Puberty, Part 2
This episode about Shape, Weight, Breast Development, and Body Hair is part 2 of our Puberty series. Some kids and adults are hesitant to talk about puberty, so I hope these episodes help you feel more comfortable having conversations about it–that’s my goal. This isn’t meant to replace health and development education–I am not, nor do I claim to be, a medical professional–so I encourage you to further educate yourself through trusted sources like books, reputable websites, doctors, etc. I will use medically accurate terms and link fact sources in my show notes.
First, let’s discuss shape. During puberty, your body shape changes; it’s supposed to, the hormones are at work. And like all stages of puberty, everyone’s shape shift starts at different times, progresses at different rates, and changes in different ways.
Weight gain is normal during puberty. You heard me right, it’s normal to gain weight. To illustrate, during elementary school years, kids gain five pounds per year on average. During puberty years, you may gain between 12- 23 pounds per year. And it may not always match up with growth spurts, which means your body shape will continually change. This is one reason why I’m not a fan of BMI (body mass index) as the only indicator of health. A simple math equation does not factor in puberty timing, hormones, distribution, muscle, or genetics.
As you gain weight, you may notice curves developing, like on your legs, bum, hips, stomach, and chest (more on that one in a bit). Because of this, your clothes size may change multiple times. All of these changes are normal; they’re supposed to happen. There is nothing wrong with your body, your size, your shape, or your weight; you are developing as you should be, and so is everyone else.
Despite my efforts to normalize puberty weight gain, I understand that weight may still be a sensitive topic. If you would prefer not to be weighed at school (like P.E.) or while at the doctor, you can request to opt out of a weigh-in unless it’s medically necessary. And if you must do it, you can ask the staff not to share your weight with you. The American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommended that providers (doctors, nurses) not discuss weight with kids and teens. Fixating on weight and size can lead to unhealthy behaviors like dieting, restricting or eliminating food groups, or disordered eating habits. Instead of focusing on numbers, develop a healthy relationship with your body, like through the principles of intuitive eating. If you have concerns, I encourage you to talk to your parents or a trusted adult. Please remember, weight gain is normal during puberty.
Part of that comes from breast development. Like all the other puberty changes, breast growth happens at different times, rates, and lengths. Some may start growing breasts when they’re eight years old while others have to wait a few more years. One breast may grow sooner or faster than the other. Every body is different and every body is normal.
Breast development occurs in stages.
- Buds, small bump shows behind the nipple
- Nipple and areola (skin around nipple) get a bit bigger, darker colored
- Breasts start to take shape, pointy at first
- Breasts become more round and full
Fully-developed breasts will be different sizes on people – every body is different and every body is normal.
As breasts start to develop, some prefer to wear a bra either because they’re eager to, or they’d feel more comfortable, or they need more support. Training bras or sports bras can be a good place to start until the breast size fits in a regular bra. Bra sizes have two parts: band/chest size and cup size. Your band size is the measurement of your midsection just under your breasts, all the way around. Your cup size comes from the measurement around the fullest part of your breasts minus your band size. That difference is converted into a cup size letter: 0=AA, 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, etc.
It may sound confusing, so I think the best way to find your bra size is to go try some on. Your bra should fit comfortably, not too tight or loose anywhere. Try different brands and styles to know your preference. Some bras have thin fabric, shaped cups, underwire, adjustable straps, etc. See how things look with a shirt on, too; sometimes bra fabric bulges or it doesn’t look right. That’s why you’re trying things out first. I mentioned sports bras earlier, those may be more comfortable for you when you’re being active. It’s good to own a few bras so you can wear a clean one while others are in the laundry.
Lastly, let’s discuss body hair. Just like everything else with puberty, body hair is normal. You’ve had hair all over your body since you were born, little baby hairs. With puberty, body hair starts growing differently in certain places. Leg hair may start looking darker and thicker. Hair will also grow darker, thicker, longer, and curlier in your armpits/underarms and around your genitals known as the mons pubis (hair in this area is often called pubic hair).
Body hair is natural and normal. It’s up to you how you care for your body hair. Some people choose to leave it alone and let it grow. It’s their body, they get to decide. Some prefer to trim it shorter, or even shave it with a wet or dry razor. Since hair is constantly growing, these methods need to be repeated frequently. Also, razors are sharp and can cut skin, so you need to be careful. Shaving cream can help, but sometimes shaving causes razor burn with little red bumps that take a few days to heal. Other hair removal methods, like cream, wax, or paste, can last longer, but they are more expensive and more painful. Again, it’s your choice what to do with your body hair. I recommend talking to a parent or trusted adult so you know how to safely care for it.
That’s a lot more puberty changes, and we have even more to discuss. Puberty is going to happen to everyone at some point, so don’t make fun of people, okay? Have compassion for them as well as yourself. Puberty is a part of life, so accept it. It won’t last forever, and there are lots of people who can help you through it.
Next episode we’ll cover more puberty changes–menstrual cycles aka periods, and then we’ll get to emotions and healthy habits.
Again, I encourage you to further educate yourself through trusted sources like books, reputable websites, doctors, etc. You may also want to check out:
American Girl Books:
The Care and Keeping of You 1: The Body Book for Younger Girls
The Care and Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls
Part 1 Episode 43: What Puberty Is, Growth, Smell, Hair, and Skin
Part 2 Episode 44: Shape, Weight, Breast Development, and Body Hair
Part 3 Episode 45: Menstrual Cycles and Periods
Part 4 Episode 46: Emotions and Healthy Habits
If you have questions about what we covered in this episode, or a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to hello@EmpowerfulGirls.com .
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