Part 1: Body Image Issues
Ahh, body image. Where do I even start? I think with a disclaimer that my story and experiences are hardly unique. Though with all the freaking media talking about how they themselves are screwing young girls up, you should know this by now.
I think it's appropriate to begin my journey through body acceptance with the first instance that I was aware I weighed anything, and that other people would care what that was. Playground, fourth grade. There was a group of about ten to fifteen girls huddled up. I went over to go see what they were talking about. They were swapping weights. I wasn't really sure why, but I wanted to join the conversation.
"I weigh 70 pounds!"
"You weigh WHAT?" "How are you so skinny?" "That's hardly anything!"
Somehow these reactions made me feel like I won. I don't know. I was on the cross country team and in all honesty, it's possible my pancreas was starting to give out. I was really small for my age. And since high weights were garnering uncomfortable silences from the group, smaller seemed better.
My weight didn't come up again until I was in junior high, when I started obsessing over it. It was almost like a light switch went on in my head. I don't know why I started to care all of a sudden. Maybe I started noticing that other girls were starting to look less kid-like and more "pretty." Maybe I noticed some weight gain. I don't know when or how it happened, but it happened in full force.
I had a conversation with a good friend of mine who was concerned about her weight as well (honestly who wasn't). She told me that in sixth grade she vowed not to break 100 pounds until she graduated high school, and she had not been able to keep that promise to herself.
We were in eighth grade.
At the time, this comment sounded so normal to me. I even thought to myself, "Why didn't I make the same promise to myself?" I chastised myself for not setting such an unrealistic and hopelessly unhealthy goal.
Weight was all anyone talked about. Weight was all anyone thought about. I don't think I had a normal conversation with someone until freshman year. I had more guy friends who didn't care about my weight. They didn't want to hear about how fat I thought I was. They just wanted to talk about video games and how dumb their english teacher was.
It was like waking up from a trance.
I think about those years a lot. About the days I tried not to eat anything and failed. About the days I went on long runs, punishing myself for eating a bunch of cookies. I was never anorexic, I was never bulimic. I was like every other girl in junior high: mad that I wasn't anorexic or bulimic.
How have we gotten to the point that sixth graders are promising themselves to not weigh more than 100 pounds? We're talking about girls who had mothers who loved them and cared for them and told them they were beautiful. We're talking about girls who loved cartoons and Spongebob, not girls idling Britney Spears.
It's terrifying to think that after the normal childhood I had, I still obsessed about these things. It's horrifyingly...inevitable?
I think it's also important to note all the body image issues I DIDN'T have to deal with. I never had acne. I was never actually clinically obese. I never had any visible physical deformities. I don't have to deal with not being white. It's like Lindsey Lohan in Mean Girls said. "I used to think there was just fat and skinny. But apparently there's lots of things that can be wrong on your body."
But I've snapped out of it. One of the many ways logic and rationality has made me a happier person. Still, I may have escaped, but too many other girls out there are still in the competition for smallest frame. The only people who can stop them are themselves, so I guess the only thing to do is cross your fingers and hope for the best.