and the HealthyPlace platform.

Kelly Waters‘s Journey with Bipolar Disorder

I was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder in high school. When I was in college, I experienced my first manic episode, and my diagnosis was changed to bipolar disorder type 1. I was in and out of the hospital many times during college for both depressive and manic episodes. However, after a lot of therapy, self-work, and finding the right medications, I was able to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Data Analytics.

I felt very alone when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder because I did not know many people my age who had similar experiences. At the time, I never would have believed that I would be able to accomplish as much as I have while managing the illness. I want to acknowledge and validate the difficulties that we face living with this illness but also remind others that living a very happy life is still possible.

Kelly Waters‘s Hopes for the ‘Bipolar Vida’ Blog

I am excited to write for the Bipolar Vida blog and share my personal experiences with bipolar disorder. I aim to highlight the tools and approaches that have been the most beneficial for me. I believe that reading about the experiences of everyday people living with this illness can help others feel less alone and provide valuable insights. I plan to share my experiences with work, relationships, self-esteem, and wellness, all through the lens of living with bipolar disorder type 1.

Watch this video to learn more about me and what I aim to provide with Bipolar Vida.

More About Kelly Waters

One of the biggest tools that helps me manage my mental health is having healthy creative outlets. Writing has always been something that I am very passionate about, and I found a lot of solace in writing during my worst years living with bipolar disorder. I write music, poetry, prose, and nonfiction about my experiences with mental health. I self-published a fiction novel titled Lithium and Let’s Plays, featuring a young female protagonist with bipolar disorder type 1. I publish poetry on my Medium page and Instagram. My hope with writing about mental health is to help others understand what it is like to live with bipolar disorder and to make those who also have bipolar disorder feel less alone.

I also have a podcast called Shining Through, where I share my mental health experiences. I started my podcast after a few years of stability because I want to be a voice for other young people who feel lost or alone with their mental health. 

I am 26, live in sunny Florida with my boyfriend, and work as a data analyst. 

I Am Tired of Being Mentally Ill

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After years of living with mental illness, I know one thing for sure: I am tired of being mentally ill. They say normal is boring, but I often find myself longing to be neurotypical. Honestly, I wouldn't wish mental illness on my worst enemy. I am so tired of being mentally ill.

Why I'm Tired of Being Mentally Ill

One reason I'm tired of being mentally ill is that everyday life is a lot of work for a person with mental illness. Routine tasks like getting out of bed, showering, working, and even getting a good night's sleep are tough to accomplish. "Normal" people usually get these tasks done without having to push themselves. For me, these activities are as easy as climbing a mountain with a bag of rocks on my back. Doing pretty much anything requires conscious effort because effortlessness is usually not in the fate of a depressed person. 

And let's not forget about the impact of chronic anxiety. It keeps me on edge, making it hard for me to not only do things well but also to relax. What's more, anxiety also worsens my depression. I'm tired of being mentally ill because this combination of depression and anxiety creates a relentless cycle of despair and fear, making it hard for me to get through the day. 

I'm tired of being mentally ill because mental illness affects every aspect of my life, from my ability to work and maintain relationships to simply finding moments of joy and peace. Being depressed and anxious is the reason why I often feel disconnected from the world around me. I am so busy fighting with my mind that I can't help but feel left out of life. If I were neurotypical, life would not only be a lot easier, but it would also be radically different from the one I am living today. 

I Try to Find Hope Even Though I'm Tired of Being Mentally Ill

Despite all of these challenges, I try my best to find rays of hope. Also, since most people don't get how challenging it is to live with mental illness, I celebrate small wins and am my biggest advocate. That said, I can't discount the importance of having a small but strong support system to help me get through days when I can barely function.

I can understand being tired of being mentally ill as this journey is difficult, but we don't have to face it alone. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, reach out for help. If you don't have supportive friends or family, consult a therapist. Whatever you do, don't lose hope. Someday, we will be part of a society that is better equipped to treat mental illness. 

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program? What Are IOPs For?

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What is an intensive outpatient program (IOP)? I am currently in one, and I have been helped by another before. So, I am going to explain to you what an intensive outpatient program is in this article.

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program to Me?

I am going to speak from experience while answering the question: what is an IOP? The program I am in now, and a different one I participated in previously (at the same hospital) have been in a group therapy format, with a social worker facilitating the conversation. We learn cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills to address our mental health conditions. The whole group is divided into two groups that each meet for one session in the morning and one in the late morning and early afternoon. Tuesday last week was my first day in the IOP. I met with a social worker privately before the group sessions began, and we met again after the first sessions.

But you are still waiting to find out--what is an IOP to me? I see it as a mental health tune-up. I came to both of the IOPs under very different circumstances. Last time, I was afraid I might hurt myself, so I had my husband drive me to the emergency room (ER), and while I was there, I called into one of my jobs and quit. I had been hospitalized in the psychiatric ward before, but this time the doctors were confident an IOP would be suitable.

This time, I am going through a difficult medication change, and my therapist suggested an IOP. I was glad because I thought I was about to land back in the ER due to the way I was feeling. Also, this time, instead of quitting my job, I alerted my editor at HealthyPlace that I was in an IOP but saw no reason why I couldn’t keep posting articles.

There’s More to the Question of 'What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?'

So, what is an IOP? There are many facets to this question. I see it as making a big investment in my mental health. I’ve already learned so much just this past few days. I’ve learned I don’t have to live under the tyranny of my thoughts. One thing I knew I had to do to learn, though, was not to expect this program to copy the same experience that I had in the IOP seven years ago. I’ve idealized that IOP experience, even to the point of hoping a certain social worker from seven years ago was still there. (He isn’t.)

One thing I do bring with me from the IOP I was in before to the IOP I’m in now is the belief that it can help me. It can, and it will. I know for a fact that this IOP is helping me because, after just a few days, it’s starting to.