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Girl Wants to Delay Puberty

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I'm a figure skater, and I have an 11 year old friend, Sasha (not Sasha Cohen) who also figure skates at the novice level. She's pretty good and I think she'll make it big someday. Well, Sasha is average height, but wants to keep her body small so she can do those triple jumps. How can she slow down her growth in height and not go through puberty so soon? You know puberty can make a skater lose her triples. I'm not an expert at this, but how will Sasha not go through puberty so soon and not grow as tall in height? How do those skaters like Tara lipinski do it? They don't grow much and don't go through puberty until they are older? If you have any idea about any of this leave an answer for my friend.

A: This answer is for you and your friend. You are absolutely correct in stating that younger, smaller, lighter female figure skaters have a better chance at successfully performing triples and quads than their older competitors who have gone through puberty. Oksana Baiul has admitted that she will never be able to perform the athletic feats that won her Olympic gold now that she has a mature woman's body. This is a fact of life in the world of professional figure skating. (I write about this in an article on our site called "All That Glitters"). I'd like you to perform a search for it on our site and read it.) Despite a competitive female figure skater's need to develop a distinctive, appealing skating style, the competitive ranks now demand that female skaters incorporate many triples (and I'm sure it will be quads in the near future) and other highly difficult athletic feats in their routines. But amazing jumps accompanied by very little style, grace, and charisma will never be the hallmark of a skating champion.

Unfortunately, many female gymnasts, skaters, and ballerinas attempt to postpone their body's natural development by eating an unhealthy diet, a diet that will prevent their body from growing as it should. A diet that does not contain enough growth-producing nutrients combined with a daily regime of constant, strenuous physical activity is capable of retarding puberty. I would warn you and your friend against trying to go against nature. Undernourished, over-exercised young bodies are very prone to serious injury. In addition, it's very easy to develop addictive eating disorders in an attempt to "stay small".

Trying to delay puberty should not be your or your friend's focus. Some girls will go through puberty sooner than others will. Even after puberty, some girls will still maintain a light, short body because of their genetic makeup. Other girls' bodies will change dramatically shortly after puberty. Your friend or your figure skating success will not be determined by your postponing puberty. Your natural ability, hard work, and dedication to the sport (great coaching is a big plus too) will determine it. Ask any world-class figure skater and they will tell you the same thing. Thanks for writing.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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