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Sunday, 16 July 2017 | MYT 6:07 AM

Dear Thelma: Everyone calls me fat, and it really hurts

Family and friends call her fat, and it is causing her to have low self-esteem.

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

Dear 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 sustain itself. The body 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. – Thelma

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