Home Beauty Open Thread: The Most Heart Breaking Email I’ve Ever Received

Open Thread: The Most Heart Breaking Email I’ve Ever Received

by Erika Nicole Kendall

So.

For the record, I’ve read every single e-mail I’ve ever received. More often than not, I’m on the train when I read them——gotta make use of that time somehow, other than staring at strangers and waiting for someone to whip their d– uh, never mind—and can’t always respond in time, but I definitely read them. More often than not, I make a note of its content to blog about it later. Other times, I star it so that I can actually respond.

That being said, I received an e-mail that literally crushed me, and I don’t know why:

Ms. erika

Hello my name is [redacted] I’m struggling with self confidence. I’m 15 going on 16 and would like to lose weight. The reason I would like to weight is because I don’t feel pretty then other girls around me I cry ever night because I want look beautiful like them I also want boys to come talk to me like they talk to them! I can’t get a boy to notice me! I keep my nails and hair done but its because of this big belly sitting in front of me! I need some help and guidance to lose weight I weigh 250 or 300 and i would like to weigh 130 will u please help me PLEASE IM BEGGING YOU PLEASE

Now, when I first received this e-mail, a little over two weeks ago, I asked the #bgg2wlarmy what they thought about this (are you following @bgg2wl yet?), since I was so conflicted and at a loss for words (subscribers, you can click here to view that twitter convo):

Listen. As progressive as I want to be and talk about how useless it is to want to be wanted by teen boys because heaven knows they only want one thing and blah blah blah… I think I struggle with this so much because I remember what it was like being an overweight teen who felt like the reason I wasn’t dating was because I was overweight, in an environment that wasn’t hostile to overweight girls, but definitely didn’t encourage dating them.

Basically, as much as I want to be The Good Mom in this e-mail… I also know how I would’ve reacted to receiving The Good Mom’s advice at that age, and it might not’ve been pretty.

What’s more, if we give her weight loss advice… isn’t that, in a sense, condoning the idea that she should be keeping her body together and right for male affection? I mean, truthfully speaking, you need to be keeping yourself mentally and physically together for you, and let male attention simply be a side benefit. If you’re unhappy with how you look in the mirror, that affects your self-confidence just as much as anything else… and you can fix that by learning to accept yourself in your current size, or you can change that size.

Really, can we just have a conversation about what this looks and feels like for a teen, and what kind of message is healthiest to give to young girls about their bodies, the way they feel about themselves, and those interactions with their male counterparts? Because, if young girls are out here putting “the ability to be hit on and in some cases harassed by men” on a pedestal, and are desperate to lose weight to achieve it… then I am going to be in a world of hurt when Mini-me grows up.

Whew, man.

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22 comments

Bex May 30, 2013 - 12:18 PM

Why not be upfront with her about your dilemma? Explain to her the good mom argument, but also explain that you remember being in a similar position. Explain to her that you’re concerned about her support(or lack of) from parents. Explain that you want to help her to lose in a healthy way if she would like the help, but think she should consider doing it when shes ready to do it for herself and her own overall happiness. Explain that yes more make attention is a side benefit but shouldn’t be the sole motivation. Explain that dating when you have deep holes in your own contentment/satisfaction with yourself is a bad idea. You make poor partner decisions based on insecurities, and often are more tolerant to situations that are damaging emotionally and psychologically. Explain that her mental and emptinal satisfaction with herself is an important thing to try attain before integrating what boys think about you and why. Discuss your concerns openly with her, she’s not a child even though she is lol.

Jeannine May 30, 2013 - 12:40 PM

This is a tough one. I think you know what to say but I totally get your dilemma. She has to become comfortable wih who she is as a person and then become comforable with her current body. She can decide to change but I agree she should decide to change for herself first. Weight or not, we all know what it’s like to want to belong and especially when you are a teenager. It’s not easy to be an outcast especially during a time when you are still trying to figure out who you even are. I would want that young lady to know that there are great things about her and she should try to focus on those great things and not that ONE aspect of who she is. She can become educated on health and fitness and make lifestyle changes for the good of her health. I would hope she chooses to focus on this issue in his way and not for attention from boys. Hopefully she will learn to love herself and that her self-esteem has to come from how she feels about herself and not others. I really just want to give her a hug and tell her she’s beautiful! She should look in the mirror everyday and pick three things she loves about herself, at least one of them can be something physical about her body. Speak loudly to herself these daily affirmations (fake it til you make it) until she feels good in her skin.

