Dear me: A letter to my 16-year-old self
For a huge part of my life, food consumed me (instead of the other way round)!
I started dieting when I was 11. After a decade of torturing myself to try to lose weight, fit in and be accepted for my size, I finally quit dieting at 21.
It's my birthday next week Monday (I'm turning 27)! It's not a massive deal but each birthday, I get nostalgic and reflect on where I have been. And where I am going.
That is why I have decided to write this letter to my younger... An apology, an ode, a guide... because I wanted to tell her all the things I wish she had known back then.
Dear younger self,
I'm so sorry that the kids at school tease you about your weight and what you look like...
I am sorry they make you feel self-conscious about your shape - call you 'fatty' and other insults. They do it because they are self-conscious.
I know your weight makes you feel like everything is wrong: you feel too big, not cool enough, not good enough...
I know that food feels like the enemy at the moment and exercise is a form of torture you inflict on yourself when you've 'been bad' - or feel guilty for eating food.
I know you are desperate to be skinny, like your friend. I know that you're struggling with food and body image... and fitting in feels tough.
And I know you don't realise it now but dieting, not your weight, is ruining your life. Your body isn't the problem. Your relationship with food is.
At 16, you're keeping a diary every day of what you eat calculating whether you're good or bad. The scale each morning is your way of working out if you're worthy enough today.
It will still take you another 5 years to realise that losing weight won't solve your problems. Losing weight won't make you happy. Losing weight won't stop the anxiety...
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You'll learn one day that you can't punish yourself into a version of that you love. The only way to love yourself is to accept your flaws and imperfections (that make you human) and love yourself regardless.
So I wish you could know that...
You are enough. Just the way you are.
Stop chasing a goal weight. It doesn't work that way. Instead, I wish you would take my advice.
Stop weighing yourself. The scale is not a reflection of your health or your self-worth. Jumping on the scale multiple times a day or every day isn't helpful! Stop handing over your self-esteem each morning to simple machine. You are so much more than a number or size.
Stop restricting and depriving yourself. Don't avoid carbs. Don't quit sugar. Don't skip meals. Don't ask your parents hide the junk food from you. Because when you get hungry, feel deprived or desperate enough, you'll find it, devour all of it and then feel immensely guilty and sad. If you want a treat, eat it - enjoy it, and never judge yourself. You are allowed, just like everyone else.
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Trust your body. It's smarter than you will ever be. It knows when you need food (it will tell you by making you hungry - how intelligent!) Trust your body to tell you when there is something you need to know. And when it says something, listen and act. Trust that you don't need to weigh yourself because when your body changes, you'll feel it. That number adds NO value. Your body, not a calorie book, is your guide.
Don't exercise or eat well to lose weight. Just adopt healthy habits because it makes you feel great, gives you endorphins, more energy. Adopting healthy habits just to lose weight doesn't work. Long term habits are formed when you WANT to do something - not when you feel you SHOULD do something. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you can't be motivated by numbers - only feelings.
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Nothing feels as good as healthy feels. Lots of things taste better than skinny feels. Don't take health advice from models. Food is amazing and should always enjoy everything you eat. Don't endure boring calorie controlled, fat-free food that you hate. Nourishment is about feeding your body - and soul. If it's filled with nutrients but tasteless, is it really nourishing at all?
Be kind to your body. Treat your body to movement and activity daily. Exercise is a right - not a punishment. You are lucky every day that you are able to move your body. Be grateful that you can move, dance, jump, skip and run. It's a reward at the end of the day to be able to run and swim.
I know you're not ready to absorbs these things yet - and you'll need to endure another give years of hating yourself, your body and food, before you are ready.
But when you are ready to stop obsessing over food in bed each night...When you are ready for eating and exercise to feel easy, relaxed and intuitive - please know that there is another way.
First, you need to quit dieting and then you need to focus on health, not weight.
Then speak to people who know that health, not size is important - and unsubscribe from people who don't.
The rest will flow.