OMG, I'm Gorgeous, But...
By Mia, age 17, North Carolina
Sweet Advice Featured Columnist
Sweet Designs Featured Writer
Meet Tay, age 16*
Tay writes: "My weight has always been a major part of my life. I used to be very overweight for my age, and I decided that it was time for me to change. So I lost 17 pounds one summer and remained that way for a long time. Upon entering 10th grade, I played 3 sports, and my weight was the last thing on my mind since I was very active in each team sport.
But this summer I wanted to work out more so I wouldn't be extremely tired for conditioning for the upcoming fall season of sports. I began to eat healthy and cut back on a lot of unhealthy snacks and drinks, sticking mainly to fruits, veggies, and water. I believe I lost about 12 pounds this summer, but when I look in the mirror, I'm still a little unhappy with myself, mainly because I have a HUGE fear of gaining weight and looking like I used to. I like myself now, but I'm not completely happy.
I weigh about 112 now, and I have been asked many times if I have an eating disorder because of the way I look. I researched eating disorders and I only have one of the symptoms. I don't believe that I have an eating disorder because I never skip a meal and I always eat, including in between snacks. I'm just very selective when it comes to what I'll eat. When everyone eats a hamburger, I'll get a salad. It's to the point now that sometimes when I look at food it makes me sick to my stomach, and I have to force myself to eat it.
I'm very afraid. I'm not sure if I have an eating disorder, and I don't want it to get any worse. What should I do? I don't want to be a size zero, but I don't want people to believe that I'm anorexic or bulimic. Please help!"
Body image is just a projection of our confidence in our outward appearance. Making healthy decisions even after weight loss is a great thing, but just focusing on 'staying skinny' shouldn't be something that haunts you. Picking a salad over a burger is 'so-called healthy', but the question remains, are you getting adequate protein eating the way you are? Fruits and veggies are merely points on the food pyramid.
I know this sounds like everything you hear, but I want to try and make it easier. Even if you lost all of your goal weight, are you maintaining a healthy diet and workout cycle? When you choose to lose weight or gain weight you're not just dieting, you're making a lifestyle decision. You cannot just lose or gain the desired weight and then go back to the exact same daily lifestyle you had before.
I recommend some calculations - find out how many calories you eat, how much protein, and what is your BMI before setting a weight loss or gain goal. Also keep track after you've reached your goal to help maintain the weight you have achieved. I will provide links to available online calculators for weight gain and loss needs at the end of this article.
Everyone's body is different, as is their weight and BMI. 120 pounds may be a healthy weight for one girl, and 140 for another. Losing or gaining too much weight could be a problem. For example, Tay says she is currently 112, and I am just guessing, as a sports girl, she's 5'5" or 5'6", which means her BMI would be slightly underweight.
Tay, my advice for you is to realize that you are your own person; what everyone else thinks should not matter. Just because it makes you a little scared or nervous about eating and you feel a little nausea does not mean you have an eating disorder; you may just have a slight anxiety problem from the fear of gaining back the weight you worked so hard to remove. Maybe your friends are just jealous, but if you're healthy, that is all that should matter.
I do recommend taking time to calculate your BMI and make sure you are at a healthy weight. I also recommend relaxing more. At the end of this article please make use of the calculators, and calculate the correct calorie intake for you to maintain your current weight (if it's a healthy and happy weight for yourself).
Open yourself up to more than veggies and fruits. If you're not interested in red meats, then look into grilled chicken or tofu, which are both excellent sources of protein. I know, tofu...eww, right? Well, actually I've found it's very filling and delicious because you can season it to any taste you wish to achieve. I even make tofu fajitas. I season and cook the firm tofu with fajita seasoning, and add some onion, and green and red peppers. Put it in tortillas, and it's 15 minutes to YUM!
Eating healthy doesn't have to be dull, with only veggies and fruits. Even a turkey burger now and again won't hurt, and boy, do they grill good!
Tay, if you're down to 112 now and you're still unhappy with yourself, you can't keep focusing your unhappiness on your weight or appearance; you need to be your own best friend on this. If you're healthy, honey, then be confident with yourself because you're not only looking hot, but you're able to do a lot of things many other people can't! I dare you to buy a cute little bikini and go swimming - show off your new hot bod while doing something only a healthy bod could!
Build your confidence. Take off all your makeup one day and then write down every little thing you like about yourself, physically and personality-wise! Be a happy, healthy you and enjoy it, regardless of what people may say, but don't let fear run your life. Fear of gaining weight shouldn't keep you from enjoying the new you.
Remember, weight is a number, but how that number affects your health is a big deal. Being underweight has its own risks, as well as being overweight. Being seriously underweight can mean lacking the weight necessary for menstruating and carrying a child later in life. Being underweight increases the risk of osteoporosis. Good luck, Tay!
