[RUBY CLASSICS: This Ask Ruby was originally posted on July 21, 2016]
Dear Ruby, I am very self conscious about my weight and how I look. I am constantly comparing myself to others and its starting to have a very negative effect on me. Please Help!
Dear Ruby, What do I do when I feel like I’m a bigger girl and don’t feel good about myself?
Dear Ruby, I’ve never really worried about my weight before, but now it’s going up a bit. GULP! Many of my friends have asked me for advice when it comes to body image, and I can tell you, it’s a lot easier to preach than practice! How can I find a good exercise program and also feel like a beloved daughter of God, extra pounds or not?
Dear Weighty Minded,
OK, I just can’t call you Weighty Minded. Let’s change your name to Darling Girl. Because I just know you’re a darling girl and even though I haven’t met you, I’m sure we could find 37 people who agree with me.
First, please know you’re not alone. I’ve had so many questions on the same topic (you can see just a few samples above) and pretty much every person (boys too!) on the planet struggles with weight at some point. And it really stinks. I’m sorry. I also completely understand the comparing issue. It’s hard not to compare yourself to your friends who eat everything they like and never break a sweat. It’s completely not fair. And it’s never going to be fair, so we’re just going to have to deal with it. It’s also not fair that I’m so smart and you’re naturally musical/kind/funny. You get the idea.
But! I’m not trying to tell you to just buck up and have a better attitude. This is hard stuff. If it wasn’t hard you wouldn’t hear about eating disorders and drug abuse and my 75 year old visiting teacher wouldn’t STILL be fretting over the way her pants fit.
And I just want to say I’m sorry are struggling with this. It stinks and it’s unfair. But keep in mind, the vast majority of teenage girls will have times when her body wants to gain and other times when it wants to lose weight. Try not to take it personally! It’s biology! If you don’t panic, I promise you’ll be OK.
Please, please DON’T let worry about your weight and your body steal your happiness. You have so much to look forward to, so many people to meet, skills to learn, amazing adventures to follow…And if I can’t convince you, just Google “stress and weight gain” and you’ll find that worrying about gaining weight will actually make you gain weight. Sorry. I hope that fact doesn’t stress you out.
But let’s move on to solutions! I only gave you one DON’T–now I want to give you a list of DOs.
- DO recognize your own beauty and talents. Make a list of everything great about you and add to it often. These can be physical assets like a great smile, or talents, like my amazing talent to pick the perfect watermelon every time.
- DO get out and move! I always think of the three mile rule for basic fitness– I think we all owe it to ourselves to walk or hike for three miles comfortably. I don’t care what it takes to get there. You can do CrossFit, walk, ride a bike, go to zumba, join a climbing gym, dance in your kitchen, play Pokemon Go! (love that game) whatever. Just be active enough that a three mile walk or hike seems like nothing.
- DO try new things! And have faith in yourself to try really hard things. My friend just finished a half-marathon (she used it to help her get over a romantic break-up) and she was amazed to see what she could do. NOTE: running two to three miles is kind of just painful, once you start running 4-6 miles will give you that happy “runner’s high” everyone talks about. So don’t give up when those 2-3 mile runs feel miserable. Keep pushing. Keep going. You’ll get there.
- DO eat lots of fruits and vegetables. There are SO MANY diet ideas out there. So many different opinions on what makes the human body run well. But I think we can all agree fruits and vegetables are the bomb. Make sure every meal includes at least two F&V and eat them for snacks too. Right now, I’m consuming a red pepper. So yummy.
- DO feed yourself. You’re going to be tempted to try some of the wild and crazy diets out there. Please be careful. Please, oh please. You’re young, and just living an active life and eating fresh food will keep you healthy for years to come. You don’t want to be one of those women who starves themself for so many years that their body learns to live on 800 calories a day. So EAT. I’d be seriously suspicious of any eating plan that restricts carrots and bananas (food clearly created by God for human consumption).
- DO eat chocolate chip cookies. Or whatever you love. Just eat them in moderation. Telling yourself you can never eat a chocolate chip cookie again will inevitably make you a. feel bad for yourself and b. dream about chocolate chip cookies. Want to know something funny? I went and bought all kinds of ice cream bars at the beginning of the summer– creamies, drumstick, creamsicles, popsicles, fat boys, etc. and gave myself permission to eat them anytime. And guess what? I’ve scarcely eaten any–one, maybe two. Why? Because I’ve taken away the scarcity mentality. I know I can eat ice cream any time so it’s no big deal. And be sure to eat real treats. Avoid artificial sweeteners like poison (Google “artificial sweeteners safety”). If you’re going to eat a treat, eat something really good and enjoy it!
- DO your best and forget about it. I’m taking this from advice given to sister missionaries at the MTC. They are told to “get ready in the morning and then forget yourself for the rest of the day.” You can see how this applies to your weight. Do your best– make good food choices, be active and then forget about it. You are so much more than the way your jeans fit or the number on the scale. Another twist on this that came from my own mother, “If you stopped worrying about how you look and spent that time being kind to other people, you’d be the happiest girl in the world.” I know that’s true.
- DO step away from media. OK, I know this is more of a don’t, but it’s a good one. First, take 24-48 hours without checking social media, flipping through magazines, watching a movie or TV. See how you feel. I’m guessing the temptation to compare yourself will decrease. After your media fast, just take note of how you feel– mostly likely you won’t be comparing yourself as much. If/When you get back on social media, feel free to unfollow friends who constantly post swimsuit shots or anything else that makes you feel badly about yourself. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your friends, you just don’t need to know so much about them.
So, Darling Girl, I’ve rambled on a lot here. I know you have so much to offer the world– there are jokes only you can tell, birthday parties only you can plan, children and old people who need your smile. You can do all those things no matter what skirt size you wear. Don’t shrink back, don’t hide. Not only are you a daughter of God, you’re also a representative of Christ and He needs you to share your light. Take time to be kind and you’ll always be beautiful.