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Giving You the Skinny

In Opinion/Personal, Personal, Random on November 18, 2012 at 5:27 pm

The “skinny” on a situation is defined as full disclosure.  I’m using it for double meanings here.  Get ready for it: here’s another girl post about weight.  First, I’ll address the most literal sense.  Society promotes skinny.  Thin.  Waif.  Somehow, this has become the general idea of beauty in today’s time.  People of a heavier (or healthier, if you will) body type, weight, or shape are not the ideal in our world.  To be beautiful, you have to present your skinny self to the world.

Now, in the less literal sense: the full disclosure of this whole phenomenon is that it’s crap.  Flat out BS.  As if everyone hasn’t already heard this, Marilyn Monroe was a size 12.  She had boobs, she had hips, she had a butt, she had thighs, and she had the eyes of every man.  She owned her body, as did all women back in that time.  And if a woman didn’t have that hourglass figure, the clothes created it with the cinched waists and shaped hips.  Imagine an average sized woman in the 60’s walking into a department store only to find the stick straight, spandex-esque, good-luck-eating-while-you-wear-these, super skinny jeans.

However, does the fact that this is an insane ideal stop girls from trying to achieve it? Of course not.  Teenage girls, while they think and act as if they know everything, are extremely impressionable.  Trust me, I was one once.  And here’s where I will give you the rest of the skinny – about me.  I was one of these girls.  I do not believe that I diagnosable, but I have no doubt that I was teetering on the edge of it.  I am about to do what no proper woman does – I’m going to openly discuss my weight.  Another thing that is often frowned upon is s woman discussing issues with weight management.  Let me start at the beginning.

I was always extremely skinny.  Not thin, I mean skinny.  Lanky and long limbed and uncoordinated.  Entering high school, I hadn’t even broken 100 lbs yet.  I started filling out my sophomore year.  By this time, I had grown vertically as much as I was going to at a regular 5’4″ and I weighed in at 115 lbs.  I participated in cheerleading and this led to my forming muscles, which I’d never had before on my lanky little kid body.  Did I see this as healthy and in shape?  Nope.  I saw it as fat. The really confusing thing, though, was that I didn’t think that way originally.  My sophomore year in high school was a very low time for me.  I had questionable relationships, made questionable decisions, questionable influences, questionable friends.  My mother and I were constantly at odds.   I was suffering from depression, although I wasn’t entirely sure what it was at the time and I was never diagnosed, my hindsight and knowledge of psychology/psychiatry now solidifies my believe that I could have benefited from counseling from ages 15-17.  This sadness and unexplained anger I was feeling somehow turned inward and on myself and this was when I began to be disgusted with what I was seeing in the mirror every day.  And, as many young girls do, modifying my physical appearance seemed like the logical way to fix the way I was feeling inside.

At 5’5″-ish and 115 lbs., I began to think that I was overweight.  My hips were curved and protruding.  My thighs were thick and starting to actually touch when I walked.  (Please know, I’m aware all of this is normal.  I know my thoughts were the unhealthy thing, but at that time this was my mindset.)  I thought that all I could do to fix at least something in my life would be to control my weight.  I found a tiny notebook that fit into my purse and I started writing down the calories of everything I ate.  If I chewed a piece of gum, I wrote down those 5 calories.  If I had a drink of something, I did my best to calculate the calories in that one sip.  I started doing research on the internet of effective diet plans, and then altered them to what I thought would make me lose and keep weight off faster.  I took formulas using my height, current weight, goal weight, and calories per day so that I knew exactly how many calories I could eat and how many I needed to burn to lose 3-5 lbs. a week.  Of course, all the information I found on the internet warned that losing a pound a week should be the fastest pace to remain healthy and all the formulas were geared for that, but I brushed that off.  I wasn’t thinking healthy; I was thinking skinny.  I was thinking of being in control.

But to my dismay, I continued to gain weight.  Of course, I was just forming my adult body, but I wasn’t happy about it.  I reached 120 lbs, then 125 lbs.  I continued to count calories, but I had difficulty with overeating.  I would limit my meals or skip meals altogether, then gorge myself on junk and feel absolutely miserable.  I couldn’t purge.  Gagging myself didn’t work; it was impossible for me to make myself vomit.  Now, I realize that my lack of gag reflex was a blessing because that would have led me down a very terrible path.  I could see myself very easily getting into the habit of purging daily, especially since I was regularly “slipping” on my calorie restriction or portion size.  What made it worse was that I had a friend who had started similar eating habits, so we would go in together.  At school lunches, we would get on tray to share so we would only eating half servings.  And that was on the days that we actually got a tray.  Some days we would only get a boat of fries and split that.  Some days we would only get a drink.  Some days we got nothing at all.  In addition to my limited intake, I had cheerleading practice at least twice a week and at least one game a week.  After practices, I would often go home and work out with exercise tapes for Pilates and free weights.  On days I didn’t have practice or on weekends, I would sometimes exercise twice.  I even built up a secret stash of energy supplements and appetite suppressor pills and took them regularly.  My mother found the pills or caught me taking them more than once.  I got in trouble or she would make me throw them away.  I don’t think she realized how serious I was about them or that I just went back to my friend who worked at a gas station with plenty of these types of things available.

