DEAR ABBY: I am 11 years old. My family keeps telling me I am gaunt and too thin. I think I am fat -– way fat. From my point of view, I have an enormous stomach, big legs, and I weigh and eat too much. My parents' view is, "Where'd she go?"
Doctors tell me to eat more, but I won't eat junk food, and even "normal food" to me is fattening. People tell me I am underweight, but I know I'm gaining. I want to look like all my thin friends. People say I'm even thinner, but to me I am bulging out. I'm afraid boys won't like me. My father said I should tell you that I'm 4 feet 11 inches tall and I weigh 80 pounds. What's the truth? -– ROXIE IN BILOXI
DEAR ROXIE: At 4 feet 11 inches and 80 pounds you are NOT overweight. You have become so preoccupied with being thin that you no longer have a realistic view of yourself.
You say you want to be thin like your friends and are afraid boys won't like you if you're not. Well, I have news for you –- every man I have ever talked to about "beauty" has told me he doesn't like girls who are too thin. Quote: "I like a little 'meat' distributed over those bones." Get the message?
There is a difference between being fat and being fit. Fitness is healthy, glowing and attractive. Thinness is not fitness, nor is it necessarily healthy or attractive. If you diet to the point of being skinny, you can make yourself sick. There is a name for it: anorexia.
Your parents are looking out for your best interests, and so are your doctors. Please listen to them. If you don't, the results could be life-threatening. A person does not have to be "the thinnest" in order to be accepted or considered attractive. And THAT'S the truth.
DEAR ABBY: The letters about the doctors who had themselves paged repeatedly to advertise themselves reminded me of my student days when I worked part time in a health clinic. Every morning, I would hear a "Dr. Duncan" being asked to report to the lobby. I had never heard of a doctor by that name working there.
I finally found out that "Dr. Duncan" was clinic "code" to let everyone who had time to take a break know that the snack truck had arrived at the back entrance. That explained why coffee and doughnuts would suddenly appear all over the building after the message. Duncan ... doughnuts ... get it? –- A VERMONT M.D.
DEAR M.D.: Got it! That letter struck a chord with another healer. Read one:
DEAR ABBY: I am a retired physician from a town in northeastern Ohio. When I was a lad, I delivered groceries to an elderly physician's family. He lived and practiced until he was in advanced age, probably 80 or so. (But that's another story.)
Legend had it when he first came to town as a young man, to try to drum up business, he'd occasionally get his horse and buggy out of the barn and, after a hurried run through the main streets, return home. People thought that he was very busy for a young doctor, and it made a great impression. -– OHIO DOCTOR
DEAR OHIO DOCTOR: Whether or not it worked, it was certainly worth a shot. Through the years –- from using ponies to pagers -– doctors have found ways to make names for themselves.
CONFIDENTIAL TO MY ASIAN READERS: Tomorrow begins the year of the horse, so I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year: "Gung Hay Fat Choy," "Kung Hsi Fa Tsai," "Kung Ho Hsin Hsi," "Hsin Nien Kuai Le," "San Ni Fei Lo" and "Chuc Mung Nam Moi."
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
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