At the weekend I saw a video where a girl gained weight to the point she was a size twelve, and she described herself as ‘horrifically obese, awfully unattractive.’ This was so upsetting to me, and got me thinking of my own experiences with eating and body image. I have always ducked between a size twelve and a fourteen, and I’ve always considered my body type to be a little chubby, but still, a bit normal, a bit average. But over the years, my body size has been declared as so many negative words and phrases that I began to rate it’s worth based on the opinions of others, who wear other skin and have different body types. For years, I suffered with an eating disorder because of bullies. I was bullied relentlessly in high school, by different groups. Even these girls now, to this day, will say this wasn’t bullying and ‘just a bit of fun’, but their games and their entertainment made me suicidal, and for four whole years I starved myself.
I didn’t just starve myself of food, I starved myself of self love and happiness, studying became my fun because I could lose myself in it. I pushed myself to gain control, and part of this was to not eat. From year 8 to year 11, I ate one small meal a day. If it didn’t have vegetables, I would seldom touch it. I drank only water, and after a few months, I went from a size fourteen to a size twelve, then a few months after, to a size ten. I was praised, celebrated and soon the girls that bullied me wanted to be my friends. They were nice to me, they respected me. At the time, I was grateful for this, but looking back it makes me feel sick. I had to shrink through agony to be respected, I had to put myself through emotional and physical turmoil to feel pain free. I decided to not be nasty to myself anymore, and eventually plucked up the courage to eat three meals a day, and I felt guilty for that. At the back of my head was calories, fats, nutrition info. It was such a struggle, and nobody really realised how difficult it was for me because they didn’t notice I was in recovery- my bones weren’t showing, I wasn’t thin, so in their eyes, I couldn’t be anorexic. But I hated myself every time I ate. I started gaining weight, and soon I was back at a size fourteen again. My body type was never on films, I would never be the Princess or the Hero at the size I was. My family noticed when I wasn’t eating normally now, so my new thing became ‘I’m scared of food poisoning’ when I tore my food apart to scrape it to another side of the plate. When I started making myself be sick, I convinced myself it was because I was scared of getting food poisoning, but deep down I knew the truth- I had relapsed in a new and dangerous way.
Things did get better- I went to a new environment, I made new friends and broke up with a toxic person, and I became focused on health. I haven’t starved myself since 2016, but I do still have triggers and I do find it difficult. If waitresses are too pushy, or if I can smell fried food, I feel like I am too smothered to eat. If somebody isn’t eating when I am, I feel like I am eating a whole lot more than a ‘normal’ amount so I will feel less deserving of that. It’s triggers that can be that simple, that will probably stay with me for a lifetime but they make me so anxious and upset and food anxiety is real regardless of who you are and what your body type is. When I started to talk about my own experiences, the most common reaction I got was, ‘but you’re not skinny?’ and it made my experience feel invalidated. Despite going through so much trauma, it was decided for me that in my personal battle to be skinny, I wasn’t skinny enough to get help or be taken seriously.
Body Positivity is rife now, and I’m so glad it is but the movement can be so toxic. There is a thing called ‘Thin Privilege’ and I’m not saying that people who are thin don’t have body issues or can experience the same things, because they totally can. But their body types will always be more accepted even when genetically it is not possible for everybody to be slender. By celebrating different types of bodies, it doesn’t make us promote obesity or promote unhealthy bodies like some say, but it allows us to end stigma’s that everyone is unhealthy who is big. It allows us to share our struggles about being a little bit chunky. It allows us to discuss mental health issues that come with body image for everyone, not just ideal body types. I remember in 2017, being plus size became a trend but only if it was in the butt and thighs. Stomachs, arms, backs were not on the trend list and it created further insecurity- at the end of the day with Body Positivity, we need to be talking about the fact bodies are worn like clothes- we change it up based on what is perceived as fashionable, but actually, we have one body that we should cherish and look after for our whole life- and we should love it regardless of it’s flaws and what it can or cannot do. It’s about respecting, loving and treating yourself with the same compassion and energy you would treat somebody else with.