One of the best things about having an older sister is listening to her life advice, right? Bras, boys, big life decisions like whether or not you should try unicorn hair or Topshop’s see-through jeans. Well, betty has a VIP pass to a group of girls that are sharing their words of wisdom, too. Because there’s always room for more embarrassing stories we can learn from. Awkward sex chats, fashion mistakes, first kisses… ex Made In Chelsea star and My Flash Trash founder Amber reveals *everything* about growing up. And you’ve got a front row seat.

Living as we do in the age of green juices, Instagram wellness gurus and friends who just happen to turn gluten intolerant overnight (except for, mysteriously, Colin the Caterpillar cake?) it’s easy to feel confused about food.

On the one hand: diets suck. Body positivity is the way forward, ‘strong not skinny’ is so now and we know it’s so much healthier to have a cookie when you fancy one than to live a life of obsessive calorie-counting. But on the other hand, when you’re fed up of bad skin, feel like hormones are taking over your body and need all the energy you can get to keep up with your busy, busy life, food could hold some answers.

“Teenage years are BIG years for your body – there’s a lot of change and development,” says Alice Walker, a registered dietician (which FYI is a legal title, whereas anyone can call themselves a ‘nutritionist’ without professional qualifications). “Your body is calling out for good nutritious food.” So how do we sort the true superfoods from the trendy fads? Ask a professional, that’s how.

Here are Alice’s top five nutrients to be eating more of in 2017. Tuck in!

1. Fibre – keeps things moving

“First up is fibre, which we don’t seem to be consuming enough of these days and we need it to keep [lol] regular. Fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of fibre and have the added benefit of being rich in other vitamins and minerals too – so if you aim to meet your 5-a-day of fruit and veg then that’s a good target. A portion could be an apple, two satsumas, two broccoli spears or a banana. Wholemeal carbs (oats, bread, pasta and rice), nuts, seeds, lentils and beans are also great sources. Long-term low intake of fibre can cause digestive problems later in life, so it’s important to get your fill.” 

2. Protein – power up

“A teenage body requires plenty of protein. Having good skin, hair and nails could all be down to having enough protein in your diet – but that doesn’t mean you need to go and drink protein shakes. Lean cuts of meat, fish, yoghurt, milk, eggs, quinoa, soya and tofu all are good sources of protein. Be savvy and include a portion of protein at each meal – that could be a palm-sized amount of the above, a chicken fillet, a salmon steak, an individual pot of yoghurt or a couple of eggs.” 

3. Calcium and Vitamin D – besties for bones

“These two together make a heavenly pair for strong bones. Teenage years are crucial as it is when bone strength peaks, and a diet lacking in calcium and vitamin D could lead to Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones). Calcium is, famously, found in dairy products like milk, yoghurt and cheese – but if you’re vegan or don’t like the white stuff then oily fish, calcium-enriched breakfast cereals and green leafy vegetables can also help. Again, aiming to have a portion at each meal would be a good start. Meanwhile vitamin D is added to lots of breakfast cereals, milk and margarine but the best source is actually direct from sunlight. As well as eating a balanced diet we should also have an active lifestyle, so fresh air and safe sun exposure [remember your SPF] for at least 15 minutes per day also benefits those bones.”

4. Iron – for inner strength

“We lose iron every month in our menstrual cycle, so it’s extra important to make sure you get enough once you start your period. Found in red meat, green leafy vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals, dried fruit and nuts, iron also helps to carry oxygen around the body, giving our muscles energy to move – so there is some truth in Popeye downing the tins of spinach to make him strong! If you don’t think that offal is awful then liver or kidneys are fab sources of iron. Vitamin C can also help the absorption of Iron from plant sources – so a perfect breakfast could be breakfast cereal with a glass of orange juice to wash it down with.

5. Fats – oil’s well that ends well

“Finally, let’s talk fat. Good fats are essential – our bodies can’t make them, so we need to eat them. Let’s not worry about the long complicated names but oily fish (like mackerel, sardines or salmon), avocado, nuts, seeds, rapeseed and olive oil all contain essential fats that can help give you great skin. Fats found in processed products – like cakes, crisps, biscuits and pastries – contain the less brilliant fats that it’s better to eat only in moderation.”

