Of all the blog posts I’ve ever written this is the one that makes me most uncomfortable. It’s the one that makes me feel the most vulnerable. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t make myself delete the draft from my “works in progress” document. I’m really not sure who, but I had the feeling that someone might need to hear this. And so it has survived, somehow become a full length article, and for better or worse made it out into the world. I pray my jumbled thoughts bless someone.
Last summer I had a migraine.
The worst I’ve ever had. I spent three days on the couch. I’ve always had a weak stomach and because of the pain I was in I couldn’t keep anything down. I threw up even just water. I was so dehydrated. By the time I went to the Urgent Care I had lost nine pounds off my already small body. I felt awful. When I finally got some strength back my mom was talking to one of her friends about my being sick. When it came up that I lost a lot of weight, I was shocked that instead of the sympathetic tone that had been there for the rest of the conversation it suddenly turned to jealousy. “I wish I could lose nine pounds!” the lady said.
Hold the phone.
I was sick!
I was malnourished, ill, and wanting nothing more than to have my body mass back so I could feel healthy again.
Suddenly I was confused.
Growing up I had always felt healthy, pretty, and confident that I was at my ideal weight. I think that my mom’s friend was trying to compliment me, but that’s not how it worked. I now felt conflicted about trying to gain the weight back. Maybe people would like me more if I were even smaller. Normally I was a healthy size. I felt good. But here I was being told that skinny and unhealthy, I was an object of jealousy.
But other people had other ideas. Spending time on Facebook and Pinterest, I found that social media was suddenly filled with quotes like this: “Real men go for curves. Only dogs like bones.” “Zero is not a size.” “Girls are like country roads. The best ones got curves.”
I’m confused again.
Maybe what people really wanted was a curvy woman. Maybe I should actually be eating more than normal and trying to gain weight. I was afraid of gaining weight; I was afraid of losing weight.
The real me.
When I look in the mirror, I see a thin person. If I turn sideways I see a straight line. I am not built with curves. I will probably never have “curves.” (Whatever that actually means.)
One day, out of curiosity, I Googled my BMI. One of the first things that came up in my browser was an article talking about Victoria’s Secret models and how they aren’t “real.” How they are all unhealthy, anorexic, and bulimic. Most of the women had a lower BMI than I do. But several of them shared my exact BMI of 17.9. This is what is said of the featured model that shares my BMI:
“Not only do her arms appear to be too skinny, but her torso is nearly emaciated. Though in the photograph below, her abdomen appears to be somewhat muscular, from the photograph above you can clearly see that much of her perceived definition is actually bone and the lack of fat to cover even the smallest of muscles. If her muscles were “built” in her abdomen, you would see the muscles bulge outward rather than receding inward.” (From Unleashed Magazine News blog)
Excuse me for saying so, but I don’t understand why this author feels comfortable ripping apart the model whose body and mine look pretty much the same. Why am I classed with the unhealthy? The bad role models? The women who starve themselves at the expense of the impressionable girls around them? Even when I eat a ton, I just don’t gain weight.
It’s wrong to criticize a person for their body type, but it’s also wrong to put a person on a pedestal because of their body type. Sometimes people start a conversation with me by saying things like, “I think you’re even skinnier than the last time I saw you! What are you doing to stay so tiny? How much do you work out?” I hate that people think that just because I’m small I have more self control than they do. They tell me about their weight struggles and ask me for advice. I have none.
It feels like for every view of what is of pretty, healthy, and “right” there is someone saying the opposite.
While seeing the doctor for a well check the other day, I asked her about my weight. I told her that I never know what to feel, being fed so many conflicting messages about what was good. She frankly told me that I was under the recommended weight, but that she wasn’t concerned. She asked if I was losing fist-fulls of hair, extremely fatigued, or missing periods. I am not. She matter of factly said again, “It’s probably just how you are. Some people are tiny. You look healthy to me.”
Let’s be clear.
Some people are naturally small. Some people are naturally big. We have to destroy the idea that being skinny equals self-discipline. And likewise, nobody can say that all obese people are lazy or undisciplined. Some people are genetically disposed to carry an excess amount of body fat and have to take dramatic measures to control their weight. Some people are genetically disposed to shed all the calories they take in and have to eat constantly to avoid becoming ill.
I wish we would stop equating size with health. Yes, size can be an indicator of a health issue. But size is not THE indicator of a health issue.
I wish we would look at people’s eyes, and not their thighs.
Sizes aren’t equal to beauty.
Smiles are beautiful.
Contentment is beautiful.
Health is beautiful.
A heart that seeks after the Lord is beautiful.
When I look into the mirror. I am learning not to see my hip bones, my ribs, the gap between my thighs. . . I am learning to see Sarah.
So why have I shared this story with you?
If I can get one person to realize that skinny doesn’t equal happy, that would be something. If I could make someone think about how their innocent size comments might make a confident person feel self-conscious, that would be even better.
Most of all, I want you to know that you can’t please everyone. When you try to conform your life into the perfect cookie cutter mold that will make everyone happy, you will always come up empty. You cannot fit everyone’s expectations for you. You will never be able to make everyone happy. Please find out what is healthy for yourself. Ask a doctor. Do some research. Please don’t ask the media what healthy looks like.
I hope you feel beautifully healthy today. I pray you learn to feel good in your own skin. And I hope you will look deeper than your skin and remember that there are more important things to think about.
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:8;10)