P.S. There are pleny of big girls who get male attention (like me) but are choosing to be healthy for their life not just for looks and boys. While I’ll be honest and admit looks play a part, but they are not everything. When I tried to lose for vanity it didn’t work. I only recently became committed when my reason was simply I want to live well! Boys are attracted to confidence and your size does not always determine that.

Kitana May 30, 2013 - 1:00 PM

Awww, lordy. I don’t have the time right now to respond to this as fully as I would like to, but if I were responding to her, I think I would take a two pronged approach. I think it’s okay to give her weight loss/health advice because knowing how to do things is half the battle. It would be remiss to not mention that confidence and self-esteem comes from within, though.

I think I’ll think about this some more and come back.

LouAnna May 30, 2013 - 1:09 PM

I would tell her that there is more to her than her size. She has gifts, talents, qualities about her that make her an amazing person, friend, and potential girlfriend. I would encourage her to develop those qualities to boost her confidence. Being overweight usually isn’t a weight issue; it’s usually a symptom of other things (I’m a former size 26). I read somewhere online like “Comparison is the thief of happiness” and I believe it. Even if she loses weight, she may not get the male attention she is looking for because boys really are a different type of organism, aren’t they?! I know what it’s like to see others dating and feel sad and lonely, but even thinner girls have dating issues (so I’m told – I was a size 18 when I got married)…no one escapes the teenage years without feeling inadequate, awkward, and unattractive. Focus on the good parts of her character and believe that she is worth the best life has to give. And once she decides that, the rest of life seems easier to manage (including her weight). Wishing her all good things.

schylla33 May 30, 2013 - 1:12 PM

I certainly understand your dilemma as well, and I don’t mean to offer this suggestion as a complete solution but it could put her on the right track.

There’s definitely a self-esteem issue here, so she probably has to start there. It’ll take longer to work on that, but it’s the foundation on which everything else can be built. May I suggest meditation? It costs nothing and she doesn’t have to get permission from anyone to do it!

After having a baby and then fleeing an abusive relationship, I was sorely lacking in self-esteem and one thing that has helped tremendously is meditation. It puts the focus solely on yourself (especially after spending all your time with a newborn), it teaches you mindfulness (which really helps when you eat), and you learn how to better cope with stress. More importantly, it helps you become more compassionate to yourself and more comfortable with yourself.

Just 5 minutes a day is fine and you can work your way up to 15, 20 min if you like. There are tons of mindfulness meditation sites and apps for your phone out there…meditation has really allowed me to love myself more, which leads to treating my body better and be a better mom!

For the writer, it could help her cope with whatever she’s dealing with (i.e., unhealthy food at home courtesy of her parents) and perhaps she won’t see her body as just some big ol’ belly. Plus she can focus more on what relationship choices work for HER, not just what the boy thinks. Take it from someone who had to learn the hard way!

Charey May 30, 2013 - 2:19 PM

I don’t think telling her how to lose weight would be condoning her idea that she needs to be small to get boys to notice her. She wrote in asking for weightless help and she is 16 not 10. I think you just have to give her advice on both issues. Weightloss advice AND “don’t worry about these big head boys” advice. She’s past puberty and able to do adult things like get pregnant and fall for the wrong guys for the wrong reasons. I’d say talk to her like an adult and don’t underestimate her ability to understand. When I was young I may not have wanted moms advice but I always kept it in the back of my mind even to this day. Anyway my point is she is way to old to be babied now. I’ve seen too many big girls fall for any old guy just because they told her she had an ok face for a big girl. High school is tough for a big girl but I found that at HBCU big girls were getting love from some of the finest! Lol Tell her to work on her self esteem AND her weight loss at the same time. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