“But most importantly,” says Alice, “enjoy your food and be creative with it – variety is the spice of life!”

So there you go; proper, medical permission to fill up your plate with all kinds of food. Because there’s so much more to life than green juice.

Alice Walker is a registered dietician.

Image: Manjit Thapp

I think I was seven or eight the day I cried to my mum about just wanting a cake with candles.

I pleaded so much that she brought out the Victoria sponge with raspberry jam that she had just made, stuck a dinner candle on top and lit it. ‘Are you happy now?’ I wiped my eyes and nodded, because for a moment I think I genuinely was. I made a wish like I had seen on TV – probably for Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin to be my boyfriend, yuck – then blew out the candle. I don’t even think it was my actual birthday.

The joy quickly went away though as I looked at the once perfectly good cake now with blobs of wax and a gaping hole in it, and waited for a call from Macaulay that never came. What a letdown. I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about, but I was glad that I finally got an insight into the ritual that seemed to be the norm for everyone else but me.

I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, a Christian subsect that views many aspects of society as morally corrupt and, cheerily, believe that the world is due to end any minute now. Basically, Witnesses believe that living according to their interpretation of the Bible will mean that once the world ends, they will be rewarded with eternal life. And while it’s not specifically mentioned in the Bible that birthdays are bad, Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays as they believe they are rooted in pagan origins and therefore a big no-no to God.

As an adult, the reasoning behind JWs not doing birthdays (as well as Christmas, Halloween and other ‘worldly’ practices) makes more sense to me – but as a kid with little understanding of what the point of religion even was, it was mostly just embarrassing and silly. What kind of god hates cake, presents and a cute song? And I constantly felt guilty for being naturally excited about turning a year older.

This isn’t to say the lives of Jehovah’s Witness children all over the world are grim. I still got presents and stuff, just sprinkled throughout the year for no reason at all, and there were always parties for some reason or another. I was pretty lucky in that my mum understood how confusing being part of a world-critical religion but having to, you know, be a part of the world, could be for a kid. A lot of Witness families are much stricter though. I remember one boy in the year below me at my primary school whose parents requested he sit out of the end of Autumn term assemblies so that he didn’t have to sing the Christmas carols. I think the most important thing in my family was that we had a solid foundation and understanding of the faith but weren’t given an excuse to be made to feel like weirdos, especially at an age when that can happen easily enough without even bringing religion into the mix. 

Over the course of my teens, my family gradually stopped being practicing Witnesses. Conveniently, this was also at a time I was increasingly convinced that it was in no way the faith for me. So the first time I had a proper birthday cake with real candles and actual icing, I was 18. This time it felt a little more magical (although that could have been the cocktails). I can’t remember what I wished for but I remember not having that guilty feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was doing something wrong.

I’ve still never had a big party though, I don’t really see the point when I managed my entire childhood without one. Now I see birthdays as a time to reflect on how much I’ve grown over the past year and where I hope the next year will take me, whether that’s spent amongst friends and family or alone. But either way, I’m always happy to catch up on all the cake I missed.

@KirbyAfua

To tongue or not to tongue? That is the question… 

1. It’s totally going to happen isn’t it? I mean, why else would we both have left the main party (especially when the pizzas are about to arrive) to go for a ‘nice refreshing walk’ around this garden?

2. I mean what are we, 70? What teenager turns down Domino’s in favour of a ‘bit of fresh air’? 

3. And why did we both pick this ridiculously romantic cherry blossom tree to sit under? Eh? Even though this long grass could easily be hiding piles of dog poo. 

4. Actually that IS a worry….

5. WHEVS, I am about to have my first ever kiss! Under a CHERRY BLOSSOM TREE! Am pretty much a Jane Austen character.

6. Not that they ever kiss, actually. So rubbish for them. Bet sometimes all they wanted was to snog each other’s faces off.