Editor's Note: According to Wikipedia, disordered eating is "a term that is used by some people to describe a wide variety of irregularities in eating behavior that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa." In time, disordered eating may evolve into a full-blown eating disorder unless certain behaviors and their underlying attitudes are changed. Counseling and adopting a disciplined meal plan designed to eat a healthy balance of foods and maintain a happy weight range, as recommended by Mia, are excellent choices.
Meet Beatriz, age 13*
Beatriz writes: "I'm going into 8th grade and I don't have a healthy body for a girl my age. I hate diets and exercises and getting away from all the food I like. I have been overweight ever since 5th grade and I really want to lose weight, but I have no support from NO ONE. Not even my family members. My mom is ALWAYS on my case about how I should start exercising and stop eating the food that makes me get fat. She is always on my case about being skinny like other girls and it really makes me sad. My dad is the same. My brothers are much worse. They are making fun and calling me names like "ugly" and fat names. I would lose weight but I have no support from no one. What do I do to get some support or to lose some weight without all the hard stuff?"
Beatriz, losing weight is not just an overnight thing or something you can just make happen without sacrifice. You may have to say goodbye to some foods you love, but there are alternatives to everything, and after you lose weight you can eat some of the same foods again, but in healthier portions.
Making a life choice like weight loss opens your life to a whole new world of discoveries. Trust me, eating something delicious and healthy makes a world of difference. You may not lose a pound every meal, but you'll feel better about yourself and be doing better things for yourself.
I am sorry to hear you have no support from your family, but Beatriz, you're still young, and this is YOUR life you're changing. If they don't want to be a part of it, then let the lack of support drive you to prove to them you're better than they are, and you can do it on your own!
But you may not have to go it alone. Ask your best friends for support and talk to a school counselor about your goals. Let her know you have no support at home and need a support system. Maybe you can work out a plan to meet with your counselor or someone she recommends regularly, as well as talking with your friends.
You're not the only 8th grade girl who is unhealthy. You know, some of those 'pretty, skinny girls' may be at just as much of a health risk as you. Everyone is different, but being 'too skinny' is just as bad as being 'too big'.
Don't get down on yourself, no matter what anyone says. You need to build your confidence, so you can appreciate the hard work you're about to start. If you can't love yourself now, you probably won't later. It doesn't take day after day of exercise and snacking on ice chips to get healthy. I encourage you to calculate your BMI and see just where you are and how much you need to lose. It may not be as much as you think. And when it comes to change and losing weight, the younger you are, the easier it is - not that it will be easy. Now is better than later on; just think, by the start of school next year, you could be the girl you always wanted to see in the mirror. Not everything in life is easy, but it makes it all the more worthwhile when you get to the end to see how great what you achieved was.
You can follow me as I start my weight loss journey at http://www.sdmmiasays.blogspot.com. I'll add recipes and my progress hopefully every other day. You're more than welcome to even ask for diet advice as you need it. We can build our own support system together!
Don't let your weight run your life. Take charge and take control, and don't miss your chance now to be healthy and enjoy your teen years to the fullest!
About your favorite foods, there are healthy chips, lunch meats, burgers, pastas, and more! It's an entire new cuisine! I wish you the best of luck, hon, but try and do like I said -
1. Calculate your BMI and the correct calorie intake for you to lose weight.
2. Slow and steady. Don't rush things. Sure, there are fast ways to lose weight, but at what risk to your health?
3. Dieting is discipline - there are no magical shortcuts that both take and keep weight off.
Helpful Links for Everyone!
Helpful links and tips for weight gain: http://weightgain.lifetips.com/
Helpful links and tips for weight loss: http://weightloss.lifetips.com/
Calorie intake: http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm
Calorie burn: http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calories_burned.htm (This is a great little calculator to figure out how many calories per exercise you're burning.)
Weight loss or gain is a goal to be taken seriously and gone about correctly. That's why I recommend trying to see a doctor for diet and exercise plans available to you. Discuss the health risks you are in danger of at your current weight. Even if you're not trying to lose or gain weight I recommend looking at your lifestyle to see if it's healthy, and make sure to take a multivitamin daily after a major meal.
Always remember, no matter how much you weigh you are your own person. No matter what some kid at school or magazine or TV show says, you don't have to be a size 3 to be perfect. You are beautiful as you are, but being beautiful and healthy is a definite plus!
Good luck to you both, and to all our readers! And feel free to join me in my journey into college, weight loss, and parenting at my blog: http://www.sdmmiasays.blogspot.com
- Mia C.
* Tay's and Beatriz's accounts are actually their advice questions recently submitted to Sweet Designs Magazine. This article is my response to their questions.