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Q& A for Teens: Too Thin
Q&A for Teens

Q& A for Teens: Too Thin

I’m 13 and hate the way I look.


Dear Lauren,

I’m 13 years old and I’m really skinny. I weigh 70 pounds and I’m 5”1’. Ever since I was a small child I've always been bullied about my thin figure. People call me “skinny,” “flat,” even “A STICK.” I feel very depressed because I’m too thin. What should I do?

Too Thin

Okay, women of the world, this one’s for you! Because how many hundreds of times have we thought, “If only I were thinner, then I’d be happy”?

I love this question because it give lie to the crazy idea that thinner means better, thinner means happier, thinner means “I am a better person than I was when I was 10 or 20 or 50 pounds heavier.” The Absolute Truth is that how your body looks has Absolutely Nothing to do with your worth as a person. You are valuable, you are important, you are wonderful, no matter how your body looks.

Last week, I went to speak at a residence for the elderly. My topic was “The Power of Women,” and included in the female audience was one lone man.

I asked him: “What brings you to a lecture about the power of women? And, while I’m at it, may I ask what keeps you so incredibly vibrant?”

“I seem vibrant to you? I feel vibrant! Can you believe I’m 93?”

“Ninety-three! You don’t look a day over 80! What keeps you so strong, spry, and full of life?”

His reply: “I stay young and strong because of ‘Yes, dear.’ On our wedding day, the rabbi said, ‘Do you take this woman to be your wife?’ I said ‘I do. Yes, dear,’ and I’ve been saying ‘Yes, dear,’ ever since!”

What does the 93-year-old vivacious man’s answer have to do with your body? Everything. He garners his strength from willingly giving, with pleasure, to the person he loves most. We draw our life source from being gracious and giving and forgoing towards the people around us. If we want to be fully alive and truly, deeply happy, then give with pleasure and give generously of our graciousness to those around us.

To fully and properly love those around us, we have to first love ourselves.

But there’s a catch. To give properly to those around us, we have to give the way the Torah directs, and that is: “Love your friend as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). In other words, to fully and properly love those around us, we have to first love ourselves. So you’re skinny! So you’re fat! So what? Love yourself! Lavish love on yourself so you can know how to lavish love and caring onto others.

My 93-year-old friend lives deeply and actively because he “Yes dear”-ed his wife for years and years. We have to “Yes dear” ourselves. That means accepting ourselves as we are, loving ourselves as we are, reveling in what we are at this moment.

If there are aspects of our “self” we want to change, that desire to change ourselves must come from a place of first accepting and loving ourselves, with our limitations, as we are now. Only after we’ve accepted ourselves as we are and learned to love ourselves as we are can we then step back and honestly assess, “Is there something I should change?”

Imagine if you had a friend, and instead of loving and accepting that friend, you were always telling him how he could be better, how he wasn’t good enough the way he is. How long do you think that friendship would last? But if you really loved your friend, and he felt that love, then you could, eventually, say, “You know, maybe you want to be a little less X?” or, “I was thinking, maybe you want to be a little more Y?” Unless that friend really, truly, and deeply knows you care about him and love him, your attempts to change him are just unkind daggers.

Why should we treat ourselves any worse than we would treat a good friend? The Torah tells us that the way we learn how to be a good friend is to treat ourselves well first. You first have to help yourself love yourself.

I’m sorry that people make fun of you. They’re certainly not “Yes dear”-ing you. In which case, you’ve got to be even kinder to yourself to make up for their unkindness. Look at yourself in the mirror every day and practice trying to objectively love what you see. Try to drown out those bullies’ voices with the power of your own voice proclaiming, “I love ME!” Then use that self-love to spread kindness and love to others. Learning to love yourself, learning to love others: what a way to combat all the unkindness thrown your way!

Related Article: Beauty Industry Vs. Modesty

Some Practical Suggestions

I have a few practical suggestions for you. First of all, do things in your life that you love to do. Take the time to figure out what makes you feel passionate and excited to be alive, then take the time to do those things.

Take yourself to a store and try on many different kinds of clothing, with varied material and varied cuts. See which styles and fabrics and colors make you feel beautiful, then just stop and enjoy the sight of yourself looking fabulous. Look at yourself from every angle and savor the image of beautiful you. You don’t even have to buy the clothing —just notice yourself looking lovely right there in the dressing room.

