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Teen Body Issues

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Teenagers -- whether male or female -- often struggle with their body image. You may automatically think of the stereotypical teen girl obsessively weighing herself, but boys have their own issues when it comes to body image. How a teen feels about her body can spill over into other areas of her life and potentially bring down her self-esteem.

Significance

As a teen's body changes and develops during puberty, it's nearly impossible for her not to compare herself to peers and the unrealistic airbrushed images of models and actresses that blanket TV ads and magazine covers. Failed attempts to meet the impossible camera- and computer-tweaked standard of beauty or masculinity can render a major hit on a teen's body image. Teen girls and boys might spends endless hours fretting over whether their appearance is good enough to "fit in" with their peers, points out the American Psychological Association. It can be equally important for a teen to develop her personal style, spending an inordinate amount of time in front of the mirror to find the perfect look.

Weight Concerns

Weight gain and puberty typically go hand in hand, which can be very distressing, especially for girls who generally want to be as slim as possible. Some teenagers are on a perennial diet. Infomercials that peddle "two-minute abs" and other weight loss gear reinforce the fact that being thin is in. A small number of teen girls develop full-blown eating disorders. Between 0.5 and 1 percent of all females age 12 to 18 in the U.S. are anorexic, and 1 to 3 percent suffers from bulimia, reports Boston Children's Hospital. Another 20 percent may not have a "clinical" eating disorder but nevertheless have unhealthy dieting habits.

Boys and Body Image

Boys tend to be less concerned with keeping the pounds off and more focused on pumping iron to build muscle and strength. Some males use performance-enhancing drugs in an effort to feel more security with their masculinity while others -- particularly those involved in sports -- believe they're under a great amount of pressure to win the game, explains MayoClinic.com. Creatine is a naturally occurring compound available over-the-counter as a performance enhancing supplement. Many others are available as well. .

Tips For Parents

Teenage body image issues, whether they are concerns over weight, acne or facial features, should be not be dismissed by parents but rather met with empathy. Telling an adolescent he "looks fine" after being teased about his appearance may seem like a brush off. Take time to listen your teen's concerns and fears. She will be more apt to reach out to you in the future when she knows you take her body image worries seriously.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

Photo Credits

  • Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images