Idolising Your Teenage Body: I ‘Peaked’ In Sixth Form Too

Photo Credit: Marcus Hessenberg/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Love Letters To My 20s: A Fortnightly Column On The Stigma Surrounding Our Twenties

“I wish for that time back. All that time that was supposed to be about discovering the world and who I was became wasted on making myself smaller and smaller. Imagine if we all stopped expending so much energy on trying to change our bodies. We could do anything we dreamed of. We could get shit done.” – Megan Jayne Crabbe (@bodyposipanda), Body Positive Power

Facebook and Snapchat memories are a bitch, aren’t they?

If I got a pound for every time that my best friend and I sent each other a random photo of the two us at seventeen, with the message “We definitely peaked in sixth form”, I’d be regularly bumping elbows with the Kardashians and taking bi-monthly trips abroad for the next five years.

Together, we can swoon over our pre-university, tiny waists, and how perky our boobs were, for hours. From the outside, people probably think that we just enjoy talking about the ‘good old days’, but somehow our rounded faces, and filled-out upper-arms and thighs, are always at the crooks of the conversation. Oh, and of course, this always leaves us feeling utterly miserable.

In the battle of Teen Vs Twenty-something bods, Teen trumps Twenty every time.

If you’re nodding along at the familiarity of your group chat being filled with these kinds of horrific ‘throwbacks’… Congratulations, you are not alone, and your subscription to the club is free if you regularly poke at that pouch at the bottom of your tummy every time you try on that pair of jeans.

Still – why do we allow ourselves, and those we love, to think about our bodies in this toxic and comparative way?

We need to get it into our heads that we are not teenagers anymore. Bodies change at all stages in life, but in our twenties, we undergo both natural and contraceptive hormone changes that play a huge part in how we look. Not only that, but our lifestyle changes dramatically, whether it be due to university, our first full-time job, or moving out of the family home.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Dr Maria Sophocles confirmed this, stating that “weight normally continues to increase annually in your 20s, mostly due to increase in body fat compared to teen years.”

“Your metabolic rate starts going down 2 to 4 percent per decade […and] you might notice an increase in fat distribution in your hips, thighs and bust region.”

All these factors are linked to each other and contribute to us looking and feeling a little different as we hit the big 2-0.

I don’t know about you, but I had no idea about all of this until now. Nobody ever told me about how different my body would feel as I went through my twenties.

The truth is, we don’t talk enough about how our bodies change beyond puberty.

By now, it will probably come as no surprise to you that the Western media glorifies teenage bodies, from the porn industry, all the way to the kind of bodies that are cast in film and television above others. As Jen Harwood says in her Instagram post, the slim, teenage, photoshopped body has been “shoved down our throats our whole lives”, and it has warped our perception of reality. Whether it be at the hand of an algorithm, or other conscious decisions being made about inaccurate body representations, our media rejects real women’s bodies.

But what can we do about this when we have little control over what is put out into the world?

Exercise what we do have, which is complete control over what we consume at an individual level.

It is our duty to diversify our media, become aware of the kind of bodies that we regularly consume, and refuse to assume someone’s health based on the way that their body looks (or the way that someone talks about their body), especially during our twenties. To do otherwise is toxic for our own body image, as well as those of others.

Hating our fully-grown, adult bodies is something that we unconsciously learned, and so it’s also definitely something that we can unlearn.

Stop putting off running around in that bikini top for when you have the perfect abs. Do it today and love every second of it. Your twenties are for reckless, unconditional happiness and fun, not for wishing for your teenage years back.

Words by Morgan Hartley.

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