“You look like a rail.’ That’s the first time I heard it, in first grade out on the playground. It wasn’t until over 20 years later that I realized what exactly this type of phrase was called…skinny shaming. I have been very thin my entire life and doctors have even given me meal replacements to help me gain weight. I wear XS and size 0 pants. I am what society likes to call ‘the goal.’ I am what designers design for yet I was incredibly ashamed of my size. Throughout my life I’ve heard phrases like ‘Gah you are so skinny! I hate you! Don’t you eat? Just go get a hamburger!’ and ‘It’s not fair that you are that thin!’ All these phrases were said in a joking manner so I shouldn’t be mad, right? I had what people wanted! I was what Hollywood told everyone they should strive to be but inside I was hurting. I didn’t want to be hated.
I was hurt and ashamed because people have literally said they hate me because of my size. And the truth is I do eat A LOT! I struggle to gain weight. My fast metabolism leads to low blood sugar quickly. This leads to dizziness, shakiness and headaches. I have to eat at least every 3 hours and make sure I am constantly eating to keep other symptoms at bay. Until a year ago I would get nauseous within 30 minutes of eating due to an undiagnosed lactose intolerance. Through my teenage and college years I would wear very loose fitting clothes to combat the skinny comments. Basically I would hide my body.
Pregnancy brought its own types of skinny shaming. I gained 40 to 50 lbs with both of my boys yet people felt they still needed to tell me that I should eat more and I needed to gain more weight. I was even told once that if I didn’t eat more I was going to hurt my baby. Pregnancy already brings enough anxiety without worrying that you might hurt your unborn child! I started having to tell people what I weighed and how much I had gained in order to have a come back to these comments. After having my 2nd son who weighed 9lb 2oz, a nurse told me ‘I bet people hate you. You don’t look like you just had a baby.’ There was the ‘hate’ word again. The feeling of shame of my body was again at the forefront of my mind.
I looked in the mirror after having my boys and realized how much hate I had for that person. I wasn’t happy. The person in the mirror wasn’t beautiful to me. She was skinny, had long thin arms and legs and now on top of that had stretch marks on a lot of areas. I finally had enough. I decided to start embracing who I was. I made children! I wanted to at least like and be able to smile at the woman who I looked at in the mirror. I started wearing tight clothes without worrying if it made me look skinny. I started wearing shorter shorts to show off my legs. I wore crop tops which allowed everyone to see my stretch marks. I cut my hair and got tattoos.
My biggest moment was purchasing a swimsuit. I decided I wanted to feel sexy in the most vulnerable one I could find. I bought a bikini with a cheeky bottom. This swimsuit would allow everyone on the beach to see my skinniness and all my stretch marks and a large scar on my bottom that had been deformed by pregnancy. I felt beautiful so I asked my husband to take a photo.
This was a big moment for me. I hated most of the photos of myself