I know you didn’t mean to call me gross when you grabbed your non-existent gut and exclaimed how disgusting you were, but you, a current skinny girl, were standing right next to me, a former one.
If I had to objectively assess myself I would say I am medium build and somewhat athletic, since I am hitting the gym, seeing a personal trainer, and finally putting some tone back on my body. So, this letter is not from someone who is morbidly obese or might be considered overweight by others, but according to what my scale says, and according to what my personal trainer has been paid to tell me, I’m technically overweight.
I have struggled with my body image for years, even when I was a size 0 and could stuff my face with cookies and chicken nuggets for dinner on a regular basis if I had wanted. Now, reaching my mid-thirties and coming to terms with my altered metabolism, even while eating regimented salads, burgers with no bun, quinoa, zucchini pasta, and lean chicken, I can’t seem to win. I probably workout approximately four to five times a week and have hardly seen results. I don’t buy bread anymore, I choose salmon over pasta, and make spinach and kale smoothies nearly every morning.
Most people do not mean to hurt the feelings of others when talking about their own bodies, but it happens. I am not writing to call someone out on bullying; I am writing because I used to be her: the skinny girl with maybe two ounces of fat on her body, who complained about her looks to garner the attention of those around her.
People who are unhappy with their bodies don’t go around lifting their shirts up to show their flesh. We are the ones in the corner quietly shaming ourselves for being pieces of garbage and thinking about how we should not have indulged in that slice of pizza, placing unrealistic and undoubtedly harsh expectations on ourselves.
I don’t want to be taunted by my guy friends, asking where my six-pack is (which is rock-solid and hiding under a small layer, by the way), and I don’t want to be the invisible female in the room, because the tinier, more fit one is standing a couple of feet away.
I realize that someone commenting on my body when I didn’t ask them to is not my fault, and I no longer have this strong desire to caper around men, begging for attention. I just don’t. Some of it might be because I have some extra weight I don’t feel comfortable with, but mostly, it’s because I realize who I used to be, and I don’t like that person.
I used to be that girl who saw something in a magazine and knew if I bought it, it would almost always look the same way on me.
I was that girl who felt uncomfortable when I was around people who legitimately complained about their weight, because I knew I was a poser only seeking attention. Trust me, I had body issues even when I was 105 lbs, but my weight problem has changed from a mental one to an actual physical one.
When I was in my twenties, my fiancé at the time referred to me as a “miniature supermodel”, because I was only 5’2” instead of 5’9”, yet perfectly proportioned. He also happened to control what I wore fairly often. I couldn’t wear short shorts, and I wasn’t allowed to show off my legs in tiny dresses.
Within a year or two of when we broke up, I began to put on weight. There’s a part of me that still feels animosity that I couldn’t “show it off” when I had the chance. The only thing I get to show off these days is my cleavage, because one of the benefits of gaining weight is that I grew two cup sizes.
I have this interesting perspective about my weight gain, because I haven’t had this issue my whole life. Until I turned 30, I was nearly too thin, by no fault of my own; it was just my genetics. I see the girls around me who are like this, and may stay like this, and think about how I was so insensitive to others’ feelings with the way I acted around men and the way I talked about my own body.
For that, I openly apologize.
It’s not fun to be on the other side.
And I know, even as I write this, there is someone else out there possibly reading who is struggling a lot harder than me. I can’t change the way our bodies look, but I can give you the silent nod and the verbal reassurance that even if you aren’t content with your appearance, there are so many people out there who think you are drop-dead gorgeous. And, naturally, you should think so, too, but as is clearly evident by this letter, we can’t always control our emotions or negative thoughts.
I don’t think I’ll ever be a size 0 again, and my choice to work on my weight is solely mine, not to be judged by how anyone else treats their body, but even if I do lose some weight, what I will never lose is the humility I gained in understanding what a huge impact a few innocent words have on those around us.
A girl continually learning compassion