Just when I would start to let go of this a little bit at a time, something would happen.  I would lose a boyfriend, my mother and I would fight, a friend would stab me in the back, and there I was again in that bad place.  I recall during a very trying time when I was 17 going two weeks with hardly anything passing my lips.  It was summer and my mother worked during the days.  I didn’t have a car so I was stuck at home unless a friend came to pick me up.  I recall a lot of time sleeping or just lying in bed, getting a small snack once a day or forcing a few bites down when out with friends.  Luckily, this was right around the time I moved away to go to college and I began to see how these things and these people who were worrying me so much were not as important as I was allowing them to be.  With improvements in my life in general, I started to come out of the haze that was my unhappiness.  I started trying to eat regularly and healthier.  I no longer had my calorie notebook.  I went to the gym regularly to get exercise.  I gained weight, then lost it again, then gained it back, but it was healthy fluctuation and I was okay with it for the most part.

Of course, being a girl, I was self-conscious of myself no matter what weight I was at and often still get this feeling.  But I really think that removing myself from the bad situations I was in back home by moving to college and making worthwhile friends while getting rid of the fake ones truly saved me from doing real damage to my body just in the nick of time.  The heartbreaking thing is that a lot of girls don’t get that lucky break.  It’s scary, because it starts so young when the body is still developing, and there have been so many deaths from complications caused by eating disorders of young women not even reaching 30 years old.  I know anyone can look at the situation and think “gosh that’s horrible and scary” but it’s so much different when you can view it almost from the inside.  I still struggle to this day when something is going on.  I have polar opposites of either bingeing until I’m physically in pain and so sick to the opposite of not being able to force food in.  Sometimes, I try to eat only for every meal to make me overly nauseous almost to the point of involuntarily vomiting, but this generally leads to me just not eating.  This is my first reaction to anything stressful or hurtful or emotional in any way and most of the time I don’t even catch that it’s happening until it already has.  Sometimes I try to fight it, but deep down I have that piece of me that’s thinking, “keep it up and you can get back down to the weight you used to be.  Keep it up and you’ll be able to get back that self control you used to have.”  I still deal with all this, and I feel like I got out of the mess before it was a fully developed problem, so I can only imagine how hard it is for the girls that get sucked into it and battle real eating disorders.

This whole post was brought about by my randomly coming across a YouTube video about Isabelle Caro, the French model who battled anorexia and took a stand against eating disorders in the fashion industry and died from complications of the disorder at age 28.  While I’m watching this video, the side bar is full of links to other videos of beautiful young women and teen girls documenting their stories and their recoveries and while I’m watching it I’m hurting for them.  I’m hurting for them and speechless at the pictures tracking the weight loss and gain throughout their battles, and while I’m hurting for them I’m still looking at them throughout their struggle and thinking “I could get back to my smaller size again if I tried hard enough.”  So what happened?  I somehow get this idea of putting myself on an exercise plan and for the past 3 days I’ve weighed myself at least once a day.  Honestly, I didn’t even put all those pieces together until just now, too.  I didn’t even realize until I just thought about it to type it in this post that after watching anorexia videos, I started weighing myself daily again…

I believe that the only way to fix a problem is to address it.  You draw attention to it so you are held accountable and then even if you give up on yourself, there is someone else to stop and say “hey, wait a second.  This is a problem and you won’t be ignoring it.”  Very few people in my life know about how intensely focused I was on my weight and these crazy diet ideas.  As I’ve stated, I still catch myself started to obsess over it, but I am actively trying to force myself to focus on the positive things about myself.  I am forcing myself to look in the mirror with positive expectations, even though I still battle the little voice in my head pointing out any flaw (real or imagined).  Ok.  As hard as it was to put all this out, to admit it and make it real by putting it into words, I still have one more thing to do.  So…the real, low down, skinniest of the skinny – what no woman does…  I am 26 years old, I am 5’5″-ish, and I currently weigh in at around 147 lbs.  So there is it, my weight out there in the world.  I don’t think this is a motivational story or a touching tale and I don’t think that this will help anyone overcome their own personal issues, but I do think it is helpful just to know that you aren’t alone.

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