Thursday, September 5, 2013

Confessions of a Skinny Girl

I am too skinny. I am too skinny in a culture that doesn't even have such a category, other than for those who struggle with eating disorders or serious illnesses. I am too skinny to find dresses that fit correctly or bathing suits that cost less than $100 or jeans that stay up without a belt. I am too skinny to have the kind of family I have dreamed of. I am just too skinny.

Here's the problem, though; ever since getting pregnant the first time around, during which my metabolism went haywire, I have gotten more compliments on my appearance than in the first 28 years of my life. I hear it all the time, "You look great," "What do you do to stay so thin?" and "Man, I wish I could look like that." Usually, I just uncomfortably nod my head and say a quiet "thank you". But inside? Inside, my heart is breaking. Because I don't want that kind of attention. I don't want it to be considered good or healthy or desirable to be my weight. I don't want to do anything that affirms what our culture says about skinny being the only beautiful. I don't want a BMI of 18. I don't want this.

And the reason it has taken me almost four years to write about this? Well, it's not kosher to complain about being too skinny, is it? Even now, some of you are reading this and thinking "Oh, I'm so sorry for you, you poor, sad, skinny girl. Are your diamond shoes too tight, as well?" I have had plenty of friends who have struggled with weight on the other end, who have longed to lose their baby weight, who have worked hard on diets and exercise and weight watchers and have not gotten the results they've wanted. Who have longed to be skinnier. What do I say to them in this struggle? We are just worlds apart.

I haven't always had this problem. For most of my life, I was at a normal, healthy weight. I could gain it if I ate too much ice cream and am well acquainted with the famous "freshman 15." After all, what do you expect when you combine a sweet tooth and stress with an unlimited dessert bar at college? I could lose weight if I wanted to and went through my share of phases where I wanted my body to look slimmer. I remember what it was like to long for that "hollywood" body, to buy into the idea that the slimmer I was, the more beautiful I would be. And now I hate the fact that I have what I thought I wanted.

Most days. 

Here's the rub. Some days, in my darkest of hearts, I feel really good. Really proud. I like the way I look. I feel proud of the skinny. I fear the day when we will solve whatever is causing this uncontrolled weight loss and I will gain back the weight. Deep down I wonder if I really DO want to gain the weight and be healthy again. Will the compliments stop? Will I miss the skinny? Will I be satisfied with the new look which, after all, is really the way I looked most of my life?

On the other days, most days really, I count calories. Not in the way most people do. I have to make sure I've eaten more than enough. I have to make high-fat, low-sugar, gluten-free, protein-packed smoothies just to make sure I don't lose more weight. I have to get on the scale, always with a feeling of apprehension, and check to be sure that I'm at least maintaining where I currently am, staring at the screen and hoping an acceptable number pops up. And hesitantly sharing with my husband when I've accidentally lost again, like there's some kind of shame in it or that I am somehow to blame.

And friends, this is exhausting. It's much like counting every calorie on the other end in the hopes of losing weight. Except that when the people around me joke about "not taking that second piece of cake" or something going "straight to their hips", I have to keep silent. I can't interject with "Yeah, I wish I had that problem!" People look at you like you have two heads if you complain about this. And I get it. Who else struggles with this? Well, honestly, probably a bunch of people like me who keep it to themselves because there's not a whole lot of compassion floating around out there in cyberspace for us, just videos and posts by well-intentioned people either condemning skinny people for having the wrong priorities or being sick or, on the other side, people praising us for (allegedly) working our booties off to look this way.

So every time I receive a compliment, every time I have to go buy some new clothes because my old ones no longer fit, my heart cries out "no"! Every time someone sends me an article on why sugar or gluten or sun-exposure or just, frankly, breathing may be causing my infertility and weight problems, I want to run the other way. I wonder when I refuse that cupcake at the kindergarten party if the other parents are thinking "Oh, THAT'S why she looks like that. She doesn't eat what she wants," when deep inside I would love to devour that cupcake, have a second one and wash it all down with a gallon of sweet tea. But I can't. I'll actually lose more weight and get a migraine on top of it. And if there is anything worse than a disgruntled unintentionally skinny girl, it's one with a migraine.

