Health | February 14, 2017
Being healthy means many different things for teen girls. Building good habits of diet and exercise is important, and so is having good hygiene. Being healthy also means having a positive mental attitude, and making safe decisions about your body and behaviors. Be healthy to feel , look great, and take care of your body!
Choose healthy foods.
Your food is your fuel for your body and brain, so pick good fuel
! Minimize eating food with lots of sugar, salt, and fat – stay away from fast food, fried food, junk food
from the snack aisle like potato chips, canned and processed food, and pastries. Amp up your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy, and low-fat protein like fish, chicken, nuts, beans, peas, and lentils.
- If you don’t know how to start to eat healthy, talk to your doctor. They can help you create a plan that gets you all your needed vitamins, minerals, and calories. You can also check out online resources like this one for some guidance.
Have good eating habits.
Other than what you eat, how you eat can help you stay healthy and fit.
- Don’t skip breakfast, it provides your body with its first fuel of the day and helps you concentrate. Good breakfast foods include fruit, eggs, low-fat milk, cream of wheat, oatmeal, or whole grain toast.
Choose healthy snacks like a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, some celery, or a piece of cheese.
- Pack your lunch for school so you can create a healthy meal for yourself.
- Be involved in shopping and meal planning at home. You can even help the rest of your family to eat healthy!
- If you’re trying to lose weight control your portion size, i.e. how much you eat at one time. Use a smaller plate or bowl, keep a food journal so you can track your servings, and fill most of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Be sure to get enough calories! The average teen girl should eat 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day if you’re not very active and 2,200 to 2,400 calories a day if you’re physically active.
- Avoid fad and crash diets. You will easily regain any weight you lose, and these are not good for your body. Always talk to your doctor before dieting, or if you have concerns about your weight.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Rather than worrying about your weight, think about your Body Mass Index, or BMI. This calculation judges whether you’re a healthy weight for your age and height. You can use this calculator
to find out your BMI.
- A healthy teen BMI falls between the 5th and 85th percentiles – under 5th is underweight, 85th-95th is overweight, and over 95th percentile is considered obese. Check your percentile here.
Drink at least 7 glasses of water every day.
Keeping your body hydrated will help regulate your metabolism
and purify your body. Drink at least 7 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated.
- Carry a water bottle with you and sip on water throughout the day. Be sure to drink water whenever you’re thirsty.
- Drink more water if it’s hot out or you’re being active.
- Your pee should be light yellow in color.
- Boost your water’s flavor with slices of lemon, life, or fresh fruit!
Sleep 8-10 hours every night.
Getting enough sleep improves your attention, focus, and mood.
You might not be getting enough sleep if it’s hard to get up in the morning, you fall asleep in class, you can’t concentrate well, or you feel moody or depressed.
Try to get more sleep by:
- Setting a regular bedtime for yourself
- Exercising regularly (but not within 3 hours of bedtime so it doesn’t keep you up).
- Avoiding caffeine after 4pm
- Relaxing before bed with a warm bath or reading.
- Not napping too much during the day.
- Avoiding all-nighters, which throw off your sleep schedule.
- Having good sleep hygiene: keep your lights low at bedtime to signal your brain it’s time to sleep, keep your room cool and dark overnight, and wake up with bright lights.
Exercise at least three to five times per week.
Exercise improves your energy, helps you feel good, and reduces stress.
Try to work up a sweat for at least 20-30 minutes, preferably up to an hour. Aerobic exercises – the ones that get your heart pumping and breathing rate up, like running
and swimming – are good for your heart and overall health. You can also do specific workouts to target areas of your body, like to get strong abs
- If you think going to the gym is boring, try creative ways to workout. Go for a bike ride or a challenging hike, join a fitness club, take your dog for a walk, or join a sports team.
- Use a Wii or Wii Fit for indoors activity!
- Jog in place or do squats while watching TV.
Have good posture.
Having good posture can improve self-esteem – you can literally walk tall! Maintaining healthy posture
also minimizes strain on your muscles. There are many exercises
that can help.
