Are You Overweight?
By Abigail Natenshon, MA, LCSW, GCFP
As appeared in Eating Disorder Sourcebook: Health Reference Series 2011
Are you overweight?
This is a tough question. Sometimes people believe that if they do not look
as thin as Heather Locklear or Kate Moss they must be overweight. This is
certainly not the case; only a very small percentage of people are born with
an ectomorph body type that would allow them to look this thin and still be
healthy. Misconceptions about being overweight abound; people assume that
overweight people do not care about their appearance, that they are lazy,
undisciplined and irresponsible about themselves and their appearance. Some
believe that if they do weigh more than they should or they want to, then
that makes them physically unfit, unattractive, and unacceptable to their
peers. Few people understand that obesity is a factor that is largely
determined by natural factors such as genetics, and the maternal environment
provided the fetus while in utero. Nor are various forms of weight
measurements such as Body Mass Index (BMI) accurate indicators of overweight
in children and teens because healthy weight
ranges change with each month of age for each sex, and because healthy
weight ranges change as height increases.
Clearly, the most destructive of all misconceptions about being overweight
is that dieting is the best, and only way to lose weight.
In fact, the opposite is true.
In fact, studies show that
Dieting is the worst way to lose weight.
Young people who restrict food or diet early in life have a much greater
chance of becoming obese adults.
95% of dieters gain
back all of their weight, and more, within five years.
Dieters lose weight
in muscle tissue and gain it back in fat.
Here are some facts that you need to
Certain people who
are large in size or who might appear to be overweight are not
unhealthy. Some people are born with naturally larger bones and an
endomorph body type, which is rounder and softer and gains weight more
Size and shape
acceptance becomes critical in such instances.
Aside from genetic
factors, people may become the size and shape they are because of the
nature and quality of their eating and exercise lifestyle. People who
eat well and exercise regularly have the capacity to remain physically
fit, strong and healthy, despite their genetically determined body type
It is only when a
person is overweight as a result of eating too much of the wrong kinds
of foods in erratic eating patterns, and/or from a lack of exercise,
that overweight can become a health hazard.
Be aware that when mesomorph body types become overweight, they may look
like endomorph body types.
Do you have a healthy
relationship with food?
The important question to ask yourself is not whether you are too fat.
It is whether or not you have a
healthy “relationship” with food.
Do you envision food as fuel and as nourishment, as tasting good and being an enjoyable and regular part of your life?
Do you see food as a life-giving substance that allows your brain to
function optimally, and your muscles and bones to grow healthfully?
Do you see eating as pleasurable and satisfying and at the center of
sociability with family and friends?
Hopefully, you were able these questions affirmatively. If not, why not?
Does food and eating frighten and worry you? Are you preoccupied with
counting calories and feeling concerned that every bite you put in your
mouth will appear on your body, that food is fattening, and in some ways,
feels to you like an enemy? If so, you may be experiencing the early signs
of a clinical eating disorder or at the very least, disordered eating and
you may want to seek some help.
If you believe that you are overweight and are aware that you do not eat
regular, healthy meals; if
instead of eating nutritious foods to sustain your growing body, you turn to
easily accessible “junk” foods;(foods without nutritional value) and if you
would like to lose weight in order to become more physically fit and to look
better, it is important for you to begin thinking about
eating differently, not less.
Does this come as a surprise to you?
What does it mean to
become a healthy eater?
Healthy eating is the ability to eat regularly, freely and pleasurably
without fear of becoming overweight. Did you know that when you eat regular
meals, you enhance the functioning of your body’s metabolism and insure that
once your body reaches its set point weight, it’s “happy weight,” or the
weight it needs and wants to be in order to function at its best, you will
stop gaining weight naturally, without trying? Did you know that healthy
eating in the form of nutritious, balanced and varied meals also offers the
best way to lose weight in a healthy way, and for the long term, should that
ever become a necessity.
How should you eat to allow your body to reach its set point weight?
Always eat three
square meals a day. If you skip meals, you will damage the function of
your metabolism and will no longer be able to burn fat effectively.
Never substitute a
protein bar for a meal.
Be sure to eat
protein, carbohydrates and fat at each meal. Protein makes your mind
alert and gives you a feeling of being full. Carbohydrates give you
energy, and fat makes you feel satisfied, contributes to your
neurological and reproductive development, and carries vitamins
throughout your body.
Recognize that eating
fat doesn’t make you fat.
If you decide to
limit your fat intake, consider limiting the saturated fats only.
Never miss breakfast.
People who eat less in the early part of the day eat 40% more during the
latter part of the day.
Limit the amount of
soda pop that you drink. Drink water instead. It is better for you.
Beware of diet drinks that are loaded with chemicals that make you feel
hungry for sugar.
When you snack, treat
your body to something that will help you to grow up and to grow strong.
Cheese and crackers, peanut butter on bread, yogurt and fruit are all
great alternatives to cookies and cakes.
Remember that cookies
and cakes aren’t bad ……as long as you eat them in moderation! Remember,
there are no bad foods. Excess
is bad; food is not.
The more a person
deprives himself of a certain kind of food, the more apt (s)he is to
binge and gorge on that food when (s)he succumbs. A healthy eater is a
person who can eat all kinds of foods, in moderation, and without fear.
Make sure you get
regular exercise. Walk to school when you can, take the dog out for a
walk, enjoy and rake leaves in the fall, play in and shovel snow in the
winter, plant and enjoy the flowers in the spring.
First things first
In your effort to learn to eat differently, it is essential first to
become aware of your eating habits
and exercise lifestyle. Then, decide if you would like to make some changes
and if so, what changes. If you are a child or young adult at home, you need
to communicate with your parents so they can learn to effectively support
you. Consider the following:
Make a journal of
what you eat during every day. You will begin to learn a great deal
about yourself, your eating habits, and what you might like to change.
Do not eat anywhere
other than the kitchen or dining room table, sitting down, with a plate
in front of you.
Don’t eat in front of
the television. The less television watching you do, the more exercise
you are likely to get.
Ask your parents to
fill the house with “nutritionally dense” foods, or foods that are good
for you. Offer to go food shopping with them so you can show them what
you like to eat. They can help you find the most healthful foods for
Cook meals with your
parents. It’s great fun and a wonderful skill to have.
Be sure to include
your parents in your hopes, plans and efforts. They will want to know
how they can help and support you.
Always eat moderately
and wisely and you will find you will be able to eat fearlessly and to
trust your body to be healthy and not get fat.
Food should be enjoyed. It is one of the greatest gifts we as humans have.
Your relationship with food is something that is clearly within your power
to change if you are not happy with it at the moment. Learning to eat
healthfully will improve how you feel about each day, as well as how you
feel about yourself.
Eating healthfully is the route to living healthfully, and living
healthfully is the prerequisite to becoming the adult that you would like to
be one day.