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I was thirteen the first time my mom told me to love my body. She stressed the importance of exercise and healthy snacks. Not another slice of pie, and not another can of soda. I wasn’t to miss a gymnastics practice and if I was hungry, an apple would hold me over until I was allowed to eat my dinner of green beans and carrots. But still, I was to love my body.
I was fourteen the first time I hated my body. I would pinch at my skin and rub at my curves in hopes that I could sand them into straight lines. The number on the scale in the cold bathroom became an enemy. And staring at my naked body in the mirror and wiping away heavy tears didn’t do a thing for my dwindling self esteem. Friends and family would chatter over the weight I’d lost when my tiny frame had left the room, dragging a grey raincloud behind. My mom would hug me tighter than ever before and whisper with shaking lips, “you’re a twig.” But still, I was to hate my body.
I was fifteen when I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. My mom cried. No, of course I didn’t have an eating disorder. I ate every day, they watched me eat. I would eat until my shrunken stomach was on the verge of bursting open, and then cry it off in sweat as I did jumping jacks in the dark confines of my room. I ate all the time. And I know they knew that, because they watched me with such scrutiny that it became a chore and a performance, just for them. But still, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder.
I was fifteen when I found out that recovery was bullshit. There was no such thing as going back to a healthy weight. They could stuff me with all the Boost and self help books they wanted, but I would never be happy about the number on the scale dancing upward. The only healthy weight that mattered to me was weightless, but they said that was only possible if I were dead. My bones stuck out in my back and ribs, and it hurt to move. They told that there were so many benefits to getting better. But still, recovery was bullshit.
I was fifteen when I was hospitalized for depression, self harm, and anorexia. I didn’t deserve to be there. It was only a couple cuts, I’d only lost a couple pounds, I’d only forgotten to take a couple pills. I was so much better off than so many of my roommates. I didn’t want to die, I was just sad and hungry with ripped up thighs and thin wrists. They gasped when they saw my cuts, and moaned when they saw my rib cage. They acted like I’d written a suicide note when I’d just begged for more sleep and a night alone. I was healthy, just sad and confused. But still, I was hospitalized for depression, self harm, and anorexia.
I was sixteen when I heard my eight-year-old sister tell me that she didn’t like her tummy. I held back tears in the public bathroom when I told her, “bigger is beautiful, and I love your tummy.” My heart stopped when she said, “mom doesn’t like it. She says I should suck it in and not push it out so much.” And I lifted up my shirt to show her my fleshy tummy, pushing out what I had recently sucked in, to show her that my tummy was big too. My mom told me to stop giving her so many snacks when she asked for them, throwing around words like “compulsive eater” and “could develop an eating disorder.” I gave her snacks when my mom left the room, and rubbed her tummy when we cuddled on the couch and talked about boys. But still, I heard my eight-year-old sister tell me that she didn’t like her tummy.
I was sixteen when I realized that I didn’t need the lights off to love my body. My naked body was just as beautiful as it had been when I was thirteen and listening to my brainwashed mom ramble on about self love. My naked soul was just as beautiful as my reflection in the mirror and my number on the scale. My stretch marks, my scars, and my curves were flashy and conspicuous in the unforgiving truth of the cold bathroom. But still, I realized that I didn’t need the lights off to love my body."