7. Well don’t worry, Lizzie Bennett. This one’s for you! And it’s going to be the most romantic-novel-worthy kiss anyone’s ever seen.

8. Oh god, I hope no one sees.

9. Unless I’ve completely got the wrong end of the snog stick and they don’t want to kiss me at all? I mean, maybe we really have come out here to enjoy the air.

10. But then why would we have stopped talking and just been smiling awkwardly at each other for the last three minutes? And why would they be staring at me like that?

11. OH CRAP HAVE I GOT A BOGEY.  

12. Quick check: nope. All clear. And that was mega subtle bogey checking, too. Go me. Nailed it. Figuratively and literally.

13. So if it’s not bogey-related then this silent staring thing is clearly the beginnings of my first. Ever. Kiss. Eeeeeeee!

14. Um…. how does it start exactly? Do I just lean in and close my eyes and pout?

15. But then if they’re not into it I’ll just be left hanging there like some weird unconscious duck. And anyway, why can’t I make the fist move?

16. Nonononononononono I do NOT want to make the first move. What would I even do? Lunge at them? I may not know much about kissing but I know that THAT’S not cool.

17. Mmmm, maybe I could be like, “I’d really like to kiss you right now”…

18. Ugh no.

19. “I really like your lips”?

20. NOPE. You are not a stalker-slash-serial-killer.

21. Uhmmmmm…

22. WAIT! They’re doing the unconscious duck! They’re doing the unconscious duck! How long have they been doing that for?

23. Doesn’t matter! Don’t leave them hanging just KISS THEM you moron!

24. Oh god but what if I get it totally wrong?! What if I miss and kiss their chin or their nose or something? Is that… a thing? A sexy thing?

25. Ok. I’m going in.

26. Eyes open? Eyes closed? Eyes open? Eyes closed?!

27. And do I need to hold my breath, do we think? Can you kiss and breathe at the same time?

28. Better take an extra deep one, just in case.

29. Ok, Ok, they’ve been there for ages now, just go for it. Eyes closed, deep breath and…

30. NOSE CLASH! Noooooo! Kill me now.

31. Oh it’s ok, they’re laughing.

32. Laugh too, you idiot.

33. But now I’ve lost all my air! I am going to suffocate and die kissing! Although, not a bad way to go. In the grand scheme of things.

34. Oooh, they’ve got really soft lips. And they taste of Haribo. WHY did I go for the garlic bread over the Haribo at snack table? WHY?

35. Tbh if they don’t like garlic bread then they’re probably not worth kissing anyway.

36. Do I open my mouth? What if I accidentally drool on them? Or our teeth smash together?

37. Ok, they’re opening theirs. Better give this a go.

38. WOAH there with the tongue! Too much too much too much too- thank you! That’s better. 

40. Much better.

41. What do I do with my hands? Maybe stroke their face? No, that is their eye. You’ve poked them right in the eye. Nice one. 

42. I wonder what this looks like from the outside? I bet we look totally grown up and experienced. I bet they look gorgeous. Maybe I’ll just have a little peek. I mean, I really ought to take a mental picture of the person I had my first kiss with. Just open my eyes a crack. Just to –

43. GAHH! They’re looking right at me. Like a frog.

44. And good, now we’re just staring at each other.

45. This is SO. AWKWARD.

46. And you’re still looking.

47. You’ve been looking at them for basically about 45 minutes by now.

48. SHUT YOUR EYES. SHUT THEM. FOR THE LOVE OF BEYONCE, SHUT. THEM. NOW. 

49. There you go. Just keep kissing. Just keep kissing. It’s all good. 

50. Wow we’ve been kissing for aaaaaagggges now. How long do we need to carry on for it to count as a proper snog? Like, officially? I reckon at least 2 minutes. And I mean we must have done, what, one and a half minutes AT LEAST. Maybe I should do a countdown. 30. 29. 28

51. OK well now you’re just opening and closing your mouth in time with your inner counting.

52. Just enjoooy it.

53. But now I’m all red and spitty and… to be quite honest… my jaw’s getting tired. You know what? I think that’s enough to qualify as a proper first kiss. I’m out. Final peck, pulling away… eyes open.