nadia May 30, 2013 - 2:23 PM

This will sound harsh ( as I am sure a lot my respones do) but I think that she should be re-assured that it is normal for her to want male attention. I am much older than her and I still like male attention… Okay- then I think that she should be told that male attention isn’t everything and that she should try to develop her own talents because although she may not be as physically attractive as her friends in the eyes of the boys she is around, in the end, someone who has made the most out of what God has given them, will always end up in a goodposition. As men mature, many of them who, realistically speaking, may not be attracted to her physically, will be attracted to her spiritually if she commits to improving herself by doing as well as she can in school, as well as she can with being a good friend and daughter, paying the best attention to her hygeine, committing to eat healthfully, ancommitting to getting proper exercise… Remind her of the proverb about the tortoise and the hare and assure her that there is a lot of truth to that… I would also say that even when she grows up, there will be times when she is not getting the attention she feels that she deserves whether it be from family, friends, men, or work… Tell her to cultivate strength by reading about people who have been through similar experiences and reading books that deal with the subject of inner strength… learn how to be alone sometimes and to find things in herself to take delight in because those times will always come… That’s what I would tell her

Erika Nicole Kendall May 30, 2013 - 4:34 PM

It’s not about wanting male attention, or attention from whatever gender you desire.

It’s about using that as a springboard to change your body; the motivation is coming from an unhealthy space, and that shouldn’t be perpetuated.

It’s one thing to change your body, and benefit from those efforts by experiencing attention. That’s what happened to me, and I’m MARRIED now.

It’s another thing to make drastic changes in your life solely for male attention, ESPECIALLY at an age where “male attention” is often based on something super tenuous.

Renee' May 30, 2013 - 2:28 PM

Well…goodness, bless her heart. I personally was a very thin teen so weight wasn’t my issue. I initially struggled with fitting in though because my family was poorer then my classmates. So I was not accepted because I didn’t look the part even by the students that outweighed me by a 100 lbs. But I did gain my ground and ended up being a very popular student. I was not taught about self love. But in the process of me getting a job and making friends with older women who were confident and independent, I was able to gain self confidence. I was not still wearing expensive stuff like the other kids but I was confident in me.

I can say to this young girl that acceptance is not going to happen fully. No one will every love you the way you love yourself. The reality is that if she is overweight, then getting a boyfriend should be last of her worries. She needs to be educated on how being healthy can help her from the inside out. But in order to really develop a desire to get a healthy lifestyle still starts with finding self-love. Most successful dieters had to first love who they were and love themselves enough to be healthy. That’s a “big girl” (like you tell your toddler they are “big boys and girls” now) moment, because she is not a baby and at this stage in her life she should be taught the meaning of true love. It starts with yourself.

Ericka May 30, 2013 - 3:17 PM

I mean that girl just basically told me my current story and insecurities and I’m in my mid 30s. I would encourage her to seek weight loss goals for herself and health or if advised by her doctor. I agree that she shouldn’t lose weight to attract men’s attention–I mean I completely understand her feeling invisible to men at her size. But if she doesn’t work on her self esteem first then she will be a 130 pounds person with the same insecurities.

Gail May 30, 2013 - 3:44 PM

Erika, I don’t know what to do other than send her a big love letter as one of the twitter followers suggested.

You and I both know that to get to 250, much less 300 lbs, she’s eating brain-poisoning “food.” I eat a pretty clean diet. But when I stray into any foods containing sugar, caffeine, gluten, I’m amazed at how my brain chemistry slides my thinking into dastardly places of doom, gloom, and failure. At least I know that’s what’s going on in my brain chemistry so I’m able to ride it out, knowing that returning to clean will heal.

This teen’s brain is not even fully developed and it’s bombarded with mood altering drugs. Will she even hear you, much less be able to act on the love and support? I don’t know. Someone smarter than I has the answer to help this young woman. Man. My heart is broken.

mo May 30, 2013 - 7:11 PM

Wow- I was this girl at 15. We still don’t have an idea about her living situation, home life, school situation— so many factors that need to be taken into account before anyone an start giving advice. Erika, if you can, just correspond with her and find out what resources she actually has available including (if any) a girls, inc or a ywca in her area. As much as we all would love to give this young lady a pep talk on self esteem or healthy living tips, she is still a child and under the guidance of other adults and influences we are unaware of.

LPH May 30, 2013 - 10:32 PM

As much as I know that you want to give her guidance, she needs someone there with her, reassuring her that she is beautiful and she deserves love.