Protect your skin from sunburns.
You might feel like tanning gives you a healthy glow, but sun damage is really bad for skin – it can cause wrinkles and skin cancer. Always wear sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher when you go outside, and maybe 30 or higher on your face which gets tons of sun.
- Many moisturizing lotions also contain SPF 15 sunscreen. This can be an easy way to keep your skin soft and safe.
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, or after sweating or swimming.
- Wear sunglasses when it’s sunny to protect your eyes from UV light, and the sensitive skin around your eyes.
- No one under 18 should ever use tanning beds. These increase your risk of skin cancer. Tanning sprays are lotions are generally safe, but keep it out of your mouth and eyes.
Have a good hygiene routine.
Taking care of your appearance will help you feel good about yourself, and staying clean is important while your body is changing. Create a routine for yourself that you stick to everyday – it might not be the same as your friend’s routine, because everyone is different.
- Bathe or shower every day.
- Keep your hair clean. If you have oily hair you might need to wash it every day or every other day. Otherwise, wash your hair 2-3 times a week so you don’t dry it out.
- Brush your teeth two to three times a day – after you wake up, when your breath is bad, and before bed. Floss daily and brush your tongue, as well.
- Wear deodorant daily, shower after you get sweaty, and wear clean cotton clothes to help minimize body odor. Wear a fresh bra and undies every day.
Treat your acne.
Keep your skin clean and healthy by taking care of any acne
on your face, chest, or back. Talk to your doctor about medications if your acne is severe. Otherwise, try using non-greasy, hypoallergenic skin care products and a mild face cleanser on a daily basis. Wash your face in the morning and before bed.
- Don’t overdo it on your makeup when you have acne so you don’t clog your pores.
Remove body hair, if you want to.
Whether or not you want to shave your legs, underarms, and private area is completely up to you. Long hair in your armpits and groin might trap moisture and odors, but showering regularly and keeping the area clean and dry should solve that. If you do shave, do it safely and hygienically:
- Use clean, new, sharp razor blades and plenty of shaving cream or gel (not just regular soap). Take your time and go slowly.
- Do not shave your face. Pluck stray hairs or tweezers or try a bleach, cream, or wax. If you have lots of facial hair, see you doctor and ask about electrolysis to get rid of it for good.
Deal with your period.
Maybe you just got your period for the first time
, or you’re trying to figure out how to deal with cramps
. Coping with your period can be easier if you’re well-prepared and have a hygienic plan.
- Change your feminine hygiene product regularly. On average, you probably need to use 3-6 pads or tampons per day. For heavier flow and at night, use longer, heavier pads with wings (side protectors) to prevent spilling. Change your pad or tampon every 4-8 hours, depending on your flow.
- Keep track of when your period is coming and be prepared with pads and tampons. An average cycle is 28 days, but this varies a lot. Keep a calendar to track the length of yours.
- If you have bleeding that lasts longer than 10 days, severe pain that interferes with your daily life, or an irregular cycle, see your doctor.
Visit your healthcare provider regularly.
It’s important to see your doctor at least every year while you’re growing and developing. They will do physical exams and ask you questions about your health. It’s a great opportunity to ask any personal questions you have about your body.
- Ask your doctor about getting the vaccines for chickenpox, hepatitis B, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), meningococcal, polio, Tdap (tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis), and HPV (human papilloma virus). These are routine shots, but now that you’re getting older you should take responsibility for your health and make sure you’re being protected.
- Choose a primary care provider, or PCP – the doctor you will get to know and see regularly. Consider whether you want a man or a woman, any language needs you have, and whether they specialize in working with teens. Find your PCP by asking around at clinic, checking the Doctor Finder website of the American Medical Association, or calling your health insurance company for a list of providers they cover.
See your gynecologist yearly.
Visit the gynecologist for the first time between ages 13 and 15, or whenever you start being sexually active. They will do a physical exam of your breasts and body, and ask you questions about your body and behaviors. It’s a great opportunity to ask them questions that you don’t want to ask your parents, and get accurate information that your friends might not know.
