Growing up I did the normal chub, grow, skinny, chub, grow, skinny…it’s hormones and totally normal! However, I was NEVER fat…I was always on the skinny side and in the low percentiles for height and weight from birth thru puberty. Did I think I was skinny? Nope, I routinely called myself fat, would claim my legs giggled when I walked and I would pinch my non-existent stomach fat and smoosh my face to make a double chin in the mirror. I would restrict my food intake. I worked out 6 days a week for up to 2 hours, sometimes more, every week. That was on top of PE and walking to and from school during the school year.
Looking back I could kick myself for being so negative about my body image. If I could go back and tell that beautiful, brown haired, blue eyed, skinny girl what I know now I would. I would tell her to hold her head up high and love your body because one day that body will birth a beautiful baby boy without the need for medical intervention. That body will carry you through the hardest time of your life as you battle your way through chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries. That body will change immensely in your twenties so stop hating on it and show it the love it deserves because God only gives you one body. I would tell her this story…
When you are 20 years old you will get sick, it was a really awful time in your life but you will survive so don’t give up. Not only will your body be physically unwell but mentally unwell, you know just to make things more fun. That person you think you will marry will stop loving you and the whole relationship will become abusive, not physically but emotionally. You will want to run away…actually you will fantasize about going to the airport, jumping on a plane to some random state and starting over from scratch. Your hormones will rebel against you and it will feel like one day you just woke up 60 pounds heavier. The scale will go from reading 96 pounds to 155 pounds in 2 months! You will stop recognizing who you are. You will hate yourself.
Then one day you will wake up, find courage, leave that guy, start over and find a little peace in your new body. You will diet, you will work out, you will do pretty much anything to get the weight to go away but it won’t. So you will binge and drink. This is the new you for your 20’s. There will be times you will look in the mirror and hate the person you see. You will hang out with your beautiful, skinny friends who call themselves fat and silently wonder “Do they think I am a whale?” “They must think I’m disgusting if they think they are fat!”. You will accidently overhear some of those friends you thought cared about you actually talking about how fat you are. You will dye your hair and change the way you dress to accentuate your boobs in hopes that it will distract people from your fat stomach and thighs. You will go to the doctor, step on the scale and get told you are morbidly obese, over and over and over. It’ll make you feel like shit! You will cry…a lot…over this body that God gave you.
But guess what? One day the man of your dreams will tell you he loves you. He’ll tell you often how beautiful you are and you’ll even start to believe him. You’ll get a great job doing something you actually love. You will make lifelong friends that love and care about you. You’ll have a baby! You’ll start looking in the mirror at the stretch marks you once hated and remind yourself that those stretch marks tell your story. One day you’ll wake up from a 4 hour surgery to remove your breasts, and the tumor in them, and remind yourself that those scars are part of your story. Does your BMI still say you are morbidly obese? YEP. Will you still cry over your weight? YEP. Will you ever love your body? Someday, YES! Someday, you’ll look back and tell this story to that beautiful, brown haired, blue eyed, skinny girl and hopefully she’ll smile and say “Thank you for helping me to finally love the body that God gave me”.
Now for some fun facts about Obesity & Eating Disorders in the US (some of these websites reference fairly old statistics but they are still interesting):
- Nationally, nearly 38 percent of adults are obese. Nearly 8 percent are extremely obese (1)
- Obesity rates exceeded 35 percent in four states and 30 percent in 25 states (1)
- 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (2)
- In elementary school fewer than 25% of girls diet regularly. Yet those who do know what dieting involves and can talk about calorie restriction and food choices for weight loss fairly effectively (2)
- 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (2)
- 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (2)
- Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (2)
- 35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives. Overweight girls are more likely than normal weight girls to engage in such extreme dieting (2)
- Even among clearly non-overweight girls, over 1/3 report dieting (2)
- Girls who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as girls who don’t diet (2)
- The average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 165 pounds. The average Miss America winner is 5’7” and weighs 121 pounds (2)
- The average BMI of Miss America winners has decreased from around 22 in the 1920s to 16.9 in the 2000s. The World Health Organization classifies a normal BMI as falling between 18.5 and 24.9 (2)
- 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years (2)
- 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders (2)
- Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight (2)
- At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. (3)
- Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder (3)
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (3)
- BMI is an inaccurate way of measuring a person’s overall health (4)