Health & Fitness: Childhood and Teen Self-Image and Food Relationships

Image Issues in Childhood & Teen Years

I’ve been going back and forth about whether I was going to post about my health and fitness journey on the blog. It is such a personal and, often, frustrating part of my life. But, I figured that posting about my journey may do one or all of three things:

  1. Let someone else know they aren’t alone
  2. Motivate me to do better and stay on the right track
  3. Show a real-life (non fitness/health food guru’s) health and fitness journey.

This series will cover my image issues and fitness journey. I am beginning in my childhood and teen years and traveling up to adulthood. I feel that many of my food issues and my self-image realities stems directly from my childhood and teen self-image and food relationships. I will still be posting recipes as per usual… I’ll just start including some of my healthier meals in addition to my butter and pie loving posts. I’ve had weight and body issues my entire life, so I am pretty much aware of what I am doing right and wrong and when I am doing it. I am a strong believer in EVERYTHING in moderation. This view is not shared by everyone, but it is what I’ve found works for me (when I stick with it!).

In addition to writing about my journey of a healthy self-image and life I am writing a 6-week fitness series. I’d love for you to visit and read about my fitness journey. I received membership to East Side Athletic Club  in exchange for work I’m doing on their website and am telling my fitness story on their blog. I’d love to hear what you think of it!

Childhood and Teen Body Issues

Image Issues in Childhood & Teen Years
Me in my Sophomore year of high school. At this time I was a size 6 (US) approximately 115 lbs and thought I was overweight.

I was a tall, lanky adolescent. Mainly I was ALL limbs. I played softball (though, I hated running) and enjoyed chasing after all the boys on the playground when I was in elementary school.

However, after elementary school I stopped playing sports and started becoming more and more studious. I was often found with a book in my hands or in front of a computer chatting with friends or creating HTML websites. You might have called me a nerd. (Some still do!)

The lack of activity in addition to puberty made me gain weight. I was taller than a lot of the girls. My feet were larger. I felt awkward all the time. And, while, looking back, I was thin and still quite lanky— I felt FAT. Though I had a flat belly and long limbs… I wore shorts and baggy t-shirts over my bathing suit. I slouched when I walked. I covered my waist with my arms when I sat. The me I saw in the mirror made me sad.

One story that often comes to mind from this time in my life was, of course, one where I was trying to impress a guy. I was at a summer camp leaving the cafeteria with friends. I had a donut and a cup of yogurt in my hands. The guy I had eyes for was walking towards me and my group of friends. In a flash I threw the donut into a bush and sucked in my (non-existent) belly.

I look back now and wish I had appreciated my body more. I was thin! I was agile! I was YOUNG!

Image Issues
At prom my sophomore year with my besties— Jamie (left) and Stacey (right).

Binge and Starve: My Circumstances Shaped My Food Relationship

My food issues stemmed from a lot of different places. First, my grandmother was very overweight and suffered from diabetes. I had to learn how to give her injections just in case her blood sugar levels dropped. I feared that future more than anything. Second, we were very poor. We were the kids that had free school breakfasts and lunches due to income…. and, we wanted to go to school because we knew we would get two full meals in the day. Sometimes our pantries only held white bread and peanut butter.

So, while I feared getting fat… I also ached for food. This often led to overeating when food was plentiful and letting myself go hungry when food was scarse. I often would get stomach issues and cramps that sent me to the restroom for long periods of time daily. I began to love the taste of PeptoBismol. Food was my savior and enemy over and over again.

Food and Body Awareness: The Role of Adults

I had wonderful, loving role models. They never called me fat or belittled me. They tried getting me access to healthy and plentiful food. They did their best But, they were not the best role models for what to eat or how to take care of the body. The adults in my life at the time didn’t know the best ways to approach food and body issues.

I don’t want my son to have the relationship with food that I had. I want him to get to enjoy his food and see how it can nourish the body. I want him to be able to enjoy the way rich, wonderfully prepared food can taste. But, I also want him to learn that those items are not for the everyday.

I know that my example is going to be the most distinct way that he will learn about food. I hope to provide a good example so that his childhood and teen years don’t resemble my own. I also plan on actually talking about food and nutrition as he grows older.


Body Image Issues
My senior photo— cheesy as all get out— but, looking back I think I looked great!

Did you have issues with your food relationship when you were a child/teen? How do you plan on teaching your children about food?

Thank you for reading about my health & fitness journey. To read about my current fitness goals please check out my post over on East Side Athletic Club’s brand new blog. I’d love your support as I work on getting healthier!