54. And there we go! My first kiss! Completed! Tick! 

55. I mean it wasn’t great and it was a bit weird and awks. But hey! It wasn’t that bad!

56. And appazza it only gets better with practice. 

57. Practice, they say… Practice…

58. I’m going in again, aren’t I?

59. Yes, yes I am. Pizza can wait.

@LucindaEverett

First you saw the event – ‘near you’, not ‘invited to’ – on Facebook. Then you overheard those people you thought were your mates, discussing what they were going to wear and who might get with who. You hold out hope for an invite: none comes and then finally, to add insult to the indignity, someone asks you if you’ve been invited to so-and-so’s party.

No, you say, you haven’t. Cue awkward silence.

Maybe it’s a mistake. Maybe they simply forgot to invite you. It’s easy enough to do, particularly on Facebook. But if you want my advice, it would be not to go down this particular route. If it is a mistake, that will probably at some point emerge and either be sorted out, or apologised for. But if it’s not, you’ll only open yourself up to further misery if you force the issue only to find out so-and-so has definitely, actively not invited you.

What do you do then? Well for one thing you should make alternative plans – and no, these should not be ‘lying in bed feeling sorry for yourself’. My dad, bless his heart, has the emotional grasp of a park bench, but when Emily Richards missed me off her invite list, even he sensed the pain I was going through (the closed bedroom door and muffled sobs gave the game away) and knew I needed something to do.

I’ve loved the Nutcracker for as long as I can remember. There was a showing that evening, and a table for two at Italian restaurant ASK. He and I rarely hung out one-on-one – we’re a big family – but that evening, we were a duo. The sheer novelty of that, the anticipation of my beloved penne al pollo della casa, and the spellbinding thrill of the Sugar Plum Fairy blew all thoughts of Emily Richards out of the water. There have been, there will be, many other parties. That evening with my dad was one I’ll never forget. 

So that’s one idea. I don’t necessarily mean the ballet and the penne al pollo della casa (the calzone is also excellent, btw) – I mean the principle of spending time with a relative you don’t often spend time with. It could be your brother, mum, cousin or aunt. It could be a whole gang of you. When was the last time you cooked for your family, or rallied them into some board games? It might not sound as cool and bantz-filled as the Richards’ place, but trust me: investing in family time will yield far greater return than investing in schoolmates who haven’t invited you to their Christmas do.

My third tip – in case the prospect of time with the fam jam fills you with total horror – is to find who else hasn’t been invited and make them your friend for the night. There are three advantages to this strategy: you’ll be socialising, you can commiserate with each other (though make this brief, it does not do to dwell) on the lack of invite, and you may, by the end of the evening, have made a new or a closer friend. I did this only the other week, in fact, with a girl I don’t see that much, and not only did we make ourselves feel better but we even found ourselves laughing at the self-importance of the man – ok, boy – holding this apparently exclusive party just up the road. 

Because that’s the other thing you need to think about when your invite doesn’t arrive: what kind of friend leaves you out of a party without explanation?

There are some excuses – restrictions on space, parental rules, catering – but if one hasn’t been offered, then that person is just not a friend. You don’t need them in your life, making you feel inferior to the rest of the world. And FYI, while it might feel like the rest of the world has been invited, they haven’t. This is just a handful of people who on one evening partied without you. In universal terms, this is space dust. There’ll be many, many more Christmas parties during the course of your lifetime, and the chances are most of them will be infinitely better than Emily Richards’ will be. The Christmas party doesn’t exist: for better or for worse, Christmas comes every year.

So hang on in there. Your lack of invitation doesn’t make you a lesser person: it’s not what happens to us in life, but how we respond it it that defines us. That’s why Emma and I ate a whole Waitress cheesecake, each, that afternoon.

Months later, I found out why I’d not been invited to Emily Richards’ party: she told me she was worried the guy she liked would fancy me instead. False flattery? Probs, but I’ll take it anyway. Often, exclusivity says more about the insecurities of the host than it does about you.