- Get tested for STIs at each visit if you’re sexually active, or if you have symptoms like itching, discharge from your vagina, or warts on your privates.
- If you need a low-cost option, consider visiting Planned Parenthood.
- You will start to get pelvic exams at age 21 or when you become sexually active. Your gynecologist might also do a pelvic exam before then if you have discharge, pain, or itching around your vagina, if you bleed for longer than 10 days, if you haven’t gotten your period by the time you’re 15, if you’ve missed your period, or if you have cramps that interfere with daily life.
Have a positive attitude.
Your personal health and habits are for you and your well being, not for anyone else's. Don't get dragged down or caught up in the opinions of others. If you know you are healthy, you will feel good about yourself. So be positive
and believe in yourself
Think positive thoughts. What you tell yourself in your head can really affect how you feel and perceive the world around you. If you make a mistake, think “I’m human,” instead of, “I’m such a loser.”
- Don't compare yourself to others. That can get you down and then you won’t remember everything that makes you amazing!
- Don’t believe that everyone on the internet is as happy as they seem. Sure, everyone on facebook and twitter seem to have amazing, glamorous lives. Remember that everyone has problems and struggles, and probably try to appear happier than they really are.
Express yourself creatively.
Journaling, music, art – do something to express yourself
in a creative way. This can help you reduce stress, learn to value your positive attributes, and feel accomplished. Experiment with hobbies and skills, and remember it doesn’t matter if you’re naturally talented – this is just for you.
- Everyone can do something creative. Learn a musical instrument, draw, paint, craft, build something, or create a lovely garden.
Know that you’re beautiful.
Body image, how you view your physical self and if you feel attractive, can be closely linked to self esteem
for many people.
Having positive body image is extremely important for you as a teen, since you might feel pressured by peers or media to look different than you do. Work on having positive body image by remembering these tips:
- Remember that your body is your own, no matter what it looks like. This is your vessel through an exciting life! Treat it with respect and appreciate it for all its uniqueness.
- Recognize which elements of your appearance you can change, and which you can’t. Let go of the things you can’t change. Remember that everyone has something about themselves they don’t like very much.
- Set goals to change the things you can change. If you want to lose weight, create a diet and exercise plan. If you feel like your hair is boring, experiment with a new cut.
- Compliment yourself every day, at least three times per day. Tell yourself something nice and honest, something you truly feel.
Develop time management skills.
Between school, homework, friends, family, work, a partner, and personal time, you have a lot to juggle! Developing time management
skills will help you get everything done you need to do and not feel overwhelmed. Develop a system that works well for you by trying some of these ideas:
- Make a To-Do list for the week with three columns: Have to do, Would like to accomplish (but could wait a little longer), and Want to do (leisure).
- Use calendar updates on your phone or GoogleDocs for easy access to your schedule.
- Break up big tasks into smaller tasks. “Clean the house” could break down into “clean the toilets,” “tidy up my bedroom,” and “do the dishes.”
- Get ready for your day the night before. This way you won’t be scrambling in the morning and maybe forget something.
- Keep your items organized by having a place for everything; it’s much harder to lose things that way.
- Time yourself to learn how long things really take, versus how long you think they take. Use an app like 30/30.
Manage your stress.
You might be stressed out if you feel edgy, tired, depressed, or guilty. Other signs that you’re too stressed are if you get headaches or have stomach trouble, can’t sleep well, often think negative thoughts, don’t enjoy things you used to, resent other people or the things you have to do, or blame other people for things that happen to you.
Minimize stress by trying some of these ideas:
- List the things that are stressing you out. Divide them into things you can control and things you can’t. Accept the things that you can’t change.
- Make changes where you can. If you feel like you’re too busy to accomplish everything you need to, stop doing your least important activity.
- Say “no” to doing things you don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. You’re not obligated to help others if it interferes with your own wellbeing.
- Talk to someone, including friends, family, or a counselor. Try journaling just to vent your frustrations.
