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The Skinny Thing

When we’re in middle school we all sat out of gym for a quarter here or there to attend Health class. What a useless class if you ask me…

We sit and we learn that smoking is bad. Alcohol is bad. We label female and male parts but are basically told just not to have sex. We talk about obesity and body image and how serious anorexia and bulimia are. Really, at least in my experience, we watched the Super Size Me documentary and called it a day.

That class held so much potential and could use a bit of a revamp.

Because he we are, I’m 21 years old and I have to defend my weight.

My weight is the subject of thousands of conversations that I NEVER signed up for.

This past week, a post went viral basically saying that in the name of mental health and those who struggle with body image, we need to stop sharing our fitness journeys. We never should post our before and after weight loss pictures. Ever. That’s something that is now considered out of line. Because apparently we’re fat shaming and saying that everyone needs to lose weight blah blah blah.

I’m going to ignore the fact that our obesity rates have soared in our country, because to be honest, that isn’t what this is about.

This is about the slightly pudgy version of me that ate her weight in cheddar flavored goldfish and spent her sophomore year of high school hiding out in oversized sweatshirts and sweatpants because I was so incredibly uncomfortable with myself.

This is about the girl who after suffering a knee injury stopped being able to work out and was relying on kale smoothies and odd weight loss pills to feel a tad better about herself.

I remember very vividly after finally finding a workout regime, the comments started.

My weight didn’t change very dramatically, but my eating habits did.

People used to be in shock when they’d see how much this tiny human could eat. It was very regular for people to say that I ate like one of the football players. 2 calzones and a baked potato for lunch? Sure. The entire All-Star Special at Waffle House, and then an entire second one? Absolutely.

But, I spent my entire day on my feet. I was constantly moving. Between waitressing and managing the school store and hauling inventory, I never stopped. And when I did, I needed a ton of food.

This picture, I was in the best shape of my life. Every ounce of me was toned, I was happy with how I looked and I was completely comfortable taking pictures on a boat in my swimsuit like every other teenager did on the 4th of July.

I can vividly remember within a few days of this photo, being out at the beach with a few of the football players and after a long day, we all stopped at one of the local restaurants. We joked about who could eat their pile of food the quickest, betting that there was truly no way I could finish the ginormous burger that was in front of me. Needless to say, I won that bet and also finished off my friend’s nachos.

That was my life. I ate a TON. But I never stopped moving and I worked out.

Then within another week or so, my in and out visits to the ER and my nonstop doctors appointments started.

I started at Clemson surrounded by so many seemingly normal college kids. By October, I could count my ribs through a thick sweatshirt.

I remember vividly pushing around the teriyaki chicken and rice I’d make for dinner each night, knowing half the time I’d be too sick to eat it. I remember leaving my friends dorms to run home and get sick. I remember avoiding meal times, because how could I sit with my boyfriend at the time and all his friends and just push food around my plate.

For over 2 months the most substantial things I could eat were peanut butter cliff bars and oatmeal.

I had no clue it was my migraine doing all of this.

December came and I went home. I spent the next 10 months force feeding myself. Doing everything in my power to eat even when it seemed impossible. And it worked to an extent. By the following October (2017) I was back at a healthy weight.

But, the second I got there, all I could sense in the back of my mind was how I was getting bad again. How my body was rejecting everything I put into it.

It’s been two years now, and I still fight every single day to eat and to stay above my healthy weight because back in December when I was at Clemson, I could have died. My organs weren’t even close to functioning properly.

And yet, everywhere I turn, I am shamed for how I look.

I no longer can eat as much, so I don’t have the “you eat like a football player” comments anymore, but there’s always a comment. Or a concerned restaurant server questioning if I wanted to order something different because my food hasn’t been touched.

I was in a really great place a few weeks ago and shared a photo asking people to help keep me accountable because I wanted to work towards getting my abs back.

I was condemned for being so skinny. I was in the wrong. Me having a fitness goal as an underweight individual didn’t matter and wasn’t valid because of those individuals who decided that my sharing my goal, meant they had to live up to that standard. But, what standard is that?

To me, it’s being at a point where I’m not constantly worrying about needing to be put in the hospital and pumped full of fluids and nutrients…

My best friend understands. My mom understands. We’re all tiny and we’re tiny for lots of reasons, mostly health related.

Skinny shaming is all over the place.

