Young Teen’s Mom Is On a Diet – Following In Her Footsteps

By March 5, 2013

Hi, I’m 13 yrs old, going on 14 in the summer, and I’m not sure if i’m a healthy weight or not. I’m 5’4” and currently *** lbs. The highest weight I’ve ever been is ***. I went down to *** and got sick of starving myself, which technically I was doing, so I went up to *** by bad eating habits. Then I went down to *** and then up to *** and now I’m at ***, going down again. The last time I checked at school my bmi was **% or something, and my friends were like **% and they are healthy weights. I dont want to go back up and I want to lose weight in a more healthy way. My mom is on a diet and I wish I could go on it w/ her. When I lost the weight before she noticed and said I didn’t need to but I disagree. I told her I didn’t lose weight, though, and now if I ask for her help it will show I lied. I just need help finding better eating habits and healthy ways to lose weight and keep it off. I am a swimmer and track runner so when we have spaghetti suppers and carb load I don’t no what to do. Please help me, I’m out of ideas. – m.

Dear m.,

I am SO glad that you wrote to us. You are at such an important age, and the fact that you recognize that you are confused and out of balance is actually a positive sign. You can make changes now that will lead you in a much healthier direction!

First, I want to reassure you that you are not at an unhealthy weight. But you are letting yourself fall into a pattern of obsessing over what the scale says—and the scale can be very misleading. Your weight will naturally bounce up and down every day due to fluid shifts, and you will also carry extra water weight right before you get your period. This has nothing to do with body fat. Also, muscle weighs more than fat, and since you are an athlete, you may be leaner and trimmer than what the scale seems to say. As a matter of fact, there are many famous athletes who register as overweight with BMI calculations, but are in terrific shape! Read the article “Heaviness and Weight Gain – Explained…” for more info.

Be careful not to compare yourself to other girls’ bodies. First of all, there are a wonderful variety of body shapes, frames and types in this world, each one uniquely beautiful. Don’t buy into the lie portrayed in the media that we should all have “Barbie bodies.” Let me ask you some questions: Will dieting change your shoe size? Will exercise make your nose smaller? Will eating a certain way make you taller once you stop growing? No, of course not. Well, there is a lot about the way our bodies are formed that is pre-programmed by our genetics or family history. Also, at your age, you and your peers are all growing and developing at different rates and in different ways. Some girls round out before they get taller, others shoot up like a string bean first and then add curves, while others gradually grow into their preprogrammed shape less dramatically. So, you don’t even know yet what your final shape will be.

We need to accept and appreciate these wonderful bodies we are given, but we also need to take good care of them. Part of that means trying to eat healthfully most (not all) of the time. Because you have been so worried about your weight, you have started to get caught in a cycle of cutting back too much in your eating, followed by cravings, then overeating/bingeing. To find out how to get back on track, you can read the articles in the “Eat Well, Live Well” section. But I would also highly recommend that you read my book Big Thighs, Tight Jeans (Should Jan Go on a Diet?). It was written for girls just your age who are worrying about their bodies and want to know how to eat healthier. I think you will find answers to a lot of your questions in the book.

Eating well for a healthy body is not that complicated. When you do so, your weight will naturally fall at what is best for your body type—without obsession and stress. Please follow through on my suggestions, then write back to let me know how you are doing.

Take care,