*trigger warning* – anorexia nervosa, hypergymnasia
“Skinny Minnie.” “Bony.” “Scrawny.” “Long and lanky.”
When I was a child, I was naturally thin. I was a dancer, and even when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism at 13, I was told I had all the symptoms of hypothyroidism but that I was skinny, so it couldn’t be that. I hated being called skinny, because I didn’t want people to talk about my body. I didn’t like it, and I didn’t feel comfortable with it, and it annoyed me. Beyond that, though, comments from family were the only time that my weight came to my mind. I was tall, thin and pretty much always wore the same sized clothing. I developed to a ridiculous bust size as a teen, and my “girls” have stayed in the middle of the alphabet ever since.
Fast forward to 2012 – I had given birth to two kids, two years apart, and had gained weight. I had developed a “muffin top” over my jeans, but the thing that bothered me the most was that I could not push a toddler and two preschoolers around Disneyland in a stroller without being completely out of breath. I decided that I would take up running, as a friend of mine was doing it, and it seemed like an efficient way to improve my cardiovascular health. I downloaded the Couch to 5K app on my phone, dropped my daughter off at preschool, strapped my son in the stroller and started. It was hard, but good. I enjoyed it after a while.
In March of 2012, my beloved Grampa was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, which has one of the highest mortality rates of all cancers. I was not enjoying being a stay at home mom, because I was just not that keen to crawl through jungle gyms. I did not care about the things the other stay at home moms seemed to care about. I wasn’t in a race to make sure that my kids could beat other kids at anything. I was depressed, stressed and terrified. I felt that I had no control over my life. I could not be with my Grampa as much as I wanted to be, because I had to get the kids home for nap time. My IBS and anxiety was completely out of control. So I pushed myself harder and ran twice a day. The I ran AND did workout videos in my living room. Then I downloaded MyFitnessPal and tracked every calorie in and every calorie out. I joined fitness challenges. I began to lose weight. I was told that I looked so good, and I felt proud that I was shrinking back to my pre-baby size. I became obsessed with how thin I was. I didn’t even really care how I looked, my goal became to shrink and shrink and disappear.
I didn’t want to face my imminent loss, so I traded feelings for running, and sit ups. Eventually, my weight loss plateaued and I began to obsess about what I ate. I was suffering severe IBS, remember, so I tried to only eat things that wouldn’t bother my gastrointestinal tract. I was suffering from gallstones, and told to eat less fat, until my gallbladder was removed so that I would not suffer a painful attack. I took this to the extreme – I began to live off of broth, low fat peanut butter, bananas and rice cakes. Literally. I had next to nothing else in my diet. I was light headed, irritable, shaky, and confused most of the time. But I didn’t see it this way. After therapy, and years of medication, I know that this was my way to control my panic and unhappiness. My life felt out of control, but I had absolute control over the amount that my hip bones stuck out in my jeans or how deep my clavicle was. I was deep into an eating disorder that I could not admit that I had when I had a sushi dinner with my family and my brother and sister, in a rare act of solidarity, disdained my “meal” of 2 pieces of nigiri, with a huge bottle of water. They told me that I was too skinny, and why was I not eating anything. I became defensive and told them that I was full and had too many food intolerances to enjoy food. My brother asked me what I could eat and when I told him only rice cakes and peanut butter, they angrily told me that there was nothing in that. I was angry and panicky, because I did not want to admit to anyone, let alone myself, that I was not eating anything. I did what I used to do anytime things started to stress me out – I angrily gathered my kids and said I was leaving because I wasn’t going to be judged about my food.
They did not bring up my food intake after that, as we all had bigger things to worry about, as our Grampa began to lose his battle with Pancreatic Cancer, but I felt self-conscious every time I had to eat in front of my family. My family bent over backwards to accommodate my food intolerances, in order to reduce the stress of family meals. But I kept shrinking. After my gallbladder surgery, I lived off of vegetable broth, bananas and coffee. I continued to shrink. People told me how great I looked. Except for my family. My aunt told me that I needed to stop losing weight because my cheeks were sunken. My family told me that maybe I was getting too skinny. I was offended, but as I had done nothing to handle my anxiety, stress or fear, and I still felt that my life was completely out of control, I kept losing weight. At 5’11”, my lowest weight was 146lbs, and I would justify this by saying that I was at the low end of a Normal Body Mass Index spectrum, and therefor, I was fine.
I was not fine. I was disappearing. I had lost my sense of self, I had lost my desire or ability to focus on reading. I spent my spare time exercising, or talking about exercising, or talking about food, or focusing on which parts of my body still required “fixing”. I negatively compared myself other people as motivation, and positively compared myself to other people to make myself feel better. I was unhealthy. My mental health was abysmal. I was so depressed that I could not even cry. I felt numb.
Then my Grampa passed away. In 2013, my heart was shattered, and I felt even more numb. I could barely function. I was tired, I could not sleep. I was hungry, but would not eat. I just fell apart. In June 2013, my body took control back from me, by spinning into my ultimate diagnosis of Fibromyalgia almost a year later. As I worked on becoming healthy, I gained weight. Different medications that were attempted to figure out how to stop my pain, one of which caused me to gain 15lbs in one week. A friend of mine at the time told me that she would rather stay sick than to gain “that much weight” in one week. I felt ashamed and “fat”, but as the scale crept up, and the doctors ultimately figured out what was going on, I felt happier and healthier and learned to no longer attach my sense of well being with the ability to take up as little space as possible.
I am no longer “skinny Minnie” and have been referred to as a “bigger girl”, but I am right back to where I was as a little girl – I don’t think about my body. I am happy, and I am annoyed when people comment on my body, because I am not interested in discussing it. I will not lie and tell you that I never look in the mirror and don’t have a moment of pain thinking about being 65 lbs lighter, but I now I acknowledge the pain, accept that I am who I am, and know that it is more important to me to be healthy than to be “long and lanky.” I am proud to use the word “fat” as a descriptor rather than as a form of self flagellation. I am happy to see women celebrate their bodies no matter what the size, but more than anything, I am so proud to see others overcome disordered eating, and I am happy to be a recovering anorexic and hypergymnastic. I am grateful, and I refuse to shrink and disappear again.