In this week’s blog post, I want to talk about something that I’ve not really heard many people speak about: the changes your body undergoes as you transition from teen to womanhood. I know I’ve discussed this with my friend group and we’ve all felt the same about this at various points in time, so I thought it could be useful to write a blog post about it.
N.B. I’ll be writing specifically about changes to the female body, as that is what I’ve had experience with through myself and my friends.
is it not just… puberty?
Well, sort of but not really. Because puberty is the process through which a child body matures into an adult one that’s capable of reproduction – which would seem like it encompasses the transition from 17-25. But in reality, the puberty we are taught and know of seems to me more like the child to teen transition. And what we’re not taught (at least I definitely wasn’t) is that, as women, our bodies keep changing right into our twenties and beyond.
“I wish i had my 16 year old body”
The amount of times I’ve heard girls say that! And the number of times I’ve scrolled through my Instagram or camera roll and looked back at photos wistfully of me, aged 16. It could be a different age for you, maybe 15 or 17, depending on when you went through puberty, but most girls I know have felt a certain longing for the body they had back then. When their bust had grown but their waist was still pre-teen size, when cellulite and stretch marks weren’t really a thing… You get the picture. Clothing brands, teen influencers, and social media marketing don’t help. They all create this skewed image of the female body that is rooted in a fetishisation of the teenage body and a desire to create dissatisfaction so that women will buy products to make them look that way.
Spoiler alert: it’s not possible
No matter how many Brandy Melville baby tees and vests you buy, no matter how many diets or “detox teas” you try, no matter XYZ, you can’t have your teenage body back. Nor should you. Unfortunately, all this distorted imagery of the female body on social media means that we no longer really know or talk about what is genuine for the female body post teenhood.
a bit of context
First things first, I want to say that until stopping sport and regaining my periods a year ago, I hadn’t really experienced any of these changes. And that was not good for my mental or physical health. However, I’m not going to lie to you all and say it’s been easy experiencing these changes first hand. Sometimes it has been challenging – but I’ve also learnt to let my body do what it needs to do and see where it takes me.
Anyway, aside from the obvious changes – bust/ chest size – there are also other bodily transformations that aren’t spoken about much. The leg/ thigh area can grow, cellulite does become normal and so do stretch marks. Waist might increase, you’ll probably get a bit of a bump over your womb area which is your body’s way of protecting it’s reproductive organs. It’s actually really clever and makes total sense if you properly, rationally think about it and take the emotional response out of it. But because no one talks about these ongoing changes to womanhood, it can feel really scary and as if you’re the only one going through them.
it’s healthy and normal
If I haven’t already made that clear, I want to say it again: these changes are incredibly healthy and incredibly normal. The trouble is, so many people struggle with eating disorders, disordered eating, exercise addiction, body dysmorphia, and any number of other issues that mean they can’t accept these changes and/ or try to prevent them. But please, please, know that your body is not “weird” for changing like this. You’re not a freak, your body isn’t randomly turning against you, and you have to stop the constant barrage of self-criticism directed at your body. It doesn’t help.
I thought I’d end this by quickly touching on body neutrality. It’s basically a concept that arose after body positivity and is the idea that you don’t have to love every part of your body to be a happy, healthy, thriving human being. Because body positivity and loving all parts of your body is great in theory, but you’re still placing a certain value on how you look. And then if your body changes, your self-worth will probably change too. Instead, body neutrality focuses on all that your body is capable of and can do for you, taking the power away from its appearance and redirecting it so that you can find self-worth and contentedness at all the shapes and sizes your body will inevitably take on.
I hope that all makes sense and was marginally helpful or interesting to you!