How to be happy as i am
August 9, 2009 4:36 PM   Subscribe

[neurotic teen filter] - Id like to be comfortable with my body again!

I need advice on how to control an unhealthy relationship with my weight. I am not fat. But i have a tendency to think i am, and my friends look at me like im crazy if i say anything about it.

I lost a stone after going to uni, but have gained half of it back, putting me at around 8 stone atm (im 5ft 4ish) and i want to be happy with that, and stop feeling guilty whenever i eat a proper meal.

I DID go see a psychiatrist, after waiting months for an appointment, we seriously did not get along and she basically said there was nothing wrong with me. And now im waiting more months for the NHS to get back to me about conselling, tho im starting to wonder if that will even happen.

I am determined to become a reasonable human being again. Im bored of feeling fat if i put on a couple pounds, and feeling stereotypically female and attention seeking if i talk about it. Help me regain a normal perspective please!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry to hear that you're feeling so bad.
My only expertise in this area is that like you I am a human being and experience all the normal self doubt.

I think (as a non expert) that changing how you feel about your body is something that is best tackled from two directions:

First by learning to give yourself a break and accept yourself as human, maybe finding counselling is a really good idea. I think posting here was a good idea too, mefi people love these questions, it gives us a chance to say "don't be sad little chicken - we understand"

At the same time make sure you are physically looking after yourself, not with the intention of loosing x pounds, or conforming to some ideal of human beauty, but just to make your body feel good. If you can approach exercise and eating healthy food as something that will just make you feel good and happy - not as fatty punishment - you will probably find that it can be really enjoyable.

The self doubt you're feeling isn't just female, it's very human.
posted by compound eye at 5:01 PM on August 9, 2009

(naively) I think it would help to recognise maybe why you feel your weight is so important. There are other body-ideals that can be aimed for that are more healthy than "slim at any cost". For example, sports! There's a wonderful blog I love to point out where the author takes up weight training as a hobby, which immediately turns the table on the matter.

I think most of the world just tries to ignore their weight; what do you have in your life that is more important to you?
posted by gensubuser at 5:13 PM on August 9, 2009

Well, your friends are right: you aren't fat, not by any stretch of the imagination. At a BMI of 19.2, you're on the low side of normal weight for your height, actually—not that far from underweight, even.

As I think you've realized, it isn't your weight that's the problem: it's your focusing on your weight. If I were you, I'd get rid of my scale, to begin with. You'd have to gain many, many, many pounds for weight gain to be (physically) problematic for you, so perhaps not knowing your weight will be helpful—you can't fret that 112 pounds is too heavy if you don't know that you weigh 112 pounds. There is no reason for you to own a bathroom scale if all it is going to do is cause you to worry.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:20 PM on August 9, 2009

Just a thought; can you count how many overweight people you saw yesterday? Probably not; generally speaking, the people we pay the most attention to is ourselves. There are people who walk the world worrying that a hair is out of place, or their clothes are ill-fitting, or their weight is heavy, and in some cases they may be right -- but even if they are, almost nobody you meet is going to notice (much less care) unless they're interested in you as a person (and so likely to be forgiving) or looking for something to ridicule you over (in which case it doesn't matter what your flaws are, as even if you had none they'd just make something up.)
posted by davejay at 5:23 PM on August 9, 2009

this makes me feel better when I start to panic about weight.

(there's something similar that got posted awhile back --- same basic idea, of a big chart of self-portraits organized by height / dress size)

you're beautiful, and self-perception is totally relative.
posted by puckish at 5:38 PM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

This stuff is so hard and for many of us it keeps coming up throughout life although for me its gotten better over time. THe main things that have helped me are making friends with people of all sizes who like their bodies, and reading about how we got these crazy beauty standards we have now (books like Fat! So? and Never Too Thin).

There are some good "love your body" and/or "Love yourself" type books and websites out there. Offhand I can think of Real Gorgeous, The Body Project, Hello Cruel World and the website Scarlet Teen.

