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Changes to your shape

Girl checking her height.

Usually, between the ages of 9 and 13 girls grow much faster than they had been growing. This process — called a growth spurt — happens later for boys. That’s why you may find yourself taller than the boys in your class for a while.

During puberty, you will not only get taller. You will also see other changes in your body such as wider hips, thighs, and bottom. You may get stretch marks, or little scars, where your skin was pulled from growing fast. (These usually fade over time.) And your body, which has both muscle and fat, will also start to have more fat compared with muscle than it did before. These changes all are common and normal!

Because your body may seem so different from what you’re used to, you might feel uncomfortable or shy about it. Remember that everyone goes through these changes — it’s just part of life.

It’s also really common to struggle with body image, or how you feel about your body. It’s especially hard when there are so many pictures of girls on television and in magazines with "perfect" bodies. Remember, though, that a lot of what you see on TV and in magazines is either fake or unhealthy. And women and girls come in all shapes and sizes. The size of your body does not have anything to do with your value as a person!

Each young woman grows and changes at her own pace. Just remember that you are a beautiful person and that you are an individual.

As you go through puberty, it’s important to take good care of your body and stay at a healthy weight. Check out our sections on exercise and nutrition for tips.

Body image and eating disorders

Sometimes, worries about your body can become a huge part of your life. These kinds of struggles with your body image may be part of an eating disorder. Eating disorders are serious health problems.

Two of the most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa (say: AN-uh-REK-see-uh nur-VOH-suh) and bulimia nervosa (say: byoo-LEE-mee-uh nur-VOH-suh). Anorexia nervosa (often called anorexia) involves extreme limits on food and weight loss. Bulimia nervosa (often called bulimia) involves eating a lot of food at once and then getting rid of the food by throwing up, using a laxative (which makes you have bowel movements), or doing too much exercise.

Another type of eating disorder is binge eating, which means a person eats large amounts, often in an out-of-control way. Sometimes, people have some symptoms of a couple of different eating disorders.

If you or a friend may have a serious problem with body image or any eating disorder, talk to a parent, a doctor, or another adult you trust. There is help available for you, and it’s important to get treated. You can get better!


Content last reviewed October 13, 2010
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.