If there is some way that you can connect her with someone in her hometown (there has got to be services, or someone there who will be willing to mentor her) to help her feel better about herself that would be great. At that point, they can work on lifestyle changes that will help her weight loss.

Cherished131 May 31, 2013 - 1:35 PM

As a mother of three teenage girls I would like to give a mother perspective. They are all just above the line of average weight. Maybe what most would say the slang term “thick”. All like to eat well and love to stop at the corner store for junk food, candy and chips. As a mother I have had to limit allowance, juice and pop in the house. (Harder to say than do). I take them to workouts with me and have introduced them to a healthier lifestyle as I struggle to be healthier and disease free (I’m 5’4 and weigh 200). I gained my weight as an adult and I am trying so hard to help make sure that weight is not an issue for them during teen years. There is so much other stuff to worry about. I also try to encourage self-esteem because I know that situations during those years challenge them. So I’m saying this to say that parents have to be on board with helping your child be as healthy as possible. Ask to see the weight charts that they plot in their pediatric charts. Encourage physical activities and activities where they have an opportunity to interact with girls and boys outside of the classroom. Finally sharing of your own personal experiences helps validate their feelings which is a BIG self-confidence booster. I am not alone. Someone else experienced this. That is why Oprah was so successful and why America got a self-confidence boost and began to work toward healing of our souls and building our confidence back. It is why this blog is so successful. Sharing your story encourages us even if we are failing. It helps me to keep going toward my goals of healthnessessssss’.

Cherished131 May 31, 2013 - 1:40 PM

Also, anyone that reads your site will learn. Ask her to read and send you feedback on her favorite blogs. It will be the start of her learning journey and it will continue to grow.

p.s. Your blog ministry has already helped her.

Jaida June 2, 2013 - 1:58 PM

I would definitely explain your past situations to her, but let her know that if she wants to lose weight, that it needs to be for the right reasons. All teenagers go through that period of wanting to be liked, but tell her that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be HEALTHY, but she shouldn’t make the change just to be noticed by other people because it won’t do her any good in the long run. I would also tell her to tell her parents how she’s feeling so she could possibly get some kind of help through this. Hopefully she doesn’t have parents who will ignore the signs and will really work with her to make healthy choices physically and mentally.

Kim June 10, 2013 - 3:44 PM

Man I so was this girl for a long time in high school. I wanted to be thought of as pretty instead of just Kim the Thrower (I threw shot and discus in a sports loving place so I wasn’t teased like you mentioned…just not dated either). My parents had no clue what to do so they ended up putting me in Weight Watchers. Which yeah I lost some weight but I didn’t learn anything and put it all back on (plus a few friends worth too). What I wish someone would have done for me looking back on it – is actually sit down and be honest with me. Someone to tell me hey, you shouldn’t look to change for a boy…but you should look to be healthy to be the best you that is possible. I wish someone had then really talked to me about being healthy – exercise and eating clean – instead of sticking me on my first diet and down the path of rachet yo yo dieting for over 10 years. About how loving yourself enough to take care of yourself shows through not just weight loss, but confidence and that healthy glow so the *right* people will care about you…people who like you for you. I know this is hard for a 15 year old to hear…but I think that stuff sticks. All I remember from being a kid is that people told me I needed to lose weight, eat less, ect. Nobody told me anything that actually was helpful.

Angela September 26, 2013 - 6:41 PM

I would tell her what my Aunt told me, “No matter what you look like, there are always takers.” But the boys willing to date her are like the ones trying to date the skinny girls — thinking of their own best interest. This is a time she needs to love herself. It hurts when a boy you like doesn’t acknowledge your beauty. In most cases they aren’t qualified to acknowledge anyone’s beauty. Usually they are focused on how the girl they like completes the image they want to project to the world. Skinny girls are being tortured by images of beauty too. They are feeling like they aren’t enough because they think they are too dark, or too skinny, or too tall, or they have acne, or their teeth aren’t straight. The only escape from the beauty trap is to acknowledge that your body is your temple. Start by worshiping in it and relishing all the gifts that God has given you. Eventually, you will reap the rewards of loving yourself and someone worthy of your beauty, who appreciates it will present himself. You can always get attention, but be mindful of the type of attention you really want. Thank you for your honesty and the light you shed on this painful topic. I don’t even know you and yet I see your gift. It is beautiful as are you.

