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No, this is not your typical “love the skin you’re in” story. And no, I was never anorexic. But that extra bit of jiggle that I now carry on my waist is a testament of how I overcame a struggle that could’ve taken my life.

If you’ve ever met me in person, it’s no secret that I’m a small young woman. I stand at 4 feet and 11 inches at 21 years old. I’ve always been little, but entirely proportional, ever since I was a baby—but despite my short stature, I’ve always been vivacious and healthy… at least until this past spring.

Throughout the spring 2016 semester, it dawned on me that I was developing a weight problem. Almost overnight, I wasn’t fitting into my clothes as well. I had to tighten my belts an extra notch. I couldn’t wear my favorite t-shirts or dresses anymore. Some were drooping off of me so dramatically that I looked like a little girl wearing her mother’s clothing. You could even see my ribs poking out.

I didn’t even recognize myself anymore.

I stopped feeling confident about my body.

I hated it when people complimented my figure.

So what had happened?

I was 10 pounds underweight. And it was only getting worse.

 

To some, 10 pounds doesn’t seem like a lot. In fact, lots of people are desperate to lose 10 pounds. But to someone who’s under 5 feet tall, 10 pounds can be the difference between having an active, normal life and having to lie in bed all day because you lack the energy to perform simple tasks.

And that’s exactly what was happening. Even though I was right in the middle of a busy semester with two jobs, there were days where I had to force myself out of bed. I was weak, when previously I had become accustomed to being lively and strong. I hit my absolute rock bottom panic moment when I stepped on my little bathroom scale and it read 84 pounds.

Yes, you read that right. 84 pounds. That’s the lowest I’ve weighed since I started puberty—so I think you can imagine why that really freaked me out. I started seeing a nutritionist, and we realized a dilemma of sorts: I had to gain about 10 pounds, but I had to do so in a way that was still healthy. Basically, that meant that I had to eat healthy food, and lots of it.

But I had another problem: my appetite was next to nothing. I would eat even a light meal, and I would immediately feel nauseous. Most of the time, it would stay down, but sometimes it would come back up. It was like my stomach was actually saying, “Why did you do that? I didn’t want that! Get it out of me!” So the solution became to eat small amounts of food pretty much all throughout the day. Even if it was just something like plain crackers or popcorn, I tried to put a tiny bit of food into my stomach a few times every hour.

Eventually, it started to work. Little by little, I gained a pound at a time. I stopped feeling weak and helpless. When my family moved this past summer, I could actually do some of the heaviest lifting and not get worn out by it. I had real energy again. When I got a new bike for my birthday, I could ride it without collapsing from fatigue. Now, there’s a nice little layer of fat and muscle over my previously exposed ribs.

I finally got out of a situation that I had assumed would leave me helpless (or eventually dead).

Now, you might be wondering: why am I bothering to tell you all this? If I’m doing better, why am I taking the time to type all this out?

Because I felt alone. I felt like no one else could understand what I was going through.

Everyone knows that being overweight carries a whole myriad of health problems, but people easily forget or even ignore the fact that being underweight can be just as detrimental. There’s so much societal focus on being slim that it’s easy to overshoot it and take it to the extreme. Eating disorders are used as adjectives to describe someone’s physique… and that is not acceptable. I realized this particularly when a close friend of mine commented, “You look really healthy” when we returned to school this semester. I didn’t just feel healthier… there had been so much of a change that other people were noticing it as well.

 

I guess you could say that the moral of this story is that you should always be honest with yourself about your weight and your overall health. It’s great to carry a little extra curve, but if it’s affecting your health, be honest with yourself and trim down a little. If you’re underweight, even if everyone thinks you have a cute and slim figure, be honest with yourself and bulk up a little.

Ultimately, don’t let anyone else decide what your own personal physique means. That’s between you and your doctor.

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