Good luck with all this. I hope you'll be gentle with yourself and trust that with time things will improve.
posted by serazin at 5:39 PM on August 9, 2009

Compound eye said: At the same time make sure you are physically looking after yourself, not with the intention of loosing x pounds, or conforming to some ideal of humanWestern beauty, but just to make you body feel good. If you can approach exercise and eating healthy food as something that will just make you feel good and happy - not as fatty punishment - you will probably find that it can be really enjoyable.

The self doubt you're feeling is just female
anxiety from heavily socializing, arbitrary Western celebrity standards brought about by mass media that is primarily leveraged against females, it's very human ingrained from almost everything you see on a normal daily basis.

Fixed. There are certainly cultures out there were body image of this nature is either not important or OPPOSITE to what the "advanced" Western cultures demand (i.e. if you're slim by our standards, you're unhealthy and absolutely unfit to wed by their standards).

Weight and health have their correlations, but it's best to worry about health than weight. Blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and whatnot--it's quite possible to be entirely healthy even if a bit "plump."

Your situation, of course, is more in-line with a phobia because it's irrational (since you're nowhere near "overweight" even by the roughly objective medical scale). Since this is an internal conflict, there must be good books (perhaps autobiographical) that deal with body image and eating disorders, but I'm unfamiliar with that area. Perhaps a support group might help as well.
posted by Ky at 5:47 PM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

there's something similar that got posted awhile back --- same basic idea, of a big chart of self-portraits organized by height / dress size (puckish)

You may be talking about's photographic height/weight chart. Here are the photos of the people at your height and weight.

Hmm... they don't have anyone at my height and weight. Camera time!
posted by ocherdraco at 5:54 PM on August 9, 2009

5'4" and 112 pounds is not fat.

Eat healthy; stick to a maximum of, say, 1700 net calories per day if you want to keep your weight stable (3500 calories is a pound of fat). Tack on 100 calories to that for every 100 calories you expend exercising. I cut my calories down enough to lose a pound a week and have lost, and kept off, 30 pounds this way. Supplement that with exercise and you're gonna be a healthy person.

Find another mental health professional to talk to. Aside from the advice I just gave you about diet, you're going to want to talk to one of them. The best advice I can give is to browse through some of the threads on here that address body image issues and to evaluate your own self-confidence - why do you dislike your body? Is it a symptom of underlying issues, or is it simply a problem with your body?

Try looking at yourself starkers in the mirror.
posted by kldickson at 6:12 PM on August 9, 2009

One of the things that I think is really important is experiencing your body from the inside, rather than the outside. Think about the things you do in your body--showering, eating, walking/running, sleeping, whatever other things you personally do--and while you do them, be conscious of the sensations that your body feels when you do those things. Maybe when you shower, change the temperature of the water to feel the different sensations on your skin, or when you're going to sleep, think about what it feels like to pull the covers in really close or to lie with just a sheet on top of you, things like that. Getting into the habit of being mindful about what you feel in your body can really help you transform the perspective from which you see it; it shifts your focus from looking at yourself from the 'other' perspective (thinking about your outside, what it looks like, what other people are thinking about you) to the 'you' perspective (what you are experiencing actually being in your body). This is also a useful tool during eating: monitor your hunger all during the time you eat, and use a 0-10 scale for your actual level of hunger. Continually check in with your body about the point at which you feel satiated or satisfied, and stop when you get there, so that you don't eat past the point of satiety or let yourself starve because you're thinking so much about what your body looks like.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:06 PM on August 9, 2009

Try going to the gym to try and get fit - but not to lose weight. If you do some strength training, various parts of you will get more shapely. You may well not lose weight, or you may even put some on, because you will be gaining muscle mass, which weighs more than the fat which you may lose some of. But you should start to be healthier, to feel healthier, and to feel better about how you look.

You will have something to DO with your slightly obsessive body thoughts, without turning yourself into a yoyo dieter; and you can investigate the right way to eat while doing regular strength training, and instead of thinking "this dinner is making me fat", you can think "this dinner contains plenty of protein, hurrah!". You have ways to measure your progress that don't involve scales.

