The very real woes of second puberty

We all remember puberty being awful- whether it was a face full of acne, weird new body hair, lumps in places we didn't really want them, or genuinely feeling like an emotional nightmare. I know we all remember it so I won't say too much to trigger memories of those times of absolute biological chaos but I'm now learning aged 24 that that really isn't the end of things. I had previously come across the fact that we start dying aged 25- basically that is when you stop developing and, effectively, everything begins to decline (morbid and not completely true but bear with me on this)- but I never considered that the developments at this point would be unpleasant.

Reaching around 20 I thought I was done- my weight didn't change for 3 years, I felt like I was done growing, and I had become pretty happy in what I thought was my complete adult body. But now, with an additional 5kg on the scales seemingly out of nowhere, I'm having a hard time recognising my body. I thought at first it was Covid weight gain, I thought it might be unhealthy habits since finishing uni and spending considerably more time sat in front of a desk with less free time for leisure activities. I thought, despite eating the same, that it must be poor diet. My weight hadn't changed for so long so why would it now increase? And then I noticed something.

All over the internet I have seen women looking at their 19 year old bodies and comparing them to their mid 20's frames, wishing an longing to get back to their teenage state. I look at videos and posts of girls who are still below the US drinking age and feel chubby and sluggish by comparison. When did I gain 7 inches around my hips? Why, for goodness sake, did none of that weight ever go to my chest at the very least? So I wanted to look into it. Why do we as adult women feel so uncomfortable and weird in our bodies all of a sudden? We were done with that phase. Why didn't I keep my 20 year old butt and the 20 year old jeans that actually fit over it?

Going back to the point I made about us developing until 25- For some reason I has just assumed I'd get better bone structure as I lost the last ounces of baby weight in my face and definitely didn't anticipate ballooning up a dress size, and I believe that most women expect the same (and men of course- I'm just speaking about what I see more of). According to Healthline, we have almost a second puberty (in fact they basically state that we experience a range of puberty-esque changes into our 40's) and in our mid to late 20's will reach our physical prime in regards to muscle strength, bone mass, and our most regular estrogen levels. They also note that our body continues to grow and mature and, while not the societal ideal, this will mean weight gain, changes to our shape, and development in all of those key areas impacted by earlier puberty.

So what can we do? It's pretty simple on paper but very hard in practice- me must accept that we are now women and no longer late-teens. We must, despite society telling us the frame of a teenager is ideal, accept our new shapes and move forward. Reject diet culture, reject trying to fit back into jeans you wore when you were 17 (skinny jeans aren't even on trend these days), reject punishing yourself for natural developmental changes. If you, like the celebrities that would have you believe that their bodies never broadened with age, can afford personal trainers, have immaculate genetics, and are happy to exist on strict diets then more power to you. But for those of us who are going through this second change and have been struggling with it, especially with the additional struggles with body image that Covid has caused, it is time to try to put to rest feelings of inadequacies when comparing ourselves to teenagers. Strive for a healthier lifestyle and make the most of these prime years physically but accept that growth is natural.

Whether you're getting acne again, experiencing swelling of your hips, thighs, bust, and stomach, noticing new stretch marks, or even just noticing you're more irritable than usual, we should try to normalise this developmental stage and the distancing physically from being a teenager. Make healthier choices if you feel you have let yourself down in that area but if not? Buy new jeans, stop following teenagers on instagram for style tips (especially since apparently they're trying to bring back low rise jeans which, no offence, but fuck that), and try to remember that, at one point, that teenage body that you now miss you also thought was weird and awkward at first.

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