@finney_clare

Girls in the UK are in the midst of a body confidence crisis, and the cult of ‘perfection’ isn’t helping. Our guest writer Adeola Gbakinro tells us how we can help change that. 

What is low body confidence? When I was younger I felt like I needed to fit in, I believed there were criteria I needed to meet. If I didn’t fit into those criteria, there was risk of ridicule, or even being bullied. The peer pressure from friends, the ‘ideal’ girl that we thought boys liked – it made me want to be ‘perfect’.

According to the Girls’ Attitudes Survey, published by Girlguiding, 49% of girls aged 11-16 fear people will criticise their body if someone takes their picture. I know all too well how this feels and just what a detrimental and lasting impact it can have on the happiness and mental wellbeing of a young woman. If an individual has a negative perception of their body, perhaps they feel they’re not ‘pretty enough’ or don’t look the ‘right way,’ then hearing one negative comment can increase this x 100.

I can’t help but think that if I’d had a safe place and time in school, to discuss the core issues and importance of positive body confidence, I would not have let the pressure around me sink in. I would have been better prepared to deal with the situations I faced and to challenge them.

In the Girls’ Attitudes Survey  75% of girls aged 11 – 21 told us they believe  women are judged more on their appearance than on their ability and 47% aged 11–21 said the way they look holds them back. One look at the media and you see thousands of airbrushed photos, portraying this ‘perfect’ image of a woman where she fits a particular size and shape, where the person she is and the things she achieves are rarely mentioned. 

It is so easy to compare yourself to everything you see in magazines and on billboards. Recognising that your own body doesn’t look anything like that can make you feel inadequate and it becomes increasingly harder to ‘be yourself.’

As a Girlguiding advocate, I believe this needs changing and the time is now!

Girlguiding is campaigning for compulsory Personal, Social and Health Education and Sex and Relationships Education to include body confidence and healthy relationships. We want girls to be confident in their bodies, from their school years through to adulthood, and we believe education can play a major part in this. By teaching body confidence in schools, girls can learn how to increase their self-esteem and learn how to value themselves.

Girls and young women need to be reassured that there is no perfect image. Their size, shape or height does not define how far they can reach in life.

We need to teach girls that they are awesome whatever their shape and size.

In Girlguiding, through resources such as our Think Resilient and Free Being Me badges, we inspire girls to be confident within themselves. But we know much still needs to be done and we believe it can start in school.

You can help us achieve this by signing the petition here.

Adeola Gbakinro, 20, is a member of the Girlguiding Advocate panel. The Advocate panel is made up of 18 girls and young women aged 14-25 who speak out and call for change.

Image: Manjit Thapp

I was nine when I started my first period. Nine.

I was so young I was still making up dance routines in the playground and absent-mindedly picking my nose in public, but then one day the puberty gods decided I would be plucked from my innocent childhood and made to menstruate.

It was a weekend. I was sat on the upstairs loo while my mum hung out washing on the landing. I wiped after doing my business and there it was on the tissue: blood.

It wasn’t bright red like the normal blood I’d seen when I’d fallen over and grazed my knees. This was darker and definitely not wee, so it had to be my period. I pulled up my knickers, flushed the chain and walked out of the bathroom. “Mum, I think I’ve started my period,” I announced.

My mum did what any normal mum would do when a nine-year-old announces she’s bleeding from her vagina: she freaked out. Dropping the bed sheet she was folding, she hopped from one foot to another, spluttering, “OK… um… right… OK… um”. I shrugged, walked past coolly and reassured: “It’s alright, mum. I know what to do.”

I was too young to have had sex education at school, but luckily my mum had been spotting signs that my period was on the hormonal horizon. While she may have been useless on the day (bless her), she’d been super organised beforehand and prepared me for aunt Flo’s imminent arrival.

She later told me she’d noticed a white discharge appearing in my knickers when she did the washing, which is a sure sign your first period is about to start. (BTW: regular discharge is totally normal and part of a woman’s monthly cycle. It’s not gross and is nothing to be ashamed of. Find out more about it here.)