If I believe the compliments, I look better than I did when I was 10 pounds heavier. And I doubt anyone, when I finally, hopefully, gain the weight back will say "Wow, have you put on weight? You look amazing!" But maybe they should. Maybe I should post on facebook when I put on a pound, when I finally reach a BMI of 19 or 20, when I'm back to my pre-baby weight from 7 1/2 years ago and don't need to even worry about looking at a scale anymore. Back to being healthy.

In the meantime, I have to fight that daily battle wherein I confess that at the same time that I hate this, I sometimes also love it. That while I don't want to think of this as beautiful, I often do believe it is. And that even while I struggle with not wanting this and trying to fix it, I need to still believe that I am beautiful even if it's not the weight issue that is the focus of the beauty. That it is worth the hassle to continue to try to figure out what's causing this and fix it, and maybe get to experience the joys of eating good bread and pasta again. Because seriously, gluten. I miss you. If we have said goodbye forever, I shall fondly and longingly remember your contributions to my happiness.

And the bottom line here? My doctor has been convinced from the start that this is linked to our infertility. That my inability to maintain a healthy weight prevents this biggest of dreams that we have from coming true. That if I could just go ahead and gain 10 or 15 pounds already (easy, right?), all these "why" questions would be answered and we would have the baby we've been waiting on for four years. Which means there is yet another element of having no control in this whole crazy infertility journey because I can't do a simple thing like gain weight.

So, I will continue to drink my 600 calorie smoothies and use whole milk in my cereal. I will continue to exercise and run around with my kid because it's just plain fun and I can't be bothered about worrying if my caloric output is too high on top of everything else. I'm an active person and I like that. I will continue to ask God to help me figure out what's causing all this and for, again, patience in the meantime. I will try to be gracious to people who comment on my weight and gently explain why I wish I weighed more and why I wish our culture didn't praise the skinny. I will continue to be a skinny girl until I am not.

But dang it, when I finally break the weight threshold I haven't been able to hit, I'm gonna rejoice. With more than a smoothie.


  1. I will celebrate with you!!! :) Thanks for being so brave and discussing this struggle. For me, it showed me (yet again) that you just don't know what people are dealing with! I have had judging thoughts around people who refused treats (and who indulged!), and there just is no place for it. A person should be able to say no to a cupcake (or yes to three!) without comment or meaningful look from me.

    1. Thanks, Rach. It's so true- I found myself judging this mom at pickup the other day because she hadn't bothered getting dressed. Ugh. Sometimes my heart is so ugly and I have to remind myself that God is so merciful to me in that!

  2. I just want to give you a hug and sit down for a cup of coffee to chat whenever I read your blog! It is so refreshing to hear your thoughts and struggles honestly poured out for others to reflect upon. While I can't fully relate to what you're going through, I can at least sympathize to a degree. My heart goes out to you, and I will be lifting you up in prayer. Keep us posted when you reach your goals, and we'll rejoice with you!!!
    Love in Christ,
    Elizabeth (from Rockbridge Worship track way back in the day)

    1. Ha, Elizabeth, I knew who you were! Thanks for the kind words, wish we could catch up in person and thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Thank you for being willing to be vulnerable about this. One of the things I enjoy about aging is that I've become more aware of how I judge others. It's sometimes ugly when I recognize it in myself after the fact, but as I realize more and more that we all have our own secret struggles, my instinct to judge has softened some. I definitely still do it more than I'd like to admit, but at least now I'm more aware of how destructive it can be. I'll be praying that you might get some answers soon and that you will experience victory over this! Not having an explanation for things be it health or infertility is so hard. Lots of love girl!