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Help Prevent
Childhood Obesity

Puberty and Body Image

Prepare kids for normal changes in weight and shape at puberty.

Children vary in the age they begin puberty and how long it takes them to complete this stage. They will grow considerably in both height and weight, but the two do not always happen at the same time. Some children grow tall first and fill out later. Others gain weight first, with growth in height following.

Comments or teasing about weight gain or “getting chubby” can be extremely hurtful and can lead to unhealthy practices like dieting.

Special considerations for girls

  • Many girls become dissatisfied with their weight and shape during puberty, especially those who mature earlier than their friends.
  • By growing and putting on weight, girls move further away from the unrealistic thin look shown by media.
  • Girls need to know it’s normal and healthy to gain both weight and body fat. Increased body fat is necessary to mature sexually and begin menstruation.
  • Girls need role models who appreciate healthy womanly bodies, and are not trying to change their own weight and shape.
  • Many girls face teasing and harassment from boys during puberty. Although teasing has always been a part of childhood, it has become more cruel. Girls need support from parents and schools to deal with this issue.

Special considerations for boys

  • Puberty moves boys in the preferred direction of becoming stronger and more muscular. However, many boys today feel inadequate when they compare themselves to the muscular look shown in the media. Unhealthy practices like over-exercising and steroid use can result.
  • Tell your son that teasing and harassment makes girls feel badly about their bodies. Let boys know this is unacceptable behaviour.

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Revised: Monday November 15 2010


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