When did you start caring about your weight? I can remember worrying about the scale as far back as 4th grade. I always knew I was bigger, but in 4th grade I actually got classified as overweight and was put in a group called “The Blue Chippers” club at school. We met and exercised in the gymnasium before school. I lost 10 pounds during the program, but the scale continued to yo-yo quite a bit through high school. I have been in the “fat kid” shoes. I can say now the scale doesn’t mean much to me, but there have been times that number meant everything.
It scares me to think what some young girls might be going through these days. When I was younger the only examples I had of healthy people were those around me. Now, children are exposed to SO much more examples of “healthy” via different avenues of social media, most of which is at their fingertips all day long. Also, the term “selfie” did not exist back in 1987 and now it is basically a form of art. Image is much more important now, especially when one bad picture can go viral in seconds.
When I see young girls at the mall, I see myself in them and can sense the insecurity. It makes me think back to that time and all the things I wish I had learned earlier about my body, weight loss and what “healthy” really means. If I could go back in time, here are 10 things I would say to my 12 year old self. I am not speaking as a licensed expert or even parent of a girl – I’m just someone who has been there, knows how hard (if not painful) it can be to overweight and young, and knows what’s on the other side of it all.
10 THINGS I WOULD SAY TO MY 12 YEAR OLD SELF
1) Let’s Get Educated.
What exactly IS a healthy weight? Let’s find a chart and see numbers are within YOUR RANGE. We can’t go chasing other people’s numbers. We are all shaped differently. Also, weight is only part of the equation. There is also Body Mass Index and body fat percentage which also takes into account muscle. The scale is merely a guide, nothing more. We can’t get too fixated on a number.
2) I will be honest and not dismiss you.
If there is a problem, let’s address it objectively. I will not dismiss you or think you are overreacting. Be honest with yourself but focus on the positive. YOU are not the problem. YOU and your weight are two entirely separate entities.
3) Food is Just Fuel.
Look at food as simply a way to make your body function properly. I like to look at food as “friends”. In order of importance:
- Protein (meat, fish, nuts, beans, soy, etc) builds and repairs muscle. Personified, it would be the type of person that builds you up and makes you stronger.
- Fruits and Vegetables. Think of them as the peacekeepers. They give your body vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed to keep everything balanced and calm.
- Carbs. These would be the friends who make you feel energized. But be careful – simple carbs (white enriched flour products) give you a burst of energy and could leave you sluggish. Go for the whole grain stuff (I also like sweet potatoes) since they give you a steady stream of energy.
- Sugar and Fats. These are the friends you hang out with only once in a while. They are fun and seem really nice, but they are not the kind of friends who will last a long time and aren’t really good for you anyway.
Think of food as people. Make time for the ones who keep you healthy and have a positive impact!
4) Let’s Make Meal Goals.
It’s not a matter of what you CAN’T eat. Let’s make this about eating MORE of what is good for you. Instead of cutting out junk, let’s strive to eat all recommended servings of healthy stuff each day. We’ll put it on a chart so you get a better understanding of what you are eating each day. In fact, let’s do this together and make it a family lifestyle change.
5) Stop comparing.
I know it’s hard. The only person you will ever look like is you, and you are your kind of beautiful. Everyone is built differently and will therefore look differently in clothes. Let’s concentrate on YOU and enhance the physical attributes you like best about yourself.
Look at your family. You got your body from Mom and Dad, and they each gave you special aspects of themselves. Your physical attributes are a result of two unique people. Parts of your body are somewhat predetermined. Instead of changing what you don’t like, let’s concentrate on all the wonderful traits you were lucky enough to inherit.
7) You are only 12!!!
Your body is still changing and will change SO much more over the years. Again, we can’t compare our bodies to others. Everyone is developing at a different rate. The most important thing now is to make sure your body gets everything it needs to be healthy and strong – not a certain size.
8) Drink water like it’s your job.
This isn’t about feeling full. It’s about cleansing your body and keeping it hydrated to perform. This will also do wonders for your skin!
9) Find something active and fun.
Exercise is nothing more than movement, so let’s find a way to move that is fun for you. Instead of weight loss as a goal, let’s make physical goals: trying a new exercise class each week, walking home from school 2 times a week, or meeting with a friend for a bike ride every weekend. Start with the things you are good at or like, and branch out from there.
10) Ability, not appearance.
It’s about what the body CAN do, not what it looks like. What your body looks like is a result of what it can do. And if you feel confident in what you can do, you will feel confident in the way you move and therefore look.
These things seem so clear to me now as an adult. I can’t guarantee that if I had my own teenage daughter right now she would understand or even listen. But I know these are the thoughts I would try to convey to her because they come from the heart of someone who has been there a few times over the years and has finally figured (most of) it out.
Take Care of Yourself,