** I received membership in exchange for my work with East Side Athletic Club. I did not receive further compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. **

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Jenni is a freelance writer and media assistant based in Portland, OR. A Well Crafted Party is a blog about all the little things to celebrate in life. Follow Jenni or A Well Crafted Party with BlogLovin, RSS feed, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.
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  1. Reply

    excited to follow your journey! the way i see it, you should focus on a healthy, happy life. that includes moderation and fitness 🙂 good luck!

    1. Jenni

      Thank you so much! I hope that this process helps me stick with it. I’ve been a bit of a yo-yo over the past 7 or so years.

    • Carol
    • July 9, 2013

    And what a beautiful purple dress you are wearing in your senior picture! LOL I am so very proud of you and all you have accomplished. I know that when you set your mind to something you generally achieve it! I know you can get to where you want to be! I love you!

    1. Jenni

      Haha- It was a gorgeous purple dress made by my mom! Thanks mom! 🙂 And, you’re quite the inspiration yourself losing weight over the past years and looking so fabulous!

        • Carol
        • July 10, 2013

        Perhaps when you get to where you want to be we can do before and after pictures of both of us! 🙂 I am 12 pounds from goal weight and feel better than ever!

    • alicia
    • July 9, 2013


    Thank you for sharing such personal experinces! I have to tell you, this is some of the best writing you’ve put on your blog. Keep it up, sweets!

    1. Jenni

      Thanks lady! I’ll try my best! 🙂

  2. Reply

    You are so brave to share your journey with fitness. Like many people I was in great shape in high school and got much less healthy in college and early adult hood. In some ways I was lucky because I started smoking cigarettes in college which I think helped me stay thin, but there is other damage that caused you can’t see. When I hit my late twenties and quit smoking I gained some weight and that’s when I started to get serious about exercise again.

    Good luck on your journey and if you need any help support or accountability please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

    1. Jenni

      Thank you so much and I continually go back to your site for inspiration and information!

  3. Reply

    I’m looking forward to following along with your journey! I had a bad relationship with food growing up, and I had no help at home with it. Our pantry was always stocked with Twinkies, Oreos, potato chips, hot dogs, every kind of processed food under the sun. At school, the vending machines were filled with high-fructose corn syrup-laden beverages and candy bars. I craved sugar all the time, and given the temptation that surrounded me, I couldn’t resist. Then there were the french fries and Taco Bell burritos in the cafeteria for lunch. It’s no wonder I was overweight during my teen years.

    I had to choose to be healthy on my own, and that was much easier once I was responsible for buying my own food. I’ve made a lot of small changes, but I still allow myself to eat the things I like. I’ve learned that denying my cravings leads to extreme crabbiness and worse, bingeing.

    I’m rooting for you, and I hope that you find the health that you are looking for!

    1. Jenni

      Thank you soooo much! I hope to help some people that have struggled with the same issues. But, really, this one is all about me and getting me to the healthy I need to be. I’ve done it before through diet and exercise, but it was a struggle and then I let myself fall back into bad habits. Everyone says “it is a lifestyle change” and it totally is… but, what people are forgetting is that a “lifestyle change” has to happen for LIFE. It is hard!

  4. Reply

    Good luck on your journey! I am trying as well to find my way to an overall healthier lifestyle rather than focusing specifically on my weight. Like you, I remember being in high school as slim as could be and still thinking I was overweight. If only I could back in time and smack some sense into that girl! LOL We get such distorted messages, and with women, it starts at such a young age. We never learn to appreciate the wonderful things our bodies can do.

    1. Jenni

      Thank you so much! It is so frustrating to realize that you had something that you always wished you had and you never appreciated it for what it was! Over the past couple years after the birth of my son I have been trying so hard not to take this old body for granted. It is only going to get older, saggier, wrinklier, and harder to use. Gotta be grateful for what I have now!

    • Bee
    • July 10, 2013

    I saw these pictures on your table the other day and had no idea you had this in the works! Great post–more people should talk about this sort of thing:) I’ve always struggled with weight even though mine’s always been pretty constant–didn’t stop my mom from commenting. I’m hoping to be a healthier influence on my future kids because I know what it’s like to have someone you respect call you fat.

    1. Jenni

      I think that is the MOST important thing a parent can do for their kids regarding self-image. Teach them good habits in food and exercise… but, watch WORDS. I recently read an article that was about the first time a daughter realized her mom was “fat” and her mom wasn’t fat… she just kept saying she was! I realized that it isn’t just what I am saying to my future kids about their weight and health, but also what I am saying/doing about mine. Actions often speak louder. Thanks lady!

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