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Feeling Pressure to Be Thin at Thirteen Years Old

By March 5, 2013

I am thirteen, almost fourteen. I had a mild case of anorexia when I was twelve. I was way too thin, but my mom put me on the right track before I got really sick. I am currently at a healthy weight, no longer anorexic. However, I do feel guilty when I feel that I overeat and start getting upset at myself. I feel SO much pressure to be thin!! PLEASE ANSWER!!

Dear Friend,

I am really glad that you wrote to us. Your worries about eating and weight are very common—it’s good that you are talking about your feelings and seeking help. You are at an age when you can develop a positive outlook that can lead to a freer life.

First, you are SO right about the pressure to be thin! We can’t escape the skinny images of models and celebrities—as well as all the diet ads. But we have to keep telling ourselves that what we see is fantasy. Keep in mind: Photos are computer-edited to look “perfect,” and sometimes this includes changing body shape and size.

Also, remember:

  • Hours are spent on make-up, hair and lighting, with a team of specialists—all for one person!
  • With more available time and money, celebrities and models can work out for long periods every day with their own personal trainers—not realistic for the average person.
  • Many of them follow unhealthy, strict diets and are disordered eaters.
  • Diets don’t even work in the long run—95% of people regain the weight they lose.
  • Many famous people have also undergone plastic surgery to achieve more of a “Barbie body.”

In reality, few girls and women are designed to be very thin! God created a wonderful variety of body shapes, types, frames and even sizes. The goal is to stay active and eat healthfully so we can take care of our bodies—without being worried or thinking about it too much. We need to accept our natural shape and body type. We know we can’t change our shoe size and height—we also can’t transform our bodies into something they weren’t designed to be. At your age, you also have to keep in mind that your body is still maturing, so it’s natural for changes to occur, including added curves and weight.

You say that you experience guilt when you “feel” you have overeaten. Without talking to you, I don’t know if that means three extra bites or an actual binge, so I can’t fully address your concern. But it sounds like you have a caring mother who you can trust, so I suggest you discuss your worries with her. It may be that you also need to talk to a professional counselor who specializes in disordered eating to help you sort through this.

I’ve written a book for girls your age called Big Thighs, Tight Jeans: Should Jan Go on a Diet? It teaches how to eat in a healthy way—without obsession. That means we don’t have to eat perfectly, but instead strive to make healthy choices most of the time, allowing for moderate amounts of less nutritious “fun foods.” I think you’ll find it very helpful.

Feel free to write back if you have more questions.

Blessings to you,

Ann Capper, RD, CDN