- Try acupuncture, massage, relaxation techniques, or yoga. Though there is limited scientific data on how teens use complementary medicine, some people find them very beneficial.
Have healthy ideas about weight.
“Healthy” is not necessarily synonymous with “skinny.” Teen obesity is a major concern in some countries, especially the United States, but being underweight and malnourished is unhealthy in other ways.
Many teens struggle with eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, or unhealthy habits like over-exercising to lose weight.
If you’re struggling with body image issues, seek help.
- Do you avoid eating even when you’re hungry because you’re afraid to gain weight? Do you make yourself throw up after eating, use laxatives, or exercise more than one hour 5 days a week? Have you stopped having your period because you’ve lost so much weight? Eating disorders are serious and often require professional help – teens with eating disorders are more likely to get sick, die from complications, or commit suicide.
- For help, talk to your doctor, family, friends, school counselor, coach – anyone you trust. No one who cares about you will judge you, they’ll just want to get you help. Research symptoms and support online in your community.
Embrace what makes you "different.
" It’s common for teens to struggle with questions of sexuality and identity, so don’t feel alone. You might realize you’re gay
, bisexual, or an alternate sexuality. Being gay isn’t a disease or something you choose to be – it’s the way you’re born
Embrace what makes you you
, educate yourself about your questions, and get support from loved ones and professionals if you need it.
- It might feel like a struggle to tell other people you're not heterosexual, depending on your culture, values, or fear of others’ response. Confide in a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, coach, or other person you trust. You will feel relieved and happy to be yourself, and can start to explore intimate relationships with those who interest you.
- Some teens struggle with gender and identity issues – feeling like you were born as a girl but inside really feel like a boy. This is usually called being transgender, or just trans. It can be very helpful to work with a therapist or counselor who specializes in questions of gender, and stick with supportive friends and family as you learn about yourself.
Reach out for help if you need it.
Many teens struggle with depression, anxiety, abuse, and other troubling concerns.Family problems
, physical or sexual abuse
, and mental health issues might make you think about self-harm
You are not alone, and it can get better!
- If you are thinking about hurting yourself talk to someone you trust immediately.
- You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time of day or night at 1-800-273-8255.
- Resources about teen mental health are available online. Educate yourself about what you’re feeling, and talk to your doctor right away.
Don’t drink alcohol.
Drinking alcohol as a teenager can stunt your brain’s growth and development. Not only that, but studies show your binge drinking now might negatively impact the health and wellbeing of your future children.
Stay away from alcohol until you’re 21 – not only to stay out of legal trouble, but so your brain can fully develop!
- NEVER drink and drive, or get in the car of someone who has been drinking. If you do drink alcohol, get a ride home with somebody sober, or call a sober friend or parent for a ride. Uber and Lyft are good options, too.
Don’t use drugs.
Drugs negatively affect your body and your thinking. Marijuana impairs memory and concentration. Sedatives like Valium can make you stop breathing. Stimulants like cocaine put a strain on your heart and can make you paranoid. Opioids like heroin and prescription pain-killers are incredibly addicting and can cause you life-long problems with substance abuse.
Drugs might seem tempting, but they are not worth the legal, physical, and mental risks.
Smoking is highly addicting so if you don’t smoke, don’t start.
Smoking causes more preventable deaths than any other drug, and if you start now you might find it extremely hard to quit. Smoking is bad for you even as a healthy teenager – it can increase your risk of asthma and lung infections, decrease your ability to work out, damage your teeth and give you foul breath, and make your clothes smell terrible.
- If you stop smoking now, your body will heal itself pretty quickly and you’ll be as good as new before you know it.
Be cautious on the internet.
Today, everyone and everything is connected on the internet. While this can be great for keeping in touch with friends and learning about our world, it also comes with risks. Cyberbullying affects many young people.
Remember also that anything you put on the internet stays there forever
for anyone to see.
- Never put private information online like your home address, social security number, or personal details. It’s easy for predators to take advantage of you when they know your personal info.