Diane November 4, 2014 - 9:21 PM

I would see what her resources for weight loss are. As a highschooler, her best bet for weight loss is a sports or dance team. Also, a yoga or Pilates pursued on her own would help with her belly fat, which is caused by stress.

I also worry about her overall understanding of health because of the 250 or 300 lbs statement. Those are two VERY different weights, especially for someone her age. There are so many beautiful girls who don’t get dates in highschool but go on to have plenty of romance later, and not much later!

Also, even at her high weight, self love is important. She needs to look in the mirror and say she loves herself, out loud. It will be hard, but it helps. Also, to not use negative adjectives to describe herself. It’s hard to do, but she will feel better in the long run.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 5, 2014 - 8:07 AM

“her best bet for weight loss is a sports or dance team. Also, a yoga or Pilates pursued on her own would help with her belly fat, which is caused by stress.”

One of the biggest hurdles for this with kids is the expense of these kinds of activities. They’re not free, and if you already have unsupportive parents, it’s unlikely they’ll even be willing to believe in your ability to compete, let alone believe it’s worth putting money into.

Furthermore, stress isn’t the only contributor to belly fat. Actual nutrition plays a huge role, as well.

Sarah November 5, 2014 - 12:20 AM

It’s probably going to be pretty hard to convince her that male attention isn’t a good reason to lose weight – I was using male attention as a motivator till I was 19…and then when I got male attention I realised that really most of them I didn’t even want to date. teenagers are also in a weird stage in life where if a boy likes you you instantly consider dating them, once you get older there are some people that no matter what they look like or how much they like you- you would never date because you realise its more than about losing your virginity or being attracted to them physically. But I think that’s just part of growing up. I wouldn’t have listened to my own advice probably so…
She obviously has the motivation to lose weight but maybe try to get her to come up with other reasons that are more personal (she must have them – wanting to shop/fit into clothes she likes for eg….getting into a sport she has always wanted to try?) women much older than her have trouble with self-esteem and its a journey so you probably won’t change her mind instantly that male attention isn’t enough but if she starts getting on the track of focusing on herself that’s a good start.

JC November 11, 2014 - 2:26 PM

I remember being that age and going through the exact same thing. And it doesn’t get easier being that weight as a young adult. I am a product of that. I have yo-yo dieted so much that now its extremely hard to lose the weight. My mom, being overweight herself, did not really restrict what I ate and I tended to eat a lot and me just working out was not enough to get the weight off. It wasn’t until I had someone close to me die suddenly that woke me up to want to change and get healthy but like her, I was more focused on the rewards of being small for society’s sake rather than the rewards of being small for my sake. I too, dreamed to be the girl that every guy noticed, every girl wanted to be, and have a relationship and I would hate myself, basically destroy myself for being overweight. Even now, at 22, I am still fighting this battle of accepting myself and losing the weight for me versus for other people. I once lost over 60 pounds but it didn’t stay because I wasn’t ready mentally.

My ultimate advice to this young lady would be to accept that you are this weight, take it in, get everything you’ve ever felt bad about yourself out, cry if it helps and then never look back at the negative again if you can help it and focus on the positive in your life, focus on what you are as a person and what you can become. Focus on the fact that you have your whole life ahead of you and have infinite possibilities. It might be hard to control what you eat or how active you are, but if you really want to change it starts from within, as cliche as that might sound but its true.

I fought it all my life and now the more I accept myself the more my outer beauty is starting to show without me having to lose that much weight. It will take time, it might take years like me to get to a point where if you see a person look at you in disgust or you see your girlfriends with their boyfriends, it makes you want to tear up but then you realize that the only two voices or the only two things that matter truly matter is the voice you hear every second of the day—yours and Gods. Ignore both (which we tend to do when we struggle in general), and self-doubt takes over. We have to learn to listen to these two things more than anything else. When we look to outside things, we only receive things on a very basic level. And how can we truly love or be okay with ourselves if we don’t even listen to ourselves and especially to God.

Her main problem as well as mines and others who go through this same struggle is not weight really as much as it is not listening to what we really feel inside and only going off what we receive or look to from the outside world. Once we come to terms with what is, then we can focus on what can be.

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