Photo by: aussiegall.
This article will discuss how the changing female hormones during our teenage years impact our weight. I will not be discussing the emotional aspects of puberty, just the physical aspects.
As females, our bodies change every 15 years or so – puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause – because of the changes in our hormone levels. Hopefully you have some close female relatives to help guide you through each stage. If you are interested in learning more about how your hormones and fat cells influence your weight, please click on my hormones or fat cell tags.
Why do we gain weight?
The female body is not that much difference from a boy’s before puberty, with the exception of our fat cells count. As females, we are born with an extra 9 BILLION fat cells than males. But as kids, these fat cells are not yet activated.
Once puberty hits, flooding our bodies with an increase in estrogen (the female sex hormone), the weight that we gain is essential for our fertility. That is right – our bodies have evolved for survival of the human species. The ultimate goals of the extra 9 billion fat cells are to ensure the survival of a pregnant female.
The fat cells are programmed to start storing fat in the typical female areas such as the breasts, butt, thighs, and abs (hence the pear shape) once we hit our teens. The fat stored in these areas help protect a baby in case a famine should occur within the next 9 months or during the times when we are nursing. I am not talking about the emotional aspects of pregnancy since many of us are not prepare financially or emotionally to be a parent as a teen, but our bodies are changing from a child to a fertile adult ready to have a baby.
So how much weight gain is normal?
The female body must maintain 12%-15% body fat in order to menstruate. Once we get below this level of body fat, our bodies cannot support a pregnancy. Our bodies know to shut down basic reproductive functions at this point. It is possible for female athletes who trained vigorously to get down to such a low body fat, but rare for the average female. A fit female’s body fat composition around 20%-25%, but the average woman’s body fat composition is around 25%-30%.
Our body composition is at its peak when we hit puberty and our early 20s (as long as we are not overweight before we reach puberty). We have the right mix of body fat and lean muscle mass for our body types. Our activity level is high, so learning to eat healthy and incorporating an exercise program should be a priority when you are a teen. Starving ourselves will only make it harder to control our weight later on.
It saddens me when I see teen girls on Yahoo Answers asking how to lose 20-40 pounds fast or if they are fat for their age. I think most girls get their weight issues from their parents, particularly their mom. I hope that when I have a little girl of my own I will have strength to focus on health and mobility rather than their dress size. As for dress size, you might be surprise to find that it is a moving target. You can read more about it in a previous post.
Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.
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