I was planning for another post today, however, after an incident this past weekend, I decided without a second thought that I wanted to share something serious but oh so relevant in this world today.
My two cousins (9 year old and 4 year old) from North Carolina visited my family this past weekend. They left NC on Thursday morning and arrived in DC (where I live) at around 4 in the afternoon.
My 9 year old cousin named Lily and I were in my room and we could hear our mom’s cooking dinner downstairs. Lily mentioned something about how it smelled good downstairs and I replied back, “I know, I’m so hungry! Aren’t you?”
“No. I’m not hungry at all. I didn’t even eat breakfast or lunch. I’m fat,” Lily simply answered as she poked her stomach to indicate how “fat” she was.
At that instant I was shocked. As someone who is still recovering for over a year from restrictive eating, I was not expecting my 9-year old cousin to say that.
I of course know eating disorder is a prevalent thing these days, but I never expected someone as young as nine to be thinking those things. In my mind, 9-year olds should be enjoying life. They should be able to eat what they want and play tag, go swimming, and go outside without the burden of “burning calories.”
Out of shock, I immediately started ranting to her about the importance of eating. I don’t know how coherently I spoke because at the end of my rant, Lily was looking up at me dumbfounded. I was embarrassed to wit’s end. Did I go too far? Maybe she was saying that she was fat as a harmless thing but I overthought it.
Luckily, our mom’s called the house for dinner so Lily shrugged her shoulders and left the room. I stayed there for a few minutes just trying to process it all. Now mind you, I’m an overthinker. I think way too much. And I do think that’s what kind of happened that day.
However, Lily’s words stuck with me throughout the weekend. And I kept on thinking over what Lily said. As Lily is a rising fourth grader, I went back down memory lane to when I was in fourth grade.
I remember in fourth grade how when we sat criss-cross applesauce on the carpet for morning meetings, I would compare the size of my thighs to other girls thighs.
As we would wear black watch plaid shift dresses as uniforms at my school, I remember counting how many checkered squares fit across my body and then how many fit across another girl’s body. The less squares, the skinnier, the more squares, fatter.
And so while all this time I thought that Lily was way too young to be thinking these things, I realized that I too fell under this trap when I was her age.
Even more so, I remember when I was in kindergarten relishing on my skinniness. Until third grade, I was the lanky kid. I was the girl who would eat a lot – I would seriously eat two bowls of rice for all three meals – but all that food went vertically but never horizontally. I was super tall (although not anymore) that I always had to wear clothes that were 4 ages up than my actual age. But while these clothes fit in length they gave no form to my already formless body. And I remember feeling good about myself for being skinny when I saw one of my best friends who was a little bit on the chubby side.
I don’t know why or more importantly how I became to think this way. My mom definitely did not teach me that. But somehow, the human brain, learns instinctively that being skinny is good.
But why oh why is that?
I truly fell under this trap as I lost 20lbs. last summer based on the sole reason that I believed I was fat.
But with those 20 lbs., I lost my confidence, I lost my happiness, and I lost the ability to think for others and my wellbeing. A demon and monster grew inside of my head. My actions were solely based on being skinny. I became angry at my parents when they took me out to dinner because I knew I would binge-eat. I became angry at my mom when dinner was a couple minutes late because I was starving from not eating enough calories. I backed out of social events and movie nights with my friends since I knew there would be junk food. I started living a meaningless life. Who was I living for? Certainly not myself.
It’s a well-said phrase and for good reason because it’s true: We’re our harshest critics. We bash our thighs. We bash our stomachs and the list goes on and on. I don’t know of a way to solve, but I hope that we can remind ourselves today and really everyday that we’re are beautiful. Beyond beautiful and unique for words. Girls, oh girls….
How do you deal with society’s pressure on body image?