Your Developing Body

Adolescence is the stage in between the child and adult. You are metamorphosising. It is a time full of challenges and changes: physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually.

Physical changes are the most obvious as your body grows quickly from a child into an adult. Your body becomes unfamiliar. You may have a feeling of being out of control. That’s because the changes that are happening are in the control of your hormones, your DNA intelligence and nature.

So much is going on, it can be bewildering. Your developing body, growth spurts and hormonal changes, bring on mood swings and out-of-control behaviour. Life may seem a little chaotic at times. Your bodily changes can happen slowly or quickly. This can be embarrassing or exciting.

What happens to you between 10 and 20 changes you greatly. Enjoy your changes: dance, move, love and embrace your body as it transforms itself. Thinking happy thoughts can make you feel good.

Am I normal?

This question is one that most teenagers worry about. Just about all the changes you are experiencing, everyone else around your age does too. IT’S ALL NATURAL!
It can be scary. Don’t worry. It can also be FUN! Mood swings, confrontations with parents, thinking that you’re not attractive enough, having crushes on people, being sexually attracted to others. It’s all normal.

Relax! It is not useful to compare yourself to others; it can cause unnecessary insecurity and pain. Each person develops differently and it happens in its own time. The thing is that most teenagers try to be cool about it, so everyone else seems fine. This can make you feel abnormal. However, a lot of people are wearing a mask. Look closely and see if you can find out who is.

Look after yourself

At this time your body benefits by special care as it is growing itself up. Notice your growth spurts. Your muscles, organs, skeletal system and skin are changing structure and can use all the help you can give them. Caring for your body is one way of honouring and respecting. Many people become sick because they don’t know how important it is to look after themselves.

How healthy would you like to be when you are old? If you take care now you may be glad that you did! By looking after yourself you are giving yourself the best possible life chances that you can.

Treat yourself gently. Allow time and space just for you. Quieten your mind, feed and cleanse your body and be at peace in yourself.

A lot of sleep is good at this age because your body is growing. Your system gets tired and exhausted. At times the changes you are going through are stressful, not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally as well. It can be too much. Sleep helps you integrate your new experiences. If you sleep too much and don’t use your excess energy, you may feel restless, heavy, lethargic and tired. It’s good to know when you’re just being lazy.

There are many ways to look after yourself. Beautiful surroundings, comfortable and colourful clothing, spending time in Nature, doing the things you love to do with people who care about you.

When you eat junk food your body is not satisfied for long. They are not whole foods and your body knows it. If you eat only junk food over a long period of time, you are not feeding yourself well enough to grow and maintain a healthy body. If your body becomes deficient, it leaches (takes) nutrients from your bones, muscles and organs. They become weakened and can waste away. This may create cancer, ulcers and brittle bones that break easily, diabetes and mental disorders.

Food nourishes your body and it is important that you consciously choose healthy foods. Include raw food in your diet. Eat a balanced diet with fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains (bread, rye, oats, rice, etc.) proteins (animal, grain and legumes). Use organically grown products and meat if possible. Did you know that fish is full of nutrients that can ease depression?

If you do not feed your mind, body and soul in other ways, you may attempt to fill yourself up with food and create unhealthy eating habits. If you love and respect yourself you can avoid patterns of unhealthy eating.

Your body thrives on regular exercise – that keeps it healthy. The lymph system is stimulated by exercise and eliminates toxins from your system. Make a promise to yourself to do some form of exercise every day – stretching, dancing, aerobics, sport, walking, Tai Chi or martial arts.

Boys and girls are different

Boys and girls grow up and develop very differently. Look at a group of 12 year olds and this is obvious. Girls generally mature emotionally faster than boys do. Growth spurts can take place two years before boys, so 12-year-old girls are generally taller.

Growth spurts affect  not only your height but also the size of your head, hands and feet. The muscles grow in size and strength, especially in boys. Boys catch up at about 14.

Early adolescence can be a stormy time. The activation of the hormone system can increase excitability and emotionality. Sexual feelings also increase for both males and females. Don’t get too concerned if you feel out of control; when your hormone levels settle down later on, so can you.

Growth during adolescence can last between two to 10 years. Teenagers are usually physically mature by the time they are 18 if all has gone according to Nature’s plan.
It is helpful to understand about the differences between males and females. It allows us to be more compassionate towards each other as well as get along better. If we truly understood about gender differences, there could be fewer fights and less divorces.

What changes in the adolescent male?

Male sex hormones are called androgens. They stimulate muscle development, pubic, underarm and chest hair and beard growth.

Testosterone increases by 800% in the adolescent male. Whew, that’s incredible! This can cause acne, pimples, strong sexual feelings and general restlessness. This hormone makes for leaner males who have a higher metabolic rate than females. It takes until the mid-twenties for the body to get used to this amount of testosterone, then things begin to settle down.

The male peak growth spurt is on average around 14 years of age. He may develop breast buds but they disappear after about a year. Between approximately 10 and 14 the testes enlarge. About one year later, his penis begins to grow and about a year after that he may experience his first ejaculation. This is when sperm from his testes and fluid from his prostate gland are powerfully released through his penis. Hair may increase on different parts of his body. Pubic hair appears first, followed by body and facial hair a few years later. Because the larynx gets larger, his voice breaks, making it deeper. This is the last obvious sign of puberty.

First ejaculation

First ejaculation is a personal and private event. You may be feeling unsure or uncomfortable about this.

Ejaculation and also masturbation are a natural part of life. You don’t have to hide it or believe you have done something wrong. Make your first ejaculation, whether it happens without you doing anything, in a wet dream, or because you choose to masturbate, special in some way. Find a way to celebrate it that feels good for you.

