Being a Size Zero Doesn't Guarantee Happiness25 February 2014
I've always been a small girl. Not in the endearing way where I barely meet height requirements or have a petite personality. More in the way where belts are a necessity and my thighs don't touch. I am, and have as long as I can remember have been, a size zero.
When checking my email this week I received a message from Her Campus advertising their #LovingMe Project, which "celebrates the things we love about ourselves- unrelated to our physical appearance." It being National Eating Disorders Awareness Week I decided to write about a topic that is never spoken about yet experienced by so many women. So here I am, writing to the masses about why being a size zero doesn't guarantee happiness.
I've never had an eating disorder but I have been accused of having one many times in my life. Either by family, friends or medical professionals, it seems as if my life is a stream of situations where I've had to defend my choices to people who don't know me very well. Being a size zero doesn't mean you have zero problems, it can at times just mean people have zero interest in your problems.
There are the trivial reasons, the "problems" with being thin that sound so stupid once you see them written down. Issues that should probably be relabeled first world problems. You know, those things we like to complain about that cause us to roll our eyes moments after we say them aloud? Things such as size zero clothing hardly ever making it to the sale rack, stores like TJ Maxx barely stocking anything in our size and the all too common bloat we get from eating nothing more than a handful of chips. When your stomach is naturally flat, any food being in there likes to bloat you up. At least in my case.
Then there are the actual downfalls to being a size zero, the thoughts and experiences that are silenced because according to others, "I should be grateful." The root of these issues can begin to grow early, before we even knew how to dress ourselves or attach stigma to different body types.
My childhood was filled with compliments. From my shiny hair to how "tiny" I was, I was always the topic of discussion. As I got older my hair lost its luster and all I had to rely on was the low number on the scale.
When you grow up thin people begin to expect thin from you. Friends and relatives are more likely to comment if they feel your body shape has changed, even though their comments at times are no more than a way for them to make themselves feel better.
Every thin girl will tell you how often people comment on her size. Somewhere along the way it became wrong to make comments about people with extra weight, yet blatant remarks about "how skinny you look" have become normalized. Acceptable. "Compliments."
There is a difference between complimenting someone on their weight when they are taking steps to try to change it versus making remarks on someone's body type. Thin girls don't choose to be thin just like heavy girls don't choose to be heavy, so why the double standard in the way they are treated?
When did it become okay to openly discuss how thin a girl is but disrespectful to mention a friend has gained weight? The girls who swallow their words and scroll past the "real men don't like bones" posts are the same girls who stand up for their larger friends. Where is the mutual support?
My senior year I fainted in class, was labeled anorexic and was found a therapist before the school day was over. Nobody bothered to ask my opinion, no one actually observed my eating habits. I wasn't anorexic in the least. I was a heartbroken seventeen year old, worried about my college applications and stressing over the D I had received on my Calculus exam. Food wasn't the problem, by that point, lunch was my favorite time of the day!
My entire life I had been silenced by everyone, finding it impossible to speak over everyone's remarks about my body. In therapy I finally let it all out. My worries about not having a prom date, my grades, my non existent relationship with my sister, and how sick I was about everyone assuming they could diagnose me without even speaking to me. Three sessions later my therapist deemed I didn't need her help or anyone else's, wished me good luck on finding a prom date and choosing a university to attend. Only one of those decisions ended up being the right one.
What I learned from being labeled anorexic is how "other" it can make you feel. Even though I was completely healthy, both physically and mentally, the way people treated me completely changed. Principals pulled me out of class to see how I was "doing", teachers tiptoed around me and people who once chatted with me would turn silent when I walked into a room. Having an eating disorder or even being accused of having one makes you feel like you are on the outside of everything, because that's where people place you.
Being a size zero sometimes feels a lot like those weeks in high school where my classmates wouldn't even bother to whisper the rumors about me. To this day, friends will out of the blue remark on my waist, my thighs or how jealous they are. Yet they don't take a moment to realize how the words they say affect my perception of myself. If everyone is so jealous of me, I must do everything I can to stay skinny, right?
Size zeroes are silenced, laughed at and ignored when they speak about how their weight negatively affects them. When you have what everyone wants, complaining about it sounds ludicrous. Nobody stops to realize that we didn't ask for this and we sure as hell didn't ask for your opinions on the subject, positive or not. Being a size zero doesn't guarantee happiness. All you are guaranteed are a stream of comments on your body type and a lifetime of pressure to remain how everyone else perceives you. Skinny.