Are You Overweight?
By Abigail Natenshon
Author of When Your Child Has An Eating Disorder

Becoming a healthy eater allows you to eat freely without ever becoming overweight; it also lets you lose weight healthfully and long term, should you need to.

How do you know if you are overweight?
This is a tough question. Sometimes kids feel that if they do not look as thin as Heather Locklear, they must be overweight. This is not at all the case. Only 5% of the population is born with an ectomorphic body type that would allow them to look this thin. Sometimes kids feel that if they do weigh more than they ought to, that means they are unfit and therefore are unattractive and will be unpopular.

Misconceptions about people who appear to be overweight are quite common; people assume that overweight people do not care about their appearance, they are lazy, and they are irresponsible.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • People who appear to be large or overweight are not necessarily unhealthy. Overeating is not always the cause of overweight. Some people are born with naturally larger bones and a mesomorphic body type.
  • People are the size and shape they are because of genetic factors in addition to the nature and quality of their eating and exercise lifestyle. People who eat well and exercise regularly have the capacity to be physically fit, strong and healthy, despite their size.
  • It is only when a person is overweight from eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods or from a lack of exercise that being heavy can become a health hazard.

The important question for you is not whether you are too fat. It is whether or not you have a comfortable relationship with food.

Do you see food as fuel and as nourishment, as tasting good and being an enjoyable and regular part of your life, as something that makes you smart and that makes you grow, that is satisfying and at the center of sociability? Or, does food and eating frighten and worry you?

If you believe you are overweight because you do not eat enough healthful or nutritious foods, if you eat too much “junk” food, or food without nutritional value, and if you wish to lose weight to become more fit or to look better, it is important to think about eating differently, not eating less.

Does this come as a surprise? If so, here is what you need to know:

  • Dieting is the worst way to lose weight.
  • Kids who restrict food or diet early in life have a much greater chance of becoming an obese adult.
  • 95% of dieters gains back all of their weight, and more, within five years.
  • Dieters lose weight in muscle tissue and gain it back in fat.

How should you eat?

  • 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.
  • Don’t 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 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 ones only.
  • Never miss breakfast. People who eat less in the early part of the day eat 40% more during the last part of the day.
  • Limit the amount of pop that you drink. Drink water instead. It is better for you.
  • 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 he is to binge and gorge on that food when 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, enjoy the leaves in the fall, the snow in the winter, and the flowers in the spring.

To eat differently, first become aware of your eating habits and exercise lifestyle. Then, decide if you would like to make some changes. Consider the following:

  • 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. In fact, try turning off the television altogether.
  • Ask your parents to fill the house with “nutritionally dense” foods, or foods that are good for you. Offer to go food shopping with your parents so you can show them what you like to eat. They can help you find the most healthful foods for you.
  • 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, widely and fearlessly.

Food should be enjoyed. It is one of the greatest gifts we as humans have been given. 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.

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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