Your journey into manhood is a long and complex one. It doesn’t happen overnight. If things get tough find a man that you trust and talk about what is going on for you. Ask him about how growing up was like for him. This may help you to feel more comfortable about the changes, thoughts and feelings you are experiencing.

As you move towards manhood and are recognised and honoured by the men in your life it adds power to you.

What changes in adolescent females?

The first sign of puberty is breast budding. This can happen any time between nine and 14 years of age. The breasts and nipples get larger and then pubic hair grows.
One female hormone is oestrogen. The other hormone, progesterone prepares her body for pregnancy. There is an increase in breast size, hips widen and there is an increase in fat deposits. Yes! A female requires more fat to store hormones. Her sense of smell gets more sensitive. The vagina and womb mature and her external sex organs grow; the clitoris and labia. When her time comes she experiences menarche, the first time her body bleeds (the release of menstrual blood).

Menarche is a milestone; it signifies a huge change. It is a special event in a girl’s life. It is something that deserves recognition and celebration. The girl is becoming a woman.

Some girls are not ready to grow up. Others dread it and are confused about how their changes will affect them. Their first blood can come as a shock because they are         unprepared. Some girls who do not know about menstruation think they are sick and in rare cases, even dying when they first bleed. Many feel excited and anticipate their changes.

You may not be in a culture that honours womanhood and this very special aspect of it so it is not welcomed and celebrated. Problems can arise around menarche and menstruation if you are not told what to expect, given practical support and not encouraged to be open about it in your family.

Get support before your body starts to bleed. If you have not yet experienced menarche, ask your mother and/or close women friends about it. Do this even if you are already bleeding – ask them to share their stories with you. It’s great to talk about women’s business together.

As well as being supported by women, it is important to have some kind of acknowledgment from your father or a close male friend at this time. He could take you out to dinner, buy you flowers or a special piece of jewellery. This completes the circle of recognition. A man’s involvement can affect the way you relate with men in later life.

Females and their cycle

Menstruation has been made into a taboo rather than accepted as a sacred function in our society. Menstrual blood is in fact the lifeblood that keeps the race going. It has the nutrients to create a human being. Without this blood there would be no human life on earth.

Menstruation connects you to the rhythms in nature. It cleanses and re-inspires you spiritually when you give it a place in your life. You cannot access its power and what it has to teach you if you attempt to ignore it.

Many females neglect themselves during their cycle through ignorance. The way you relate to your blood and are connected to your menstrual cycle deeply affects the way you experience yourself as a female. It’s unhealthy for you to ignore or disrespect any aspect of your body. Your menstrual cycle affects you for almost half of your life. If you ignore cramps, headaches, feeling tired and the call from your body to rest you can seriously harm yourself. Some women may also ignore what is happening emotionally and are determined to carry on as normal. This is not natural behaviour. Your body is speaking and you may not be listening.

Menstruation can be a time to retreat, rest and meditate. It connects you to the mystery of life and has an impact on you. You can gain tremendous wisdom by listening to your body’s knowing, doing as she bids you. Resting when you’re weary, taking yourself away from others, turning inwards if you feel like it. If you are able to let go and surrender into your body, your cycle can initiate you into a greater connection and depth within yourself. When you menstruate you are able to receive visions and inspiration for your next monthly cycle. You are open, emotionally vulnerable, more psychic and intuitive. You are full of power. By listening you can experience your wisdom.

Body image

Is it wise to model yourself on the models?

Magazines written for teenagers are full of skinny looking females that pout at cameras. They usually include information about dieting. This can hook some young women into a lifetime of obsession with weight and food. It can also lead to males having a false image of female beauty.

The definition of looking good becomes the way models look. The media presents unreal images of unreal people. Are you buying into popular images of skinny, sulking or cool looking people? They are not REAL! They are acting out a role and their bodies are paying a great price for this.

Dr Christiane Northrop says that models weigh 25% less than the average weight of the normal female population. This image is not reachable for most of us. Having these popular images to live up to puts a lot of pressure on teenagers – young females in particular – to be too thin.

Eating disorders cause a great deal of despair for those suffering and also for their families. Both males and females suffer. Anorexia and bulimia are ways to stave off hidden anxieties and can also be a slow road to suicide! If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder or know you are, seek help. Find a counsellor you are able to trust, a naturopath or a holistic doctor who knows about these problems and their associated issues. Alternatively, be prepared to educate yourself and take ACTION – as soon as you can!

Beauty is a state of being

‘The difference between a flower and a weed is a judgement.’- To love is to be happy with, Barry Kaufman.
Many judge people to be beautiful merely from their appearance. If you look closely at people who seem beautiful you may observe that some of them wear cleverly crafted make-up or that they are handsome but hardened. Take care not to judge yourself or others by external appearances. You are easily fooled when you look superficially.

If you are not happy on the inside and follow fashion, buy clothes, wear make-up as a cover up, your true beauty is hidden. You appear superficial and may remain unseen if you adorn yourself on the outside without loving yourself inside first. True beauty is something that is revealed from within. Radiance on the outside reflects who the person is. By taking good care of yourself, you shine your own radiant beauty. Have the confidence to love and listen to your own body. Be happy with yourself – just the way you are!

Your body is a sacred site

A sacred site is a special place. A sacred place is where people usually go to pray, like a church, mosque, a synagogue or in nature. Your body can be your own place of worship. It is special. It is the temple of your spirit. You could not be flesh and blood or living on this planet without your body. If you are an expression of God or a great intelligence, then your body is a sacred place. When you sit quietly and are still, you may feel spirit, the life force, moving within you. You can learn to take care of your body as a sacred site.

This article has been extracted from GETTING REAL… about growing up! A book for young people, parents, teachers and youth workers to be released in 2003. Amrita is seeking people interested in getting this valuable resource out into the world.

Published in byronchild/Kindred, Issue 10

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