Also remind yourself (you can even say it to yourself out loud) that you don’t have to look like anyone else; you can be the one to start a new trend with exactly how you look.

Another fantastic way to become comfortable with your body is to use your body as an artistic tool. Put on music and dance in front of a mirror. Or enroll in dance, gymnastics, or yoga classes. By the way, in terms of taking care of yourself, did you know that being thinner is actually better for your body? Many medical studies done over the last 40 years have shown that people with lower BMI’s (body mass index) live longer, healthier lives.

I propose we create the “Yes Dear” Club where we “Yes dear” ourselves and everyone around us. What a wonderful world that would be.

When I was leaving the residence after my lecture, I said to my new friend, “Take care!”

“Oh, I will,” he replied. “I have to. I’m getting older!”

My wise old friend, we are all getting older. Let’s take care of ourselves and those around us now.

February 18, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 10

(8) Anonymous, February 22, 2012 12:18 AM

Not to worry!

I am very short so, at 18, when I was your height, I weighed 105! Which many people thought was too much, since I have short legs! No one has "nagged" you to eat more but I will suggest you sneak in a small snack between the three meals you do eat, adding up to six for the day. Keep it all within your comfort zone of eating, and relax; whether or not you gain is not as important as it is that you have food in you more often.......

Sam, February 23, 2012 12:13 AM

Hi there, I agree with everyone's comments that loving yourself is SOO important. Just know that being 13 is a very difficult age, oftentimes bringing with it low self-esteem. So, while it's normal to be upset about what others are saying, keep reminding yourself that it's who you are on the inside that counts. All that said, I agree with the comment I replied to in that if close friends or family members of yours comment about your weight, it may be because they are genuinely concerned about you. While you're still growing and that may be the reason why you weigh less than is recommended for your height, if you think that you may not like eating at times because you're trying to take control of a situation, deal with your emotions, or because you're feeling sad, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist about what you're going through. Not to dismiss Dr. Lauren as a good advice-giver, it may still be beneficial to meet with someone in person to talk about how you're feeling. Good luck with everything!

(7) Anonymous, February 21, 2012 11:42 PM

Skinny all my life

Dear precious 13 yr old girl, I was also really skinny all my childhood and life. I was also called "skinny, twiggy, flat as a board" and all those names. My friend and I even seriously considered (we never did it) ordering pills that were guarantee to make your chest grow. But I used my thinness to my benefit - I was a great athlete and did year round sports (diving, gymnastics, and track), I ate banana splits without thinking twice, and I knew that eventually my body would develop. Today I am 43 yrs old and a mother of 4 healthy, energetic kids, and still (happily) skinny. I take dance classes (and keep up with the 20 yr olds), eat whatever I want, and never cease to get comments from people saying how lucky I am to be naturally thin. People can spend their lives wanting what they don't have, or they can see the benefits of whatever they do have. I've completely enjoyed life by enjoying the postive aspects of whatever situations I am dealt, thinness included. Enjoy your thin body, it's such a complete blessing.

clif, April 19, 2012 5:23 PM

Don't fret on being thin eventually your body will work itself out

From 13 up to 19 you are active and your metabolism is most likely high, you will burn off calories fast. When i was 12 to 19 i was very thin, i used to be teased by family my legs were toothpicks and by 14 i was 6 feet tall. Then all of the sudden my body started to fill out, i gained muscle and a bit of weight, I worked out in gym so it didn't turn into fat and from then on i had bulk. I was proud to be thinner than most people to me fat is ugly, to be between semi fat to me was ugly as well. If you look at most woman whom are thin they are models, actress, sports people, media people, CEO's in companies, etc. 13 is a hard age people will give you grief even if you were heavier, everyone goes through this stage it is keeping positive attitude and believing in yourself.

(6) Tammy, February 21, 2012 7:08 PM

Too thin

Hi 13, You need to give yourself permission to feel fine about being thin. It is really ok to be thin and once you give yourself permission to feel fine with that, you will never look back. If people do not like you as thin it is their problem not yours. Be thin and be happy with it and ignore what the others are saying to you. Like the skin you are in.

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