Stop call­ing me fat!

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Dear Thelma -

I AM a 15 year old girl. My weight prob­lem is mak­ing me de­pressed. I feel very self-con­scious and in­se­cure ev­ery time I go out of my house.

I was ac­tu­ally very thin un­til the age of 10. Then in 2012, I started putting on weight. But I was still not that fat. My mum told me to con­trol my food in­take.

By the end of 2015, I grew fat­ter and fat­ter. My mum told me to go on a diet but I did not heed her ad­vice.

Last Novem­ber, I started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing things I had never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore. My self-es­teem and self-con­fi­dence were badly af­fected. I felt re­ally shy to talk to new peo­ple in my school be­cause I was afraid they would not like me due to my size.

My friends started to call me fat. They were just teas­ing me but I am very sen­si­tive about my weight.

I have tried di­et­ing but I gave up af­ter some time.

This year, I have been cry­ing al­most ev­ery night be­cause I think no­body would ever love me. I of­ten won­der what it was like to be thin like my friends in school.

I have al­ways wanted to be an ath­lete or cheer­leader, but I backed off be­cause of my weight is­sues. I feel very shy about don­ning sports­wear dur­ing phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion be­cause I look fat in those clothes.

I con­fided in a good friend and she gave me ad­vice on how to lose weight. But I could not fol­low her ad­vice.

My mum and rel­a­tives al­ways call me fat. My mum some­times em­bar­rasses me in front of her friends and cousins. I am so hurt by her ac­tions.

Then in March, I de­cided to stick to a strict diet. I did not eat rice for a month. But soon I could not take it any­more and I started con­sum­ing a lit­tle rice. I do not know whether I have lost any weight but I have tried my best.

I feel so de­mo­ti­vated. When­ever I am out with friends, I wear clothes that do not make me look fat. Still, my friends call me fat.

Thoughts of run­ning away from home or self-harm have crossed my mind many times. It’s just that I want to stay strong for some peo­ple in my life.

I’m not say­ing that my fam­ily and friends are cruel. I just wish they could un­der­stand how I feel.

Bro­ken In­side

Ado­les­cence is a very try­ing pe­riod. The body is chang­ing in so many ways. There are phys­i­cal and emo­tional changes. It is not called grow­ing pains for noth­ing.

It is com­mon to find, like you have, that prac­ti­cally overnight there are bod­ily changes dur­ing ado­les­cence. This is par­tic­u­larly the case for weight changes. With the changes brought on by pu­berty, there are also changes in the body’s me­tab­o­lism rate, and ge­netic fac­tors.

It is im­por­tant for you to re­alise that this is not your fault. Putting on weight is not a sign of weak­ness. Nei­ther is it a sign that you are not as good as ev­ery­one else. Yes, it is hard when you look around and all you see are thin or slim bod­ies. The me­dia is also full of such im­ages. Shop­ping is hard be­cause most stores carry clothes for smaller sizes.

How­ever, there is change. There is now some­thing called the body pos­i­tive move­ment. It is a move­ment that ques­tions stan­dards of beauty whereby be­ing thin is as­sumed to be the only form of beauty. Also, it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that be­ing thin does not mean be­ing fit or healthy. It is bet­ter to be the lat­ter, than to just be thin.

With the sit­u­a­tion you have de­scribed, there are many things you can do. It would be good if you could con­sult a doc­tor to make sure that all the sys­tems in your body are work­ing well.

There are many hor­monal con­di­tions that can lead to sud­den weight gain. There may also be gy­nae­co­log­i­cal rea­sons which you should rule out. A gen­eral physi­cian may be able to or­der the nec­es­sary blood tests to check for hor­mone lev­els.

The doc­tor can also re­fer you for more tests if nec­es­sary.

While it is un­der­stand­able that you do not want to wear sports clothes as it draws at­ten­tion to your body, it is still nec­es­sary to get mov­ing if you want to lose weight.

Ex­er­cise is the best way to lose weight. That, and a healthy diet. If you think about it, this comes down to sim­ple math­e­mat­ics. In or­der to lose weight, you must burn off the calo­ries that you con­sume. A seden­tary life­style is one of the big­gest rea­sons for the obe­sity epi­demic now fac­ing the world’s pop­u­la­tion.

You do not have to join a fancy gym to ex­er­cise. A sim­ple mod­er­ate-paced ac­tiv­ity that raises your heart rate is suf­fi­cient. A brisk walk in the neigh­bour­hood is a good way to start. Tak­ing the stairs in­stead of the lift is an­other way you can fit ex­er­cise into your rou­tine.

