Fat Points in a Woman's Life

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Curves Ahead critical age: 13

With the onset of puberty, the body revs up production of fat cells in order to create budding breasts and hips. Girls typically -- and healthfully -- gain about 30 pounds between ages 13 and 16.

Eat smarter: Some studies have shown subtle taste preference shifts in girls this age, turning away from the sugary candy of childhood (think Gummy Worms and jelly beans) to the high-fat sweets grown women crave (like Snickers). It's a good time to teach teens about good fat (the polyunsaturated type found in salmon and soy products) and bad (saturated ones found in meat and hydrogenated oils).

Activity Rx: Middle school means the end of recess and, for girls who aren't into team athletics, a sharp drop in activity levels. Parents should encourage girls to experiment with a variety of sports and help them find activities that can become lifelong passions.

Insider's tip: While rare, this is a pivotal period for eating disorders and distorted body perceptions to develop. Mothers can help by talking to their daughters about their rapidly changing bodies, and by looking for trouble signs like smoking, which many girls start doing to control their weight.

Continued on page 3:  The Freshman 15 critical age: 18


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