After reading this article by Carly on her blog about “3 Secrets to Eat Anything You Want,” I was inspired to write this to not only my teenage self, but to all the other women (and men) who have lied to themselves about how to be healthy.
During my teenage years, I completely abused my body in an effort to look a certain way. I thought I was alone in this, but the sad thing is that it seems almost every teenage girl has had this disordered view of their body and a seriously disturbed relationship with food. Some lucky ones float by unscathed by the media and societal standards, but that is not the norm. And that’s incredibly sad.
We’re taught from a young age to recognize whether we are pretty or ugly, fat or skinny. Throughout our lives this is reinforced so that we begin to see these adjectives as who we are as a whole.
“I’m the fat girl with a pretty face.”
“I’m the skinny tall girl with no curves.”
You see, it goes both ways. We’re taught that no matter what you are, it’s wrong. It’s not ‘perfect’ (and the definition of perfect changes depending who you talk to), and therefore, we’re not worthy of love or respect.
When this translates into our relationship with food and our bodies, that’s when we get into trouble. Here are some of the things I wish I would have known as a teenager, and that these ‘healthy’ behaviors were actually anything but.
1. Severe Restriction
I don’t know where this magical 1,200 – 1,500 calorie garbage came from, but for teenage girls you need WAY more than that. In fact, it’s recommended that a healthy caloric intake is between 1,800-2,400 calories for teenage girls aged 13-18. This fluctuates even more when you add in extracurricular sports and working out.
Your body on 1,200 calories is tired, depressed, and sick. You’ll probably think about food and begin to obsess about it. If your 1,200 calories are comprised mostly of packaged meals and junk food but still fit within your allotment of calories, you’re going to feel even worse. A calorie is not a calorie is not a calorie. Repeat that.
I know I thought calories from Oreos were the same as calories from fruit, but that’s completely untrue. I was eating a majority of unhealthy foods because, hey, why not? If it fit my calories for the day, it was fair game.
I ended up being so obsessed with food, calories, and losing weight that I forgot what it felt like to have energy or to think about anything else.
I wish teenage girls were taught that you need way more calories than you think, and that the type of food you are consuming is so much more important than the calories within those foods.
How you feel and how you look will be completely different on 2,000 calories worth of junk food or whole foods.
2. Fat-Free, Sugar-Free, and “Diet” Does Not Mean Healthy!
This is a mistake not only teenagers trying to lose weight make, but also well-informed adults make.
If you’re eating a box of Wheat Thins or Cheez-It’s for example, don’t buy the fat-free! Fat is what makes you feel full, and that’s what gives it flavor. When you buy fat-free anything, you are immediately getting a heavier dose of sugar which is the actual health-killer. Sugar is added to fat-free products to make it taste semi-okay. Do yourself a favor and get the normal version.
Fat does not make you fat. You NEED fat to function, and your brain thrives off of it.
Sugar-free and ‘diet’ anything is another word for “chemical shitstorm”. Seriously, just don’t. If you need convincing, educate yourself on why fake sweeteners are so bad. They trick your brain into thinking you’re receiving calories, and when you don’t, your body adapts. This means the next time you eat something with actual sugar in it, your body doesn’t know how to react and can’t handle the sugar properly. This is what leads to weight gain.
Not to mention the terrifying ways that it messes with your brain, but i’ll leave that up to you to read about…
All of these fake foods train your body to crave the ‘real deal’ because you’re tricking it with artificial versions of the real thing. Ever notice you crave sweets after you have a Diet Coke? Yeah, that’s not by chance. There’s real biology behind it.
3. Exercise is good, to an extent.
I still know many people in college who have an unhealthy relationship with exercise and working out. To most people, it’s just a way to manipulate their body into looking a certain way or burning a particular amount of calories.
The problem with this is that it’s another disordered way of altering your relationship with food and your body.
Guess what!? Some people aren’t meant to have 6 packs (a large majority of women, for example). The little ‘pouch’ most girls have is normal, and probably will never go away, because it is evolutionarily beneficial.
Exercising to feel good, have more energy, gain confidence, and increase your brain’s ability to concentrate are all awesome reasons to work out. They will fulfill you, sustain your passion, and make you more enticed to work out.
I see too many people treat exercise like punishment. If you’re working out to punish yourself for having an extra brownie, working out for 3 hours because you missed yesterday’s workout, or any reason other than to benefit your wellbeing, you need to check your attitude towards your bod-pod.
4. Know Your Body Type.
You may not be happy about it, but you’re born with a certain body type. This is not to say that one is better than another, or you can’t change the way you look to an extent. However, if you’re 5’2″ and have a medium build (you can often see by the size of your wrist, and other silly measures like that) you will not look like a Victoria’s Secret model no matter how much you work out. Your torso will never be that long, your curves never in the same places as theirs.
Although this is probably the hardest thing to do, you’ve got to accept your body type. You can look your PERSONAL best, but you will never look just like someone else who has a completely different build than yours.
5. Change Your Self-Talk
This one affects everyone out there, not just teens, not just girls, but pretty much everyone you meet. We all go around being bullies to ourselves all day long. I don’t think most of us even realize it.
There was an exercise I learned somewhere along my yoga-spirituality journey that said to write down all the mean things you say to yourself in a day. At the end, read it over. How would you react if someone said this about your friend or family? You would be pissed!
Be nicer to yourself. Learn to be your best friend.
This step is a lifelong journey, but had I even been aware of it as a teenager, I could have learned to work on it.
There’s a million more things I wish I had known about eating, working out, and having a healthy attitude, but these are the top five things that stick out to me. What are some things you wish you had learned earlier? How has your view on health changed as you got older?
Lots of love,