If you want a more guided way of ex­er­cis­ing, you can do an on­line search for per­sonal train­ers. There are per­sonal train­ers who will work with you at your pace, and with ac­tiv­i­ties that you are com­fort­able with. They will guide you along and teach you skills that you can use to main­tain a healthy weight, and be fit.

When it comes to di­et­ing, the nat­u­ral thing many peo­ple do is cut out cer­tain food groups. This is what you did. By cut­ting out rice, you were try­ing to elim­i­nate car­bo­hy­drates from your diet. This is some­thing that is ill-ad­vised. Cut­ting out food does not help. You end up with crav­ings and eat more of other things to com­pen­sate.

Be­sides, your body needs these food groups – car­bo­hy­drates, pro­teins and fats – in or­der for it to func­tion prop­erly. Car­bo­hy­drates are needed for the body’s en­ergy source. When you cut out en­tire food groups, you are ac­tu­ally de­priv­ing your body of the fuel it needs to sus­body tain it­self. The then goes

into what is called star­va­tion mode whereby it con­serves en­ergy and this makes it dif­fi­cult to lose weight.

As Asians, it is very hard to do away with rice. It is a sta­ple diet in this part of the world. In­stead of cut­ting out rice, eat it in mod­er­a­tion.

As a mat­ter of fact, there are some types of rice which are rec­om­mended for peo­ple who want to watch their car­bo­hy­drate and su­gar in­take. One ex­am­ple is brown rice. You may take some time to get used to the taste but sub­sti­tut­ing this for white rice can have pos­i­tive re­sults when it comes to los­ing weight.

Many peo­ple have their own ad­vice on how to man­age weight. If you were un­able to fol­low your friend’s ad­vice, it is be­cause it was not suited for you. It does not mean that you are lazy or not dis­ci­plined. When you find a weight man­age­ment method that suits you, you will stick to it.

Do not com­pare your­self with oth­ers. Our bod­ies are all very dif­fer­ent. There is no one ideal body type or shape. Love your­self and your body. Ap­pre­ci­ate your curves. You do not have to be shy about it. Nei­ther do you have to be ashamed.

Be­ing thin is not go­ing to make you happy. Nei­ther is it go­ing to give you good marks at school, or a good job. What is more im­por­tant is be­ing con­fi­dent. The more you lament about your weight, the less con­fi­dent you will be.

Look around you. Sure, there are many thin models and the like. But there are also those who are not thin and who are still very suc­cess­ful and beau­ti­ful. Adele the singer, is one ex­am­ple. Oprah Win­frey has had a very long and public bat­tle with her weight. Look at her – she is one of the most pow­er­ful women in me­dia and she owns her own tele­vi­sion em­pire.

We get but one body. We have lit­tle choice re­gard­ing how it should look, or what shape it should be. So we may as well make the best of it. You do not have to be thin to be beau­ti­ful. You are lovely and beau­ti­ful as you are. You are a per­son who has her own per­son­al­ity and ob­vi­ously peo­ple like you. You have many friends to at­test to that.

The next time some­one calls you fat, em­brace it. So what? When you take the sting out of a harsh word that some­one uses on you, they won’t do it any­more. The more they see you are hurt by it, the more likely they will do it again.

Peo­ple need to learn to be sen­si­tive about these mat­ters. Adults have to change their at­ti­tude to­wards weight. Call­ing chil­dren fat, em­bar­rass­ing and hu­mil­i­at­ing them, cause hurt. It is things like this that can cause teenagers to en­gage in self-harm­ing be­hav­iour and de­velop eat­ing dis­or­ders. Par­ents should ac­cept chil­dren as they are, ir­re­spec­tive of their weight and size.

It is im­por­tant to be healthy. But healthy can be a lot of things. Forc­ing some­one – hu­mil­i­at­ing them and mak­ing fun of them – to lose weight does not help. It only makes mat­ters worse. If you want to help, it is bet­ter to ex­pend your re­sources and en­ergy on some­thing that ac­tu­ally works and is ben­e­fi­cial.

Teenagers are very vul­ner­a­ble be­cause of the dif­fi­cult changes and emo­tions that they are go­ing through. What they need is sup­port and guid­ance. They need as­sur­ance and love. They need ac­cep­tance, es­pe­cially from their par­ents.

It is im­por­tant that they know they are amaz­ing peo­ple, rather than feel ter­ri­ble for not be­ing the peo­ple their par­ents think they should be.

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