Sixteen and Obsessed About My Weight

By October 26, 2012

I’m 16 and have always been obsessed about my weight. i weighed 140 last summer and feel good to be about 122-125 now. However, I go from periods of exercising to make up for food I’ve eaten, trying to cut calories, make up for the night before….it seems like everyday. My mom gets annoyed because if I have a treat or anything I’ll question if I’ve eaten too much. I eat healthy… extremely healthy and I’m proud of it. Vegetables are much more appealing to me than french fries, but that’s just me. I want to be 110-115 for my 5 foot 3 in body. I know just about every caloric content of all foods, and sometimes eat small [meals] throughout the day, but it leaves me hungry so I binge. Am I just worrying too much or within healthy ranges? I don’t let food control my life. I just think I’m a bit obsessed? – K.

Dear K.,

It’s very positive that you’re questioning some of your behaviors and thought patterns related to food, eating and weight. You’re asking some really important questions, the answers to which will have a major impact on your future health. Overall, I do have a number of concerns after reading your letter.

First, you talk about “obsessing” about your weight. Without the benefit of talking to you directly, I don’t know if your expectations are realistic for your body type and I can’t determine what is healthiest for you. But I can tell you that your weight has been within normal ranges, even at its peak. Regardless, the result of your obsession is that you are starting to fall into a cycle of restricting your food intake, followed by bingeing. Your attitude towards exercise is to use it more like “purging,” because you do it when you feel you’ve overeaten, instead of for pleasure and health.

Its okay to read labels on occasion to learn about the calories and nutrients in foods, but the fact that you know the caloric content of practically all foods is an additional sign that you are out of balance. Another red flag is that you tend to “eat small” throughout the day—denying your body’s call for fuel—which as you know results in extreme hunger and bingeing. In addition, I sense from your letter that your attempts to “eat healthy” are really focused on controlling your weight, and you are becoming fearful of eating certain foods.

All of these signs point to disordered eating. Although you state that food doesn’t control your life, it sounds like it is consuming too much of your energy, and you may be headed towards a serious eating disorder if you don’t take some action now. I’m so glad you wrote in—this could be an important turning point in your life!

I have a couple of articles that I’d like you to read, to give you a general picture of healthy attitudes about weight and eating—goals for which to strive. The first is “Understanding Body Types,” and the second one is “What Is Healthy Eating?” There are many other articles in the “Eat Well, Live Well” section which I think will also interest and benefit you. Take your time and try and read one or two a day.

But I also think it would be extremely valuable for you to talk to a counselor who specializes in disordered eating. You now have this wonderful opportunity to work with someone to help change your thinking so you can live a full, rich life, free of food and weight obsessions. You don’t want to walk any further down the path you were headed. Talk to a trusted adult, such as a parent, school counselor, pastor or nurse, for advice on who you could see. We also offer guidelines at “Finding Treatment.”

Take care of yourself! Write back if you have more questions.