Most people who know me don’t know this since I’ve been in good shape my entire adult life, but there was a day when I was not in good shape. In fact, I was fat and I did not feel too good about it—about myself. I was 13, it was the summer between eighth grade and high school, and I decided I needed to get in shape or no one would be my friend, nor could I live with myself. I did not have anyone giving me any advice, so I did my best to figure it out on my own. Of course, I made a lot of mistakes! I went down the ugly roads of exercise addiction and eating disorder. Since then (I’m 40 now), I’ve learned quite a bit personally and working in wellness. Today, I offer a letter to my 13-year-old self and to anyone who’s not feeling so great about their body and themselves as a result.
Dear Teenage Jason,
I know this sucks and I know you’re scared, but trust me, you’re okay. Take a deep breath. You’re going to be okay. I love you. I know this feels awful. I know you are making this mean that there is something wrong with you. Let me assure you: There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re simply doing some things that are keeping you from being as well as you can be. And they’re not your fault. You’re 13—give yourself a break. Your family has been feeding you some stuff that’s not the best stuff for you to be eating. That’s really all that’s going on. Really. And I can help you with that.
Before we get to that, I know some people are making fun of you. This is actually a great learning opportunity. At no point in your life is everyone going to like you. And that’s okay. You won’t like everyone either. You will feel great in your life with the people who you personally connect with and they’ll be your very good friends. Those people that are making fun of you are doing their best right now. Inside, we’re all self-loving and we’re all at our best when we’re sharing our love with others. From this place, we may not like everyone, but we never are mean to anyone. This is how I am and this is how I want you to be. But sometimes we get hurt and we feel bad inside. As a reaction, we take this out on others. That’s all these people are doing when they are making fun of you. It does not mean anything about you. It does not mean anything about you. You’re awesome. I love you.
I know it feels like the best thing to do is to starve yourself and eat your mom’s “diet foods”. I know you think that eating is not going to be fun anymore. This is all wrong. I’m going to teach you how to eat and it’s going to be so much fun and you’re going to really learn to love food. Food is not your enemy—food is your friend. Ironically, being fat is in many ways a form of lack of nourishment. When you are not meeting your needs for the nutrients your body runs on, you eat and eat and eat (in search of those nutrients). Our culture teaches that food is an enemy and that to be well, be lean, be in shape, our job is to deny ourselves food. Scratch that. There’s an entirely better approach. At each meal, think about providing yourself with the very best food. Think of food as the fuel your body runs on and the raw materials that your body is made of. Make each meal a celebration of nourishment and delight. Savor the pleasures of the smells and tastes and textures. Do this while mostly eating whole, natural, real food (as opposed to processed food) and you will do great. I can show you specifically all kinds of great vegetables, meats, nuts, seeds, fruit, and other foods to eat. I can show you awesome ways to make salads, soups, omelets, stir-fries, and other dishes. We’re going to have a lot of fun in the kitchen together. Let’s have breakfast tomorrow morning, okay?
I know you already like playing basketball and baseball. I’m going to introduce you to hiking and rock climbing and some other activities in the coming weeks too. Let’s see what you enjoy. I know you want to be in shape really bad and you think you need to beat yourself up to get there. You don’t. You can be in great shape with a modest amount of exercising doing activity you love to do. Despite what people are telling you, exercise is not a chore. You don’t need to exercise to shape your body. Exercise is not a means to an end. Exercise is play. It’s fun. Some people think that if it’s fun it can’t be good for your. Nothing could be further from the truth. What you enjoy, you will put your heart into and you will continue doing. Let’s find you some more activities you can do with me and your friends and by yourself if you like. Let’s go for a hike on these awesome trails near your house on Saturday, okay?
Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.