Being female, you won't end up looking like a weightlifter (unless you take steroids) but you may well end up more confident and happier with the various parts of you that you now think are a bit wibbly wobbly.
posted by emilyw at 11:59 PM on August 9, 2009

Seconding the book recommendation of Real Gorgeous - it helped me get through a time when I was very hard on myself.
posted by harriet vane at 6:05 AM on August 10, 2009

I agree with previous recommendations to get active, with a caveat: depending on your mindset, you might find individual activity (e.g. running) more fruitful than collective or even quasi-collective activity (e.g. dance classes, or weight training in a gym surrounded by other people), at least at first.

I say this as someone who was very active and healthy as a teen, but surrounded by OMGSKINNY dancers and therefore traumatized and totally not on good terms with my strong, healthy teenaged body. Going to a gym to do weight training would totally not have been the solution for me, because I would have spent the entire time seeing super fit people and feeling more like crap about myself.

Fast forward a decade or so, and I had let myself slide and needed to get back to being healthy and active again. This time, it was running that allowed me to be alone with myself and realize that my body is so much more strong and capable and beautiful than I ever gave it credit for being, and OMG-I'm-so-sorry-I-ever-compared-you-to-all-those-skinny-dancer-girls-you-beautiful-powerful-creature-you. [NOT DANCER-IST]

Once I had that breakthrough, I was finally able to participate in group fitness activities (yoga class, for example) without that little Judgey McJudgerson voice in my head that would have previously been going "what the hell kind of downward dog is THAT, FATASS?" on repeat. It's a really awesome kind of quiet, once that dude shuts up.

And oh by the way, once you're leading this kind of groovy active life, you tend to look at food as fuel rather than a guilt trip, and want to give your awesome, powerful body the best fuel you can, because why would you put crappy fuel in your Aston Martin, which is so obviously what you are?

That breakthrough understanding with your body is really the ultimate goal -- it sounds like a Nike ad cliche but until you've experienced it, you don't understand how radically it alters your mindset. Sure, you'll still have the occasional "fat day," and you won't love every part of your body all the time, but that lingering sense of self-loathing is gone, and replaced with a new sense of love and respect for the beautiful, powerful body you inhabit.

Good luck. You can totally do this.
posted by somanyamys at 8:11 AM on August 10, 2009

Actually, I kind of wonder what sorts of health deficits some of those uber-skinny girls might have. Some of them may be perfectly healthy and have strong muscles and shit, but some may be anorexic or some may have crappy muscles or some may be CONSUMED FROM THE INSIDE BY ZALGO LOLOLOLOL. I don't know what's happening to them.
posted by kldickson at 9:05 AM on August 10, 2009

As for the gym: you can always ask for a guided tour of a gym before you worry about giving them any money. I'm sure some gyms are full of scary buff toned looking skinny people, but the one I've been going to is mainly used by normal looking people, mostly overweight, and some significantly overweight. It's not intimidating - if anything it's the opposite. (I've got two inches and two stones on you, and I'm fitter and thinner than at least half of their visitors). Sometimes there are people there who just go and walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes; why they don't do this outside and save money I don't know!
posted by emilyw at 9:29 AM on August 10, 2009

You know, I've been lucky to be physically active and pretty well proportioned most of my life, but still had nagging doubts about my body shape. However, after years of party campouts in the woods where lots of naked people would go swimming the morning after staying up all night, I got over it. I realized that women actually have it easy*: all these girls of all different shapes, sizes and ages pretty much looked great swimming and playing in the river. (Yeah, I know this is MetaFilter so ew naked ravers and hippies. But really, when everyone else is all about getting in the river because it is 90 degrees in the shade or getting in the hotspring because it is 20 degrees at dawn you get over that kind of thing.) So yeah, I don't own a scale and I don't count calories, I just make and effort to eat non-junk and walk or ride my bike. Once I realized that the female body looks good in just about any size when you're happy and healthy I could put all that behind me. Now I just worry about the crappy skin I've inherited. ;)

*Really, it is much harder for men to look great completely naked, I'm sorry to say. This too, was a revelation, but not something too many men I know seem to obsess about.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:38 AM on August 10, 2009

Do you like buying magazines like Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, or Vogue? If you do, stop immediately. I don't care how much they like to suggest sympathy with women and their body image. Their covers betray their motives all too clearly.

They are as bad for your self-image as smoking is for your lungs.

If you don't waste your money in this fashion, please disregard.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:50 PM on August 10, 2009

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