How to deal with the awkward puberty stage... (Dear Jess)

by Jessica Holsman

Dear Jess,

I've been struggling with acne for a a while now and it's made me feel really self conscious. I also don't like what I see in the mirror because I think I'm really fat, even though everyone says I'm not. It's really affecting my self confidence and I've started to feel more anxious too. Do you have any advice?

x Anonymous

Hi Lovely!

Oh my goodness you are so not alone here! I can totally relate and I know that just about every woman on the planet has felt how you are feeling! I feel like everyone to some extent goes through body image issues in high school, unfortunately. It completely sucks to look in the mirror and instead of seeing this absolutely amazing, healthy and functioning body that can do so many wonderful things for us every single day, all we can see are our 'imperfections.' 

Before I go on, I just want to say one thing about this idea of a perfect body that we so often hear about when we flip through magazines, listen to commercials on TV and scroll through social media. I honestly believe that the idea of a "perfect" body DOES exist, but not in the way so many people might be thinking. Everybody's perfect body will look different, depending on your genetics and structure. To me, the perfect body is when we are feeling our most energized, healthy and happy selves. It's when we are fuelling our body with lots of nutritious and non processed foods, getting enough of the right physical activity and nourishing our mind, body and soul from the inside out. When we do this, whatever you see in the mirror IS your perfect body.

Now, in saying that, let me just have a tiny rant when it comes to puberty. (Oh boy, here we go...) Okay.... puberty is honestly the most natural, normal and important part of growing up but WOW is it not just the MOST inconvenient thing to happen to young girls? I could upload old photos of myself between the ages of 13 and 16 to show you just how awkward my awkward phase was but let me spare you (and me) that embarrassment please!! 

First of all, I am pretty short (155cm to be exact), so when my hormones started changing and my body prepared for this new cycle in my life, I gained a few kilos which looked a lot more than it did on the scale! (#chubbybubby) I also noticed that the changes in my hormones made my hair go from waved/beachy to zig zaggy noodle looking curls and eventually tight little ringlets. 

I was fortunate enough not to have to deal with the painful experience of acne but instead, I had realllllly bad eczema for a couple years that would flare up from time to time. There was even one day in high school where I had to go home because my face was so red and I got so embarrassed and upset..  

Gahhhhh puberty is such a pain! 

Alright, so now that I've had my mini rant, I should probably get to the part where I share how I actually got through this awkward phase and finally came to appreciate and learn to love the body I have been given in this lifetime. (Cue positive and inspiring Jess, please!)

To be honest, what really helped me and one thing I still find helpful in challenging times, is to remind myself that everything is temporary. I promise that your acne will clear up and the body has an amazing ability to naturally recalibrate, detoxify and balance itself over time. Even my weight stabilised and I realised that gaining a couple of kilos is just the body's way of getting ready for this new chapter and all the work and important changes it needs to go through.  

Our bodies are always changing, especially during teenage years but in the scheme of things, this phase of our lives is really short (thank goodness) and one day soon, you will be able to look back on those facebook photos and insta posts and feel a great sense of relief!

Looking back, I wish I hadn't struggled with self confidence as much as I did after gaining a couple of kilos and having those eczema outbreaks because I feel like I was being too hard on my body. I think I was just used to being super skinny and at that age I felt like my appearance was everything. 

Something that really helped me to get out of that self loathing spiral was exercise, but not just any form of exercise. See, I think it's so important we figure out what type of exercise feels good for our bodies because it will differ for everyone and you don't want physical activity to feel like a chore or a form of punishment as you try and "whip" your poor self into shape. Personally, I LOVE dancing, so I started to take more classes as I got older and I found that when I was physically active I felt so much better and my body confidence improved. It made me focus on the amazing things my body could DO and I began to pay less attention to my weight. Also, being active has so many health benefits and they say we should be doing around 30 minutes of light exercise each day. Now I make sure to do a little physical activity every day, even if it's just a short walk with my puppy Winston or a yoga class. I still take the occasional dance class but now that I'm writing this blog post, it's making me want to get back into it! (Thanks for the motivation!)

Besides exercise, I have really come to appreciate the power of healthy eating. I don't think I'm a total health nut but my dad is a GP and naturopath so I grew up in a home where the importance of healthy eating was always emphasised. I eat lots of fresh foods (the more you eat things that come from mother earth, as opposed to a packet or box, the better! Fresh produce also helps the body heal and detox naturally and assists it in carrying out all the important processes it needs to, in order to make sure you grow into a healthy and strong adult! I absolutely hate diets and think they can be really dangerous unless you've been advised by a doctor to restrict your food intake and lose weight. Instead, I like to live by this simple rule. If I'm eating natural and unprocessed foods, then I can eat as much as I like until my body is full. Natural, organic and unprocessed foods contain lots of nutrients for my body and are easy to digest, compared to packaged and processed foods like chips, chocolate, pizza, lollies etc. My body is never deprived and I seem to be at a healthy weight and not carry the excess kilos when I live according to this rule. My energy is also much better and my skin doesn't flare up anymore either which is a good sign! (Not that diet is necessarily the cure to eczema, but eating healthy sure can help!) 

Also, if you're having a real problem with acne, have you considered seeing your GP or dermatologist to see what they can suggest? There are great products out there but also helpful and natural remedies too, so it just depends what sort of remedies you feel comfortable using. 

Aside from my tips for looking after our bodies, I really want you to remember that we are all amazing, unique and talented beings with so much to offer! Our bodies are incredible and allow us to walk this earth and experience everything it has to offer. So, next time you walk past a mirror at home, I want you to stop, look yourself in the eyes and say "I am amazing! I love and accept myself exactly as I am." It can feel really weird at first but I'm telling you that this exercise helped me so much and it really helps us to feel a greater sense of love and gratitude for ourselves which is so important, especially during turbulent times like puberty.

Oh and one other thing! I just read ‘Shine from Within’ by Amanda Rootsey and her book is amazing!!!!! If you are looking for a beautiful read that is just for teens and all about how to care for your mind body and soul and learn to shine from within then this is a great resource that I highly recommend! 

Love, Jess x