“Skinny Minnie.” “You’re so lucky to eat and never gain weight.” “I wish I was your size.” “You’re so little!” “You have to weigh like 2 pounds.” “If you can keep this up when you get older I’ll be so jealous.” “You have the body of a gymnast.” “You’re SO thin and muscular.”
These comments and more I’ve heard all my life, minus around a year or two after my surgery. Now, other than the occasional “you look healthy/better,” no one says a word about my body and especially not that I’m thin.
Small is not just something I happened to be. It was my whole identity. I hated myself in so many other ways but this was the one thing I could at least somewhat believe. Skinny made me worthy and lovable. If other girls and women said my body was desirable, that must mean I’m not quite as terrible as my thoughts told me.
After my surgery and before eating disorder behaviors was a period of time with the worst body image I had yet experienced. I could hardly handle the ways my body was changing, let alone deal with the lack of any positive reinforcement about my thinness. What would I be if I wasn’t skinny?
Once I finally started losing weight again it was great. I suddenly was getting all of those longed-for compliments and I felt on top of the world. I stared at myself in every mirror or reflective surface I could find. When I received a good comment or restricted/exercised, my body would shrink and I could see bones, less fat, and a smaller me. I would feel more confident. That all went away when I was either forced to eat or unable to exercise. Suddenly I would balloon outward and grow to an impossibly large size. Depression, anxiety, self-hate, and eating disorder thoughts skyrocketed. The only thing that kept me going was working towards my next “you’re so skinny.”
Fast forward to today. I haven’t received a “skinny comment” since before entering inpatient treatment last August. Honestly, even if I did I know that what I see in the mirror doesn’t match up. Still, most of the time I cry standing in front of the mirror. I half expect that what I see will be thin. Hard doesn’t begin to describe it, but I am working to change the way I view my body and self.
I’ve realized, to at least some extent, that skinny isn’t an identity at all. I hid behind it for a majority of my life. I yearned and still yearn for it to be true. Despite that, I am working each day to lose all honor and pride I put into thinness. Skinny is conditional. It doesn’t make you a good or bad person, determine your worth, make you beautiful, or define you. There are many multitudes of other qualities that make each of us unique.
I may never get called “Skinny Minnie” or thin or any other of the various compliments I received before. I can’t be bothered by that. My identity cannot be based around something I don’t truly want to attain again. I am not skinny, and skinny isn’t all I ever was. That chapter of my life spent waiting for each new comment on my thinness is over. I’m moving on to better things.