I won’t lie, this might be the hardest thing for me to admit, but I’m going to say it because I know I am not the only one that fights this. It’s no secret that women and young girls struggle with their body image. I’m not saying this for all women, but for quite a large amount, food and society combined have become the number one enemy.
When I was growing up, I was not thin as little girls normally are. I had a belly, and I relied heavily on food to comfort me when I felt that nobody else would. One day, I was told that I would have increasing problems with people teasing me as I grew up and went into high school if I didn’t do something about it; and thereon sparked something within me. That summer I probably dropped a good ten or fifteen pounds, eating minimal amounts, and weighing myself every few days combined with exercise. It worked wonders, and suddenly I was addicted to the results; the way my pants were loose and the new way people looked at me when I started school that year. I felt like I had finally escaped some ugly shell I had been stuck in for years on end.
But this was so problematic, all of the positive attention from weight loss that is, because I didn’t realize that this would stick with me for an unbearable amount of time. You don’t suddenly outgrow habits you developed as a kid, it takes time and a conscious effort, and that mixed with that beautiful feeling of what thin is…it’s dangerous. That with comments, good and bad. “You’re so tiny!” The one that makes me especially uncomfortable, and somewhat flattered. “I never realized how wide your hips are”. This breaks my soul every time I hear it.
Here I am. Almost twenty three years old, and I still struggle day to day with my eating habits. My weight has fluctuated from that weird ten to fifteen pound window the past few years since I started college. When I was eighteen, I gained that freshman fifteen and held onto it for a while not realizing it. 5’1 at about 126 pounds. At twenty one starting at a new school that required a surprising amount of walking for such a small campus, I lost about sixteen pounds, somewhat on purpose. Now, at 110 and still about 5’1, I’ve developed a “comfort weight”. Anything over that makes me afraid and not eat dinner, anything under being an accomplishment.
Days will go by that I will survive on small amounts being toast in the morning, a granola bar and some mini rice cakes in the afternoon, maybe some yogurt towards late day, and going to bed hungry on purpose. Other days it’s that plus anything I can get my hands on; doughnuts, candy, ice cream, plus whatever someone offers me for dinner. I eat consciously adding calorie amounts in my head, but still continue to eat large amounts while feeling guilty and making jokes out loud to the people who notice. “You can eat anything, where do you put it?” people say. And then the cycle starts over again.
My habits aren’t life-threatening, they are not an alarm by any means. Other people reading this probably know what I’m talking about. So why am I even mentioning it? Words. Nobody realizes that yes, media has been the worst when it comes to body image, for both women and men too, but have we also forgotten that just in a moment what comes out of our mouths can make or break someone? Words were what had started it all for me. And I’m not saying that I’m not appreciative for someone caring enough to say something when I was younger. It more than likely did save me from health problems I’d probably have in the future if I let it get out of hand. I am referring to the backlash off of it. We talk about bodies as if they’re disposable objects; a phone case, a shirt, a pair of shoes. All things shiny and new in the beginning, and the more they’re used the less worth they have. Let’s start talking about bodies the way we talk about architecture. Hell, let’s start treating bodies like architecture. You’re given one body, and so isn’t everyone else. Let’s not forget that.
I have stretch-marks in certain spots. Mild cellulite in others, scars from my lowest points. I stare at it and hate every inch of it. But I’m trying to end the battle with myself, the one where I raise the white flag and stop hating what I see, and start building a barrier from the hurtful comments others give. Words are everything. What you say, you may not realize is written on the inside of someone’s mind. Don’t forget that.