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advice for 16 year old girls

i was talking to my little sister the other day. she's really unhappy with her body. at 16, who isn't? but she also has the same body type as me. we have to workout to be healthy. our bodies store the food we eat. so i was talking to her about this and talking about how she should not concentrate on how she looks but should focus on how she feels. i asked her if she felt good. she said no. (it was heartbreakingly honest.)

so, trying to be the big sister and be positive i started talking about how great it is that she CAN make herself feel better.

my advice to her has changed the way i am approaching my weight loss.

see, i look at things this way: I have the power to make myself feel better. i can't imagine how hard it must be for people who HATE their noses, or think they are too tall, or hate their feet. some of those things, you can't ever change. some of those things you have to shell out buckets of money to change. but weight is different. i know, with hard work, i can change this and that is empowering. i feel excited that i can tone my body and make it work better. i can change the thing i don't like. some people aren't so fortunate. and at the end of the day, i feel empowered that i can change my weight.

so i told my sister that this was how i was approaching my goals, and i don't know if it helped her but, it helps me.

so my question is, does that make any sense to you guys? does it resonate? will this help her?

AND does anyone have suggestions for how i can further support her?

this is a really tenuous time in her development and obviously, i don't want her to develope any eating disorders. i want her to be healthy and happy. so any ideas would be awsome!

Wed. Jun 22, 12:56pm

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Yes, I think this was really incredible advice, and it seems like you were really there for her and telling her a way that might work for her. Why is this issue coming up now? Is she upset about other areas of her life and this is making her focus on something she can control (like her weight)? Does she think that her body image is preventing her from getting things she might want?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005, 2:03 PM

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I was the same way...

I've always had to work out to be heatlhy and maintain my weight. At 16, I didn't realize it (this is revisionist thought here) and often compared myself to my friends who also did track with me. The bad part was that I was friends with all of the distance runners who were beanpoles. Myself, being a pole vaulter and a sprinter, was 'rugged'; a term coined by my mother.

This is mind, I had a bad body image, even though I was in amazing shape and I wish I had someone to support me the way that you are supporting your sister. I didn't realize any of this until I arrived at college and discovered that everyone's body was different and we all had different methods of maintaining our weight.

If there is any advice that I can give it is to let her come to this realization on her own. It is important that she become confident in her body image through her own means. However, you can support her by working out together, eating healthy-maybe cook for your family together if you live at home. Even encourage her to join a team or choose an activity that she can really become interested in outside of school (mountain biking, golf, hiking, swimming, riollerblading, etc). When you hit a goal, reward yourselves with a new shirt or pair of earrings, or if you are on a budget, reward yourself with a day off from your workout.

This may sound like a 'parent' thing to say (as I am not a parent myself), but find out who her friends are and if they are having an influence. Most likely, the answer is yes. I couldn't get away from my beanpoel friends who thought that they were tankers. Go figure. Not that she should change her friends, but that could be a major source of her poor body image.

I think that if you can instill in her some of the very positive attitude that you have about your body, she will change. However, I will say again, that she has to come to it herself and as a supportive sister, you need to be careful about coming down on her too hard. All in all, I think that you are on the right track.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005, 2:08 PM

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Advice -

As a middle school teacher, I see a lot of the same issues in my girls . . . it starts at such a young age.

I'm taking your advice and relaying it as a "send-off" into the summer - type of life - stuff I usually do at the end of the year!

Thanks - it's very inspiring!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005, 2:25 PM

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thanks everyone

you guys are amazing. thanks, i was really worried i might be off with my advice!

she's the most incredible girl, and i don't think her self-image has anything to do with other issues. she really well balanced and simply knows her body is not performing at it's best.

i totally wish i could do sports with her, but i live in seattle, and she's still in the UK (where i was born). the worst part about the distance is not being able to particpate in her life more actively. but, maybe i will show her this? what do you all think of that?

best, carrieanne

Wednesday, June 22, 2005, 4:40 PM

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show her -

- greenie -

Wednesday, June 22, 2005, 5:04 PM

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I just had to say thanks for your great perspective on changing our bodies. I wish my oldest sister would have taken the time to advise me like this.

Show her the posts. She'll know your not "just talking."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005, 8:37 PM

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get something to be proud of

For me, starting yoga regularly made me really connected to my body, and most importantly, really proud of what it can do. It also toned my muscles, especially my core muscles which mean that even though I'm heavier than I want to be I have a kick-ass figure because of my tight waist.

So if there's something your sister can do with her body that makes her proud, she should do it. Regardless of whether she meets the visual standard of what 16 year olds think they're supposed to look like, she'll be happier knowing her body helps her do stuff she wants to do.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005, 11:51 AM

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you must read Reviving Ophelia.

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Phd Pipher, Mary Pipher

A review
Publishers Weekly
From her work as a psychotherapist for adolescent females, Pipher here posits and persuasively argues her thesis that today's teenaged girls are coming of age in ``a girl-poisoning culture.'' Backed by anecdotal evidence and research findings, she suggests that, despite the advances of feminism, young women continue to be victims of abuse, self-mutilation (e.g., anorexia), consumerism and media pressure to conform to others' ideals. With sympathy and focus she cites case histories to illustrate the struggles required of adolescent girls to maintain a sense of themselves among the mixed messages they receive from society, their schools and, often, their families. Pipher offers concrete suggestions for ways by which girls can build and maintain a strong sense of self, e.g., keeping a diary, observing their social context as an anthropologist might, distinguishing between thoughts and feelings. Pipher is an eloquent advocate. Psychotherapy Book Club selection; BOMC and QPB alternates. (Apr.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005, 7:32 AM

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reviving ophelia

fantastic advice, thanks everyone.

i just picked up the book. i'll let you know how i like it.

my dad's actually just decided to send my little sister out to see me for a week at the end of the summer. it'll be great to have her here (i live in seattle, she's in the uk) and do all the active things together and have unmitigated time together. it's hard, helping from a distance.

and i've still not shown her the site. i think i'll wait until i can have a proper conversation with her about what this and how it helps me. she's in exam week at the moment,'s prob. not the perfect time. i was thinking i might set up a group with her, separate from my other groups. it could be a "sisters" group...

Wednesday, June 29, 2005, 2:54 PM

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