Something funny is going on. More girls are on diets and more girls are overweight than ever before. Let’s face it, many of us have a tortured relationship with food.
But not liking your body — and not being able to enjoy food without guilt — takes the fun out of life. You can wind up feeling bad most of the time, and your friends probably do too. Here are six ways to feel good about yourself and your food.
1. Eat Only When You’re Hungry — Yeah, Right
Everyday you’re faced with temptation. Food is a big part of birthdays, holidays, and just hanging out with friends. You go on a diet, and that just makes things worse. You deprive yourself, and ignore your body when it says it’s hungry. But let your guard down for one second and suddenly there’s no saying no to that super-size sundae.
2. Stay Away From Yo-yo Dieting
Sure, the miracle diet of the week can melt away pounds. But within a few months, your weight is right back to where it started, and often goes up from there. “Yo-yo dieting is much worse than carrying a few extra pounds,” says Nanci Ginty Butler, LICSW, MSW, who works with girls at Riverside Community Care. You gain more weight over time and also gain more fat.
3. Realize You Are More than Your Looks
“Girls get the message that what they look like is more important than what they can do,” says Catherine Steiner-Adair Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD, who studies eating disorders at Harvard Medical School. Girls of all sizes tell her they’re not beautiful enough or thin enough to pursue their goals, like being a doctor or a vet.
4. Know the Truth About Eating Disorders
An obsession with food, or not eating food, is bad for you, plain and simple. But below the surface, it’s not about food at all. It’s about how you feel about yourself. If you don’t like how you look, or who you are, losing weight is not going to fix that.
Pay attention to how much time and energy you spend worrying about your size. If food or feeling bad about your body is all you can think about, talk to someone you trust, like your doctor, school counselor, or mother. If you don’t want to talk to someone you know, the National Eating Disorders Association web site has a lot of information and people trained to help.
5. Go on a Media Diet
It’s hard to look at a bunch of gorgeous models and not feel bad about what you see in the mirror. The truth is, most models don’t look like models either. Computer airbrushing enhances photos so models look taller, thinner, and more glamorous. Try taking a break from any media that makes a mess of your body image.
6. Go Back to Basics: Eat When You’re Hungry
We said it before, it’s not easy, but eating when you’re hungry is possible. Look at the reasons you eat. Butler has girls keep a journal of what they eat, why they eat, and how they feel afterward. “Figuring out why you eat is an important part of healthy eating,” she says. Connecting the dots between eating and hunger is step one in getting real with your body.