So when my period came, my mum had already given me “the talk”. She had put sanitary towels in my knicker drawer and performed an extremely detailed demonstration of how to stick a white-winged sanitary pad into the gusset of my age 9-10 knickers.

By the time I went back to school on Monday, I was a period pro. I skipped into the school playground with a packet of Always tucked away inside my backpack and that was that. The world kept turning and nothing really changed.

After a phone call from my mum, the school made a few changes to accommodate the “more mature” girls in my class (which is code for “those with boobs”). We got changed in the toilets for PE instead of the classroom, we could go to the loo in the middle of a lesson and we knew where the secret stash of sanitary products were.

People feel sorry for me for having “grown up so fast”, but in reality I was remarkably unfazed by the arrival of aunt Flo.

Puberty is a slow and steady experience for girls, unlike boys who seem to sprout overnight and get reaaaaally deeeeeep vooooooices all of a sudden. So I was used to “growing up”. I had boobs – not budding nipples but actual breasts that needed a bra – and had discovered my first pubes a year before.

Maybe I was too young to feel that shame and embarrassment that a lot of girls feel when they start their period. I was more interested in cartoons than how I looked, what boys thought of me or what was happening to my body. If anything I’m happy that I started so young, it meant that when my friends started I was a dab hand and could help them out.

Periods aren’t always easy, of course: sometimes you leak blood onto bed sheets or your pants (which is really easy to wash with cold water), the pain can be excruciating (hot water bottles are your friend) and it makes swimming awkward (you can still go, just wear a tampon and change it when you get out – you don’t want a wet string dripping in your undies).

I’d recommend using a period tracker app to log pain, flow and moods, so you know what is normal for your body. That way if you are worried or notice anything unusual speak to an adult you trust. The most powerful thing you can do for your health as a woman is get to know yourself.

But for the most part, you, like the other half of the population who menstruate, will be just fine. And if a nine-year-old can do it, I’m sure you can too.

@Brogan_Driscoll

Growing up is bloody hard work. Are you going to be artsy or athletic? Are you going to take up the trombone or join the debating club? Are you going to wear a lot of pink or a lot of black? Do you really have to choose one or the other, or can you be everything? Or nothing? WELL?!

Thankfully we have someone to make sense of it all: illustrator extraordinaire Nina Cosford. Nina’s new book, ‘My Name is Girl,’ deals with all the trials and tribulations of choosing the type of girl you are going to be. It’s bursting with beautiful illustrations and every time you turn a page and see Nina’s honest thought processes, about getting dressed in the morning, emptying your bag or choosing your hair style, you exhale and think, “OH THANK GOD IT’S NOT JUST ME.”

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Like when your mum takes you bra shopping and some stranger is fondling your chest, talking about A cups as if that’s a measurement you have ever had to deal with before and ps. what the hell is a balconette? Nina’s got your back.

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Or that moment when your maths teacher has piled on the homework and one of your friends has mysteriously stopped talking to you and then you drop your lunch on the floor and your apple is now more congealed bruising than actual fruit. Yep, Nina knows that moment.

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Or when you’re stuck in class when it’s sunny outside and you’re dreaming about all the places you’ll go one day. Backpacking around South East Asia, kayaking with your best friends on the Mediterranean, a romantic jaunt to see Machu Picchu…. anywhere there are cacti… Nina feels it too.

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And that moment, when you realise that you look around at your friends with their wacky hair and their booming laughs and their kickass clothes and realise you are a part of the #coolestgirlgang ever. She’s drawn it.

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Nina, can we be part of your girl gang? Oh wait, we are! WE ACTUALLY MET HER!

When betty went to hang out with Nina, she perfectly captured all those PMT feelings in a special illustration for betty…

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Nina, you are our people.

Look out for our exclusive interview with Nina in the next few weeks. And in the meantime, you can get a copy of ‘My Name is Girl’ here, or if you’re totally fangirling you can get a signed copy here. check out more of Nina’s work on her Instagram or on her website.