“You’re a toothpick, why do you not gain weight”

“We’ll feed you right so you can look like a normal adult”

“You look so unhealthy, skinny isn’t in anymore. Guys want girls with more weight now”

It’s simply not going out with your friends, because you aren’t comfortable with how much smaller your portion sizes are and feeling like you constantly have wandering eyes judging how much food you eat.

My personal favorite comments come from my nurses.

SO YES NURSES READING THIS LEARN A THING OR TWO BECAUSE ONE DAY I WON’T BE POLITE IN MY RESPONSE TO YOU.

I spend thousands of hours at doctors appointments.

I couldn’t pick one where the subject of my weight wasn’t the immediate conversation for 5 to 10 minutes after I start walking towards the scale.

Just two days ago, my doctor was walking down the hall as I was approaching the scale and he looked at his nurse and said “You know she’s just so tiny, neither one of us will ever be lucky enough to look that good again.” And the nurse chuckled back. As we got into the room, I was thrilled to see I was two pounds heavier than my “safe” weight. And the nurse just kept going on and on about how she used to be tiny and she’ll never be able to lose weight. And I sat there and tried to bite my tongue. Tried to say how happy I was to see I was finally above my healthy weight.

Now you see, if this was an isolated incident, I probably wouldn’t care.

But I’m at the doctors almost every week, sometimes multiple times.

This week I had literally force fed myself through the nausea and was holding on to the goddamn wall walking towards her stupid scale only to be met IMMEDIATELY with how goddamn lucky I was to be so goddamn small and so goddamn young. lucky. 

And never once, has the doctors or nurses extended the conversation about my weight to include sending me to a dietitian to “gain” weight.

So, in my humble opinion, if it isn’t what I’m here for, how dare you fucking speak on it.

Weight shouldn’t be such a topic of conversation and people shouldn’t be so comfortable commenting on it.

When my best friend is making polite conversation at the bar while she’s pouring a glass of wine, she shouldn’t be lectured on what vitamins she needs to be taking. She shouldn’t be called out in front of another patron regarding how skinny her arms are or how she hasn’t been putting on weight the way this patron had expected.

And at that same bar, I shouldn’t be lectured and called anorexic because I ordered the wrong menu item and was starting to feel a tad nauseous. I shouldn’t be told that “oh you’re going to end up just like her if you don’t learn to eat”…

Personally, I’m thankful that over the last year I’ve learned which foods I can tolerate enough to shove down my throat. I’m thankful that I’ve accepted that even if I’m absolutely dying on the couch, it doesn’t matter, if it’s meal time I 100% WILL eat. Even when my jaw feels like its on fire. Even when I know the light in the kitchen will be excruciating, but eating is more important.

My best friend has found a combination of medicines and vitamins that keep her at a healthy and stable weight.

Neither one of us needs a constant reminder of how thin we are. And neither one of us should be shamed by the rest of the population for celebrating when we do get to our goal weights.

So many people struggle to lose weight. So many people don’t understand how people can stay skinny. But those people, they refuse to acknowledge that we aren’t “naturally” skinny. We battle our health issues every second of every day. And our health issues aren’t any less because they cause us to lose weight rather than gain it.

We can be doing amazing for a few months, and something as simple as food poisoning or the flu will set us back and wipe out an entire year’s worth of progress.

And people CONGRATULATE us when that happens.

People can’t help but express how much they wish they’d catch the flu and lose a few pounds.

We’re women. Women who are fighting for our lives. Women who have bad days and good days, but because our “good days” look like other peoples “goals” we aren’t allowed to celebrate them.

And as women, we’re sexualized in every aspect.

It started years ago when the model shifted to have a more open view of what a women’s body looked like. Suddenly Victoria’s Secret models weren’t the “goal” that women or men wanted when it came to their women.

Curves and love handles became widely accepted. As they should, because our weight shouldn’t define our beauty.

But with this acceptance and this empowerment of women, has come the complete shame that exists and is projected onto the petite population.

I’ve cried when my XS leggings from Charlotte Russe were too big for me. But I can’t express that. Because I’m supposed to be thankful.

I’m supposed to be thankful for a part of my existence that has tried to kill me multiple times.

I’m supposed to be thankful for my stomach that spends more time rejecting the food and nutrients I give it than it does absorbing them.

I’m supposed to be thankful.

I’m not.

My clothes don’t fit. I can’t even go out to eat because of how much my body hates food.

I know I’m skinny.

It makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Yet, in leaving my house, someone is bound to point it out. And unfortunately, that isn’t bound to change any time soon.

A.

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