Your Questions About Body Image, Answered

1. My friends are always calling themselves fat even though they’re not. I weigh more than they do and it sucks that they’re always calling themselves fat. They make me feel like a whale. Should I tell them something? I’m worried that they’ll make fun of me. 

Yes, tell them something! Friends should always be able to talk and be honest with one another. What’s more, I think you’ll probably be surprised by what this conversation brings to light. Notice that you don’t think they’re fat, even though they call themselves fat. Could it be that the way they’re looking at their own bodies is way too critical? And if that’s the case, isn’t it also possible that you’re being way too critical of your own body when you say you feel like a whale?

Talk to each other. Listen. Use this opportunity to help bring each other up, rather than putting each other down. We’re always hardest on ourselves, and what are friends for if not to help us see the good in each other?

2. My mom calls me “gordita” and makes comments that my clothes are feeling tight. It bothers me, but every time I bring it up she tells me I’m being dramatic.

First of all, know that you’re not being dramatic—words are powerful and for some reason in our culture, words like “gordita” and “flaca” are considered terms of affection, even though I’ve never met anyone who actually enjoys being called either. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our loved ones called us by nicknames that are a reflection of who we are rather than how we look?

In fact, next time your mom calls you “gordita,” ask her to think of a new nickname for you—one based off her favorite quality about you. Make it something you both can do together: ask her to pick a few names, tell her which ones you like and which ones you don’t, and why.

If she continues to comment about your clothes or say that you’re being dramatic, don’t let that stop you from speaking up. Tell her, “You may think I’m being dramatic, but it’s only because this is a big deal to me. Can we please talk about it?”

3. I started to lie about what I eat to lose weight. My friends are telling me it’s not healthy, but I’d rather be skinny than be fat. How do I make them realize it’s what I want?  

Let’s start with the issue of lying. Ever notice that we only lie when we know something we’re doing isn’t right? You should never have to lie about your eating habits, so why do you feel you have to? Could it be because you think your friends might be right? It sounds to me like they’re concerned about your health, and are worried that you aren’t eating enough in an effort to lose weight. If this is the case, they’re right. There are healthy and effective ways to lose weight, but lying about what you eat and starving isn’t one of them.

It’s time to be very honest with yourself and those who care about you. Are you trying to be “skinny” because it’s something you really want, or are you hoping to look like the supposedly perfect models we see in magazines or in the movies? The problem with having “skinny” be a personal goal is that we end up pursuing an idea of perfection that doesn’t exist. Skinny models and actresses in magazines are Photoshopped to look pounds and pounds lighter than they are in real life. This means that girls who end up pursuing this idea of skinny can never reach that goal, because that goal is a lie.

But, you know what’s a great goal to have? To be healthy and strong. If you want to feel good about your body, start by treating it right—no negative thoughts like calling yourself fat allowed. Make sure that your body is getting the foods and nutrients it needs, and find fun ways to exercise like playing sports, dancing, or whatever other fun activities you enjoy. Ask your parents to help you pack meals that are healthier for you.

You’ll find that eating better and getting exercise creates some positive changes in your body, like giving you more energy and helping you get stronger so you can do more of the things you love. Take care of your body and it’ll take care of you. Honestly.

4. Every time I go to a family member’s house they serve me soooo much food! I try to be nice and say I don’t want that much, but they get offended. I don’t want to be fat like them, what do I do? 

First, thank them for the food. Oftentimes food is how family members express their love and affection, so it might be hard for Abuela or Tia to not take it personally when you turn down their homemade meal. Keep this in mind as you tell them how much you want—it’s not that you don’t appreciate them cooking for you, and it’s not that you don’t like the food, it’s just that you want to enjoy it without feeling super full afterwards. Try to make this clear to them, and well, if they still serve you too much, listen to your body and stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, not when you’re feeling stuffed. Offer to put away your dish and thank them again for the meal. Keep this up and they’ll get the message eventually—no one likes to see food go to waste!

Most importantly, treat each other with respect and kindness. Nobody likes being called fat, and if you judge your own family by their looks and weight, you’re bound to judge yourself by the same measures. We are all so much more than that.

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