In middle school, I wasn’t healthy. In much of high school, I wasn’t healthy. I could count my ribs through my shirt and my cheekbones and elbows were often the first thing people noticed about me. Bruises spotted my legs because I had no fat to protect them. My brother would call me dinosaur because my spine was so pointy. My weight became a big part of my life.
Why was I thin? There isn’t one solid reason.
I’ve been a picky eater my whole life. I never ate too much, so over time my stomach got used to feeling full even when I could have eaten a lot more. I began working with a nutritionist who taught me how to grow my calorie intake. During high school I would be late to some of my classes because I’d have to go to the health center and drink a milkshake. I kept track of what I ate every day, and made meal plans for the week. I wanted to gain weight. I wanted to be healthy.
It wasn’t right away that I started to get comments. I’ve always been thin, and I guess people were used to that. But as I got smaller and smaller, people began to talk. Gaining weight soon became not only a battle to get my health back, but a battle to love myself despite the things people were saying.
“You’re so skinny!”
“You’re like a stick.”
“Eat a hamburger.”
“I don’t want to hug you, I’ll break you!”
I heard those things far too many times.
I think a lot of people think that calling someone skinny is a compliment. To me, it’s unnecessary. If I was trying to lose weight and become healthy that way, I could see where someone would appreciate the occasional comment telling them they look thinner. But I have been thin all my life; I was not trying to lose weight. I did not look good, so I knew when people told me I was skinny, it was not a compliment. I looked unwell.
For years I chuckled along when people would point out my appearance. I shrugged their comments off and kept pushing myself to gain weight. People started to see if they could fit their hand around my upper arm, and they would grab my wrists or touch my bruises. It all was beginning to be too much for me to shrug off.
I was good at holding it in; I thought it would be better to brush it off rather than tell all of the people who say these things that I actually don’t appreciate their words, that I don’t like being grabbed and touched, that I think their comments are rude and not needed. I let it go in one ear and out the other.
But then I heard something that I was not willing to hear anymore.
“Are you anorexic?”
Even as I type those words, I cannot begin to comprehend why or how someone would piece together that question and ask it to someone they met just minutes before. I do not understand why people think that it’s okay to say something like that.
I am not anorexic. My weight or appearance does not determine whether or not I have a mental disorder. Not all underweight people are anorexic. Not all average weight people are excluded from having anorexia.
I still get comments about my weight, even today. I weigh 52 pounds more than I did when I first saw my nutritionist. Looking at me today, you wouldn’t be able to tell that I used to be so unhealthy. Yet still, people choose to comment on how I look. The only difference is, today, I speak up.
If you point out my ribs, wrap your hand around my wrist, tell me to eat more, ask me what I weigh, tell me I’m too skinny, or ask me, or anyone else, if we are anorexic, I will say something. I have no problem letting people know that their comments are not compliments and they aren’t needed or wanted. I have no shame in showing people pictures of what I used to look like, or explaining why I used to be the way I was. I’m now willing to educate people rather that brush off the things they say that used to impact me so much.
My weight was down, and people tore my confidence down. I learned how to gain weight, and now I’m learning to love myself again. Say what you want about how I look, but I’ll keep fighting.