By Amanda Jones
Over the past month, I have tried about a dozen times to write this very article. And every time I do, I feel like I’m lying. I feel like an impostor in my own skin. But, here goes.
I could tell you a chronological series of events that lead to where I am today. I could ponder the way kids talked to me in grade school, making fun of my hips being out of proportion with the rest of my body. I could recount the few boyfriends I had that knew just how to worm their way into my head when I asked, “Do you think I’m beautiful? I feel fat…,” He’d responded dryly, “You look good, you just need to tone this,” while pinching my butt. I could preach the horrors of ballet classes in puberty when your body starts to grow and your teacher eyes the new curves in your pink tights with a furrow in her brow.
Or I could tell you that this afternoon, I came home from work, ate a serving of macaroni and cheese half the size of my fist, and I went to my room and cried. I could tell you that yesterday the only solid food I had was a granola bar and some chicken. What about the time I passed out cold in the middle of class last semester? I could tell you about all the drugs I took, legal and not, to silence the demons.
I could tell you I have an eating disorder.
But I’m not here for pity.
I know what’s wrong with me. At last, I have insight into every decision I make. I know that eating a brownie won’t make my thighs instantly touch, but I avoid sweets anyway. I know I’m smaller than I should be, but I won’t wear that one pair of pants because I think they make me look big. There’s nothing that anyone can say or do to make me change my mind. I am the only one in control.
The reason I wanted to write this article in the first place was to give you a peek into my life: to share what I and my loved ones deal with every day. But I realized that this issue is bigger than me, bigger than all of us. Telling you how little I eat isn’t going to make you understand.
Today, as I write this, I am 30 pounds underweight. I am still reeling from a fallback: I tried to gain weight to reach my healthy number on the scale, only to panic a month in and find myself back in the rut I’ve been in for 9 years.
What I worry about is how best to talk about this to help others. The fear I have in sharing this part of my mind is, well, that you won’t believe me. That you’ll stop right here and say, “She’s just complaining, God, talk about #whitegirlproblems,” and close out this tab on your browser to look at some article called “20 Things That Ruled About Being A 90s Kid.” (Have fun. Heads up: it’s a little anticlimactic.)
This fear eating away at me, this panic living rent-free in my heart, this feeling that I will be rejected- is it part of the problem? Is that the root cause of my illness?
Being loved is one of the most basic needs we have in this life. I think the reason I let myself fall into this rut, time and time again, falling after I pick myself back up, is because I feel alone. It’s been this way as long as I can remember. I start to feel isolated. I tell myself that I am isolated. I turn it around, I own it. I proclaim: I am an island. I need no one. I have myself.
This is asinine. This is unhealthy.
I’m not always counting calories and crying at the roll of fat above my jeans. A lot of the times, I’m with the man I love, enjoying tomato soup with focaccia bread, watching old episodes of Saturday Night Live, laughing until tears. Or I’m with my best friend at a bar, forgetting whether this is my second or third beer, because it doesn’t matter: the band playing right now is amazing. Sometimes I am alone on a day off, in bed, reading while one of my cats curls up on my chest.
When you feel loved, when you are comfortable, when you are at peace: this is when your anxiety is quelled. Not just about your body: about your job, or your bank account, about anything. When I am laughing from my gut, I don’t care whether I’m forgetting to suck it in. If someone thinks I look fat- let her call me fat! I am happy, in this moment, right now. Girls who use ‘fat’ as an insult are just that- girls. Women see each other for their hearts and their minds.
So, after a few too many rewrites and some important conversations, what I want to say is: be kind to yourselves. When you love yourself, others will see that vitality, that aura. They will feel it. It’s contagious. Let it spread. When you live your life at peace, you will find yourself doing acts of kindness for the adrenaline rush. You will hear yourself telling your coworker, “You look really nice today!” and meaning it. When you have love, you will give love. And your dress size will be the last thing on your mind. As for me, I’m trying to live that lesson everyday. I know it’s a long road, but that’s ok. I accept it.
Photography by Erin Arledge