The Healthy Body Survey
By Abigail Natenshon
Author of When Your Child Has An Eating Disorder

1. I know that very skinny models and actresses have unhealthy eating and exercise lifestyles. I must not model myself after them. T F

2. No one can know how fit or unfit I am simply by looking at me. T F

3. Body shapes and sizes vary from one person to the next. No two bodies can or should look the same. T F

4. Kids become overweight because they eat too much. They need to eat less. T F

5. You will be thinner if you skip breakfast. The fewer your meals, the thinner you become. T F

6. Sweets are not good for you. T F

7. Eating fat in your food makes you become fat. T F

8. I worry that the more I eat, the more weight I will gain. T F

9. If I am overweight, I deserve to be teased or not accepted by my peers at school. T F

10. A person can gain a pound or more from eating a serving of cake, meat, or ice cream. T F

1. T. It is unnatural and unhealthy to try to get your body to be thinner than it needs or wants to be . . . .no matter how normal the models or actors make thinness seem. When you eat right and stay active, your body will determine the best weight for you and will maintain that weight to keep you feeling good and fit.

2. T. Nobody can tell how fit you are simply by looking. Largely built or overweight people are frequently strong, healthy and in very good shape; their heredity may determine their large size. Did you know that many overweight people exercise regularly and vigorously and are fine athletes? All this, despite the fact that they may not look like fashion models or track stars?

3. T. Just as every fingerprint is different from every other; no two people are created to look just the same. We all come in different sizes and shapes, with different strengths and weaknesses, with different talents and interests. Our unique qualities set us apart and make us special. Who we are as people has less to do with how we look and more to do with how we think, feel, and behave.

4. F. No one becomes overweight because he or she eats too much good food. People become overweight when they eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods, (foods that are not nourishing to the body,) and/or when they do not remain active, riding bikes or engaging in sports or other forms of regular exercise. Moving your body vigorously through space in some form of exercise is one sure way to keep your metabolism healthy and capable of burning fat, giving you energy and keeping you trim. When people are overweight, they do not need to diet or eat less. They need only to learn to eat differently, to establish a healthier eating and exercise lifestyle.

5. F. You can’t expect to be alert and to learn efficiently at school unless you feed your brain well after its extended overnight fast. People who skip breakfast damage the function of their metabolism, interfering with their body’s capacity to burn fat effectively. In addition, excessively hungry people tend to overeat their next meal or snack; non-breakfast eaters are more apt to develop weight problems in their childhood and into their adult years.

6. F. There is nothing wrong with eating sweets. A dessert now and then, even once a day is fine. Candy on Halloween, and cake and ice cream on birthdays is great fun and in the spirit of the celebration. It would in fact be problematic if you could not feel free to indulge yourself in this way. Sweets become problems only when people eat them in excess, or instead of foods that nourish and build strong bodies.

7. F. Eating fat in your diet does not make you become fat. Though an over abundance of saturated fats can be unhealthy, other kinds of fats are necessary to keep your body healthy and functional. The healthy eater is the person who eats all types of foods, as long as they are eaten in moderation (not too much and not too little).

8. F. When your body is well fed and healthy, it will eventually arrive at what its called its “set point” weight. The body’s set point weight is the weight your body wants and needs to be in order to be healthy. Once this weight is achieved, there it will stay…. give or take a pound here or there. If one day you eat more than usual, the scale may show a slight increase in weight, but within a day or so of eating naturally again, your body will settle comfortably back to its set point weight. You can count on it.

9. F. You do not deserve to be teased, ever, for any reason. If you have something to learn about yourself from another person, there are more constructive ways to communicate those things than through teasing. You have done nothing wrong in being uniquely who you are. What is most important is that you learn to take care of yourself. If you have concerns about your weight or how you look, there is a lot you can do to bring about constructive changes short of feeling shame, going on a diet to restrict food, or becoming the butt of others’ jokes.

10. F. It is important to understand that neither meat nor dairy products are bad for you. Quite the contrary. Some people believe that when they take in food, it will immediately be visible on their body as excess weight. This is not how food works. In fact, when a person eats food, it is broken down by the body into energy and fuel for growth and alertness. Particularly when you eat nutritionally dense or nourishing foods in appropriate amounts, it all gets used up and disappears before it could ever be stored as fat.

How can you tell if you might have a problem with food or fitness?

  • You don’t eat three meals a day. There is never time for breakfast.
  • Some “meals” consist of foods that are not nourishing to your body, like chips or soda.
  • You don’t eat a wide variety of nutritious foods.
  • You do not eat a cooked hot dinner with your family every night.
  • Your home does not have a lot of nutritious foods on hand for meals and snacking.
  • You spend a lot of time eating in front of video games or television.
  • You rarely go outside to play or walk.
  • You do not take gym in school.
  • You feel guilty after you eat.
  • You are embarrassed about how you eat or how you look.
  • It takes trying on many outfits before you can find one that you feel looks good enough on you.
  • You are afraid or uncomfortable about eating in front of others.
  • You feel that you should never leave the dinner table feeling full or satisfied.

It is not hard to change problematic patterns of behavior, particularly if you start out slowly, one small change at a time. Don’t be in a hurry. Why not try to change just one or two of these patterns? Do you feel you could benefit from speaking with a helpful adult at home or at school about your efforts and concerns? Your parents would probably be quite interested in helping you to achieve your goals if you chose to include them.

Remember that big changes come of smaller changes, and that the smaller the change, the easier it is to accomplish.

Psychotherapist Abigail H. Natenshon has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders with individuals, families, and groups for the past 28 years. She is the author of When Your Child Has an Eating Disorder: A Step-by-Step Workbook for Parents and Other Caregivers, Jossey Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA. October 1999. Based on hundreds of successful outcomes, this book shepherds concerned parents step-by-step through the processes of eating disorder recognition, confronting the child, finding the most effective treatment for patient and family, and evaluating and insuring a timely recovery. A guide to eating disorder prevention, this book is useful to parents, health professionals and school personnel alike in countering the pervasive epidemic of unhealthy eating and body image concerns, and destructive media and peer influences. Her work can be reviewed further at her web site at To order visit

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