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Be sensitive on sis’ weight

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My little sister is overweight and very self-conscious about it. When I ask her if she wants to work out with me, she starts crying. How can I help her without making her feel like I think she's overweight? She's only 9 and weighs more than me — and I'm 18. — Mary, 18, Cedar Lake, Ind.

I think it's great that you want to help your sister. It's probably very hard for her to be so overweight at her age, and that's something that you need to be extra-sensitive about. The reason she cries is probably because she feels ashamed about her weight, and when you ask her to work out, it's a reminder.

I'm not there, so obviously I have no idea how you phrase it, but do try to be as sensitive as possible. But just to speak from experience? One of my sisters is pretty overweight, and on many occasions, my family has been less than sensitive to her feelings in the name of trying to help her. I'll give you a recent example: We were at dinner, and as she went reaching to pour some Coke, my mom suddenly blurted out, "We've got diet for you." It was pretty humiliating, I'm sure.

I think your best bet is to schedule quality time with your sister a few times a week, and during those times, set a good example for her. And make it less about working out and more bonding-oriented. Like, invite her to go for a walk around the lake with you (I'm making this up, bear with me). Or invite her to a movie. And instead of buying popcorn, chop up some bell peppers and baby carrots at home and bring them to the theater for a yummy but much healthier snack for both of you.

And heck, if it's possible, how about walking to that movie? And while you're spending time together, get to know what her best qualities are. Like, maybe she's artistic or loves animals. Then you can help her build her self-esteem about non-weight-related things. That's very important, too. When I was her age, anything my older sister did was officially cool by my standards. By making more time for her and using that time to set a good example with regard to how you treat your body (both with exercise and food), you're being a pretty terrific big sister.

I really like this guy. He's cute and funny. The only thing is that he's gay. He would never hurt me, but I'm afraid that if I tell him that I like him, that will hurt him. Please give me your advice. — Anna, 15, El Paso, Texas

Anna, Anna, Anna. Why would you want to go after a guy who is not interested in you? For the challenge? I think you'd be setting yourself up for disappointment. Think about it: How would you respond if a girl who is gay told you that she liked you? Would that change how you felt about your sexuality? My guess is that it wouldn't, and if anything, you'd feel uncomfortable and she'd end up hurt. It sounds to me that you've met a guy who has a lot of qualities that you find attractive. Like you said, he's cute, he's funny. Get a sense of what about him is different from other guys, too. And consider that "your type." There are other guys out there who have those qualities and are interested in girls. The situation with this guy has a big red flag over it. Save yourself the heartache, and move on.

Questions may be sent directly to Atoosa Rubenstein at: dearseventeen@hearst.com. Atoosa Rubenstein, the founding editor of CosmoGirl! magazine, is the editor in chief of Seventeen magazine. © King Features Syndicate Inc.