- Don’t upload any photos of yourself doing anything illegal, or anything that you wouldn’t want your grandmother or future employer to see.
Bullying can happen to anyone. Some teens become so depressed over being bullied that they harm themselves, or lash out and harm others. It doesn’t have to be like that. Report it to your parents or a school authority right away if someone:
- Spreads lies or hurtful rumors about you.
- Physically harms you.
- Calls you names or often negatively teases you.
- Makes negative comments to you about your sex, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.
- Calls, emails, or approaches you repeatedly after you ask them not to (this is stalking; you can even report this to the police).
Get educated about sex.
Have open and honesty conversation with your parent(s), doctor, or another trusted and knowledgeable adult; you never know if what your friends and peers tell you about sex is true. Before you even think about having sex, get accurate
- Sex can lead to STIs including gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B, herpes, human papilloma virus (HPV), syphilis, and HIV/AIDS. Some of these are treatable with medicine, whereas others – like herpes, HPV, and HIV – last your entire life. HPV can cause warts and cervical cancer, and HIV/AIDS shortens your life expectancy and makes you very sick.
- Consider your own feelings about sex and your personal values. Why do you want to have sex? Why do you want to wait? Think about your religious and cultural views, your self-esteem, and whether or not you’re ready for the responsibility of having sex.
Decide when you’re ready to have sex.
When you’re “ready” is different for different people. Some people want to wait until they’re adults or until they’re married, while others feel comfortable having sex when they feel their relationship is ready for it. You should never feel pressured, bullied, or manipulated into having sex, and you shouldn’t do it just because other people are. You might know that your relationship is ready if:
- You and your partner trust each other and can be honest with each other.
- You feel comfortable talking about things like feelings, and the risks of sex like STIs.
- You are both educated about sex and can prevent pregnancy and STIs by using condoms or other birth control.
- You respect each other’s needs about using protection, and not having sex until you’re both ready.
Don’t be peer pressured.
You should never be forced to have sex, use drugs or alcohol, or do something illegal. If someone is pressuring you, try responses like these (these can work for sex, drinking, doing drugs – anything you want to adapt it to):
Everybody’s doing it!: “I don’t care, I’m not everybody. And not everybody does it!”
If you loved me, you’d sleep with me.: “If you loved me, you wouldn’t pressure me to do something I don’t want to do.”
If you don’t have sex with me, I’ll break up with you.: “If being your girlfriend means I have to have sex with you, then I don’t want to be your girlfriend.”
If you have sex, have safe sex.
The only way to 100% prevent pregnancy and STIs is with abstinence – not having sex at all. However, if you choose to have sex, minimize your risks by using birth control and barrier methods to protect yourself. There are many options
for birth control, from the pill
, to an intrauterine device or IUD, to hormonal rings
, patches, injections, and implants.
The best way to choose a birth control method is to speak with your gynecologist. Be aware that these methods do not
- Use a new condom every time you have sex, and a new condom during the same sex act if you switch between vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Condoms only work if they are used correctly, aren’t expired, don’t break, and are removed properly. Try to use condoms with a reservoir tip.
- Girls who have sex with girls are still at risk for STIs. You can use female condoms to protect yourself - always use a barrier method when contacting another person's bodily fluids. Peer pressure and rape are still concerns in same-sex partnerships.
- The withdrawal method, or “pulling out,” isn’t effective in preventing pregnancy. Neither is the “rhythm method,” where you time unprotected sex with when you’re not ovulating. Both of these carry high risk for pregnancy and getting an STI.
- Get the HPV vaccine! Cervarix, Gardasil, and Gardasil 9 are all approved for girls. You should get two doses of this vaccine between ages 9 and 14, 6 months apart – and definitely before you start having any vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
- If the condom breaks or you have another emergency, use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy. “Plan B,” or “the morning-after pill” should NOT be used as your primary birth control method – it’s just for accidents and emergencies when other methods fail. You can get these over-the-counter at most pharmacies. Take it as soon after the accident as possible.