Sick Body Love

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I’m proud of this previous body.

Hold on, don’t panic. I’m not looking to fetishize or glamorize the thinness here, quite the contrary. Read on.

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Some background:

I started struggling with eating disorders in 2008. I lost weight and gained, I binged and purged. It wasn’t until 2012 (I was 15 in this photo so please excuse the Northface and thick black eyeliner), when I dropped to a low weight again, that I had to start formal treatment.

It wasn’t mandatory, but it wasn’t by choice, either. My mom arranged for me to see a dietician, an eating disorders therapist, and an ed adolescent doctor. I lied to them about what I ate, how much I exercised, and proved to be a rotten patient.

Over the following year I gained over twenty pounds (lots of stomach pain, constipation, and tears involved there) and stopped getting treatment. I got close to recovery but still struggled with the voice in my head that disparaged me for being so fat, such a pig, etc.

Why am I sharing this photo?

  • I recognize that “skinny” photos can be dangerous. They’re triggering, for myself and other edfolks. (Why was I never that thin? Why was I much thinner than that? I didn’t have a low-weight disorder… and so on.)
  • I also think that we are embarrassed by our sick bodies, as much as they might be glamorized in other contexts. So I want to share this picture of my sick, cold, bony body and say, outright, that this body was a disordered one. It was one carved out of 400 calories per day and one that I believed was fat nonetheless.
  • I am also sharing this picture because I think, while I can recognize that this body was a sick one, I should not be ashamed of it. This body still managed to maintain friendships (mostly), to go to school (mostly), and to live in the world (kind of) in spite of being trampled by a low-weight eating disorder.

Sharing photos of our bodies, especially if they might follow normative ideas of “skinny,” is tricky. We/I have to do it carefully. Neither will I say that this body was shameful, nor that I miss being this skinny. It was me, at a time when I wasn’t eating. It’s sad, but it’s me.

I have a lot of edfolks that I follow on Instagram that post “past” pictures in which they are objectively emaciated, often hooked up to hospital wires. I’ll venture to suggest that we should not shame our disordered bodies but recognize them as products of disordered behaviors and thoughts. We shouldn’t punish our bodies further by hiding them, disparaging them, or showing them only as attached to IVs.

In this picture, I was having a blast with my friends, trying on hats and looking like an idiot, probably in ForeverXXI. I also had a low-weight eating disorder, which made me very thin. I’m not proud of that body for its appearance, but I am proud that it survived and still functions about 90% of the time, and that it was still laughing. 

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