Weight has been a constant piece of my life since I was a young girl. It may not be in the way that you would think, either. I don’t have some kind of unhealthy thoughts about it nor do I have any type of eating disorder, but it still has been a constant piece of me for as long as I can remember. It’s not just about me either. It is a big part of one of my children’s lives as well. Weight is always in the back of my mind every day.
It all started back in my younger days and throughout high school. I was always the skinny girl. I was active in basketball and cheerleading throughout middle and high school, but I wouldn’t say that I was super athletic. I wasn’t a kid who liked to work out or run or anything like that. In fact, I hated it (and still do!). I never really had to even think about exercise back then because I was naturally skinny. It was simply a part of my genetic makeup. I was a pretty picky eater back then, but that didn’t have an affect my weight. I still ate plenty. I may not have been the healthiest eater, but no matter how much junk I ate, I still didn’t gain weight. I just got taller. Some may think how lucky I was or be jealous, but it wasn’t always cool to be the skinny girl. I often got called “Olive Oyl” from Popeye because I was so tall and skinny. People even joked about me being anorexic, but I wasn’t. They would push food at me all the time and tell me I needed to eat. I really didn’t even care how much I weighed or how skinny I was. It never crossed my mind until someone said something about it. It wasn’t until I became an adult that it started to impact me.
Not long after I was married, my husband’s commanding officer called him into his office one day and had a talk with him about me. He told my husband that he and his wife were concerned about me because I was so skinny. They just “knew” that I was anorexic and wanted to make sure I was being taken care of. I was furious when my husband came home and told me this. Of course, my husband assured him that I was fine and was most certainly did not have an eating disorder. I was so angry that someone would have the nerve to tell my husband that he needed to take better care of me and acted like they knew me better than he did. I had never deprived myself of food, thrown up something I ate intentionally, or even thought about dieting in my life. I was just a skinny person. My mom was the same way and so was my grandmother. You hear about “fat shaming,” but you rarely hear anyone talk about “skinny shaming.” It does exist. I can’t tell you how many people have been concerned or commented on my weight over the years. There were even times that I was made to be so self-conscious about my weight that I actually tried to gain weight. I was drinking shakes and things to boost my calorie intake, but it never worked. In all my years as the skinny girl I was never once told by a doctor or medical professional that I needed to gain weight or that I was underweight. It was only the people around me who made comments or whispered about it. They made me feel like something was wrong with me.
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I gained about 30 pounds. Within a week after I had her, I was back in my pre-pregnancy jeans. Now, keep in mind that my daughter was born 3 weeks early and weighed only 4 lbs. 8 oz. I had a partial placental abruption, so she wasn’t getting enough nutrients to grow. People didn’t seem to care about that and only commented on the fact that I must not have eaten enough for her to grow. Yet again, I was accused of being anorexic and made to feel like I had done something wrong. My husband can attest to the fact that I actually ate so much Taco Bell when I was pregnant that he thought I might give birth to a taco! I can assure you that I ate a lot! I also never threw up once while I was pregnant with her. I had zero morning sickness. My body and my metabolism just didn’t allow me to gain weight and allowed it to easily come off. There was nothing wrong with me but people made me feel like there was. I felt like a bad mom.
It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second child that things changed for me. I gained about 50 pounds with her. A big part of that was water weight. I was so swollen that I looked like a giant puffer fish. I threw up constantly and could barely keep food down. My feet grew a whole half size and never went back to my pre-pregnancy shoe size. Because I was so swollen, sick, and miserable, I was put on bed rest for the last month of my pregnancy and was induced a week early. My daughter weighed 6 lbs 14 oz. This time the weight didn’t fall off as fast. In fact, my daughter just turned 13 last week, and I have never been the weight I was before I got pregnant with her again. I have never once been accused of having an eating disorder since then either. From the day she was born my focus has been shifted from my weight to hers. It has gone from me worrying about being too skinny to worrying about her being too skinny but for different reasons.
If you have been following me for a while, you know that my daughter has had a plethora of medical issues and has been extremely underweight as a result. As skinny as I was at her age, she is even skinnier and much shorter. She actually has been diagnosed with an eating disorder because she is literally afraid of food as a result of her disease, Eosinophilic Esophagitis, going undiagnosed for so long. It is not because she is worried about being overweight, and she certainly isn’t starving herself to keep from gaining weight. She is afraid of food and what pain it will cause her. Yes, part of her low weight is due to genetics just like mine. We simply come from a line of skinny women. However, her diet is also extremely limited. She doesn’t even make it onto the growth chart when we go to her doctor appointments. I walk a very thin line when it comes to her weight. I don’t want to her to feel judged or self-conscious about her weight like I was, but I also need to make sure she is healthy. It has gotten so bad at times that her doctors have threatened to put in a g-tube to get more nutrients into her or send her to an inpatient treatment facility. We have spent years in feeding therapy to get her to expand her diet. At every doctor appointment, we discuss her weight and whether she is gaining weight, loosing weight, or staying stagnant. People often think she is way younger than she is because she is so small. Every day is a battle over food and it has been a very long and bumpy road. People have gone from commenting on my weight to commenting on my daughter’s. Some don’t hesitate to tell me how to parent her differently or point out the things they think I have done wrong when it comes to her eating. I’ve been told to force her to eat, allow her to starve, and so many other unsolicited pieces of advice. It is a never-ending saga.
Weight is a huge part of my life and has been for its entirety. I don’t foresee it going away any time soon. Yes, I can probably stand to lose a few pounds these days, but I try really hard not to let it consume me or the opinions of others affect my view of my body or my child’s. We as women are scrutinized enough as it is already, and we don’t need to add body image issues into the mix. Instead of judging and criticizing people about their weight whether they weigh a lot or a little, let’s build each other up. We have to learn to accept the bodies we have been given and love them. Yes, we need to do things that are healthy and take care of ourselves but loving who you are in the skin you are in is just as important. Embrace who you are and walk confidently in front of the naysayers. Don’t let them affect how you view yourself. That’s what I want my child to learn and do most of all. Your weight doesn’t define you. It is a part of you, but it doesn’t make up all of who you are inside. Who you are at your core, is the person everyone should come to see, love, and value.
AKA: Olive Oyl 🙂