On wanting to be thinner

Janna in the pool

Irina reflects on health, body image and watching her daughter become a young woman.

Janna has just turned 13. Her body is turning from that of a child into that of a grown woman, and everyday she looks more mature. In July when we were swimming and sunbathing in Anapa and often wore little more than a swimsuit, she looked just like a child: tall, pleasantly plump with a figure just starting to shape up.

In August, just if some magic had happened overnight, she was a grown girl with breasts and a waist, and I couldn’t see her as “plump” anymore. “Sexy” was more like the right word, causing her Grandpa a concern that she might be bothered by men if he stopped accompanying her to school.

She still wouldn’t let anyone accompany her to avoid being laughed at by her classmates, and so far (touch wood) everything has been okay: the streets of Saratov are usually quite safe. But the classmates… that’s a difgferent story. They will always find an excuse to laugh at someone, and Janna is considered “fat” by them. Even the guy who seems to fancy her tells her that she should lose weight in order to have more authority in her class.

Damn those kids! Because of all that nonsense (of course, they compare Janna to other girls, and most of them are just scrawny at that age) she has stopped eating a lot of things she likes to eat, and it’s now a permanent problem for me to invent something for her breakfast (at least she still eats yoghurts, thank God). But it’s all in vain: she won’t lose a single kilo. At 13 she weighs exactly the same as I at 39, but I definitely look thin (I guess my bones are heavier).

The problem with Janna is, she likes to eat late in the evening (same as her father and paternal grandmother), so even if she can resist the temptations of food in the morning, she will still compensate for this after 6pm when it is not recommended to eat at all. Talking about it is useless: her hunger is stronger than any logic.

I know the surest way to lose weight: no sweet things at all. I lost 10 kilos myself when – due to persisting skin problems – I had to go sugar-free. But it won’t suit Janna: she loves sweet tea and sweet yoghurts and all such things even though she has given up cakes. And for some reason she plays truant every time they have P.E. lessons. So it seems that she is going to stay as she is: not really fat, but not exactly thin either.

Of course, I have other worries on my mind: her health (she often complains about headaches), her laziness (she will use any trick in the book to avoid doing her homework), my work and all the rest of it. But to keep that fragile balance and not let my child develop either obesity or anorexia is also important. And considering how fastidious she is with her food it is not an easy task!

  • http://www.birdsontheblog.co.uk/ Sarah Arrow

    It’s a terrible situation the kids are in. My Jess is a size 10-12, some of the other girls are shorter, fatter (and uglier) than her but she only compares herself to the ones that are dead skinny. I tell her she is lovely as she is, but she doesn’t have to be twig to be liked or look good.

    But she sees them in magazines looking gaunt and  airbrushed and thinks that’s the norm, not a week goes by without some celebrity declaring the best diet ever…

    I feel for our kids these days :(  

  • Leahvigon

    I developed anorexia at 13 years old. I begged my mum to take me to Weight Watchers when I was 12 because I thought I was fat. I was a little chubby but it was probably just puppy fat and quite possibly would’ve gone away over a couple of years. What followed was 15 wasted years of struggling with this disease. It ruined not just my life but my families too as they had to endure the pain and anguish I caused myself. I never had the normal teenage life like my friends did as I was locked in my own little fragile bubble. 

    I don’t think you should place such an emphasis on your childs weight at this age but maybe try and incorporate a healthy lifestyle into your family routine. Don’t make food the issue.

  • http://www.amummytoo.co.uk Emily

    12/13 was when it all started for me too. I was rubbish at sport and a little bit chubby and my brothers ribbed me for it mercilessly. I got stick thin with glandular fever and the ‘thinner = better” mindset never went away. It has plagued me ever since, so I’d agree with Leah, let’s support our daughters (and sons) in being healthy and try to move their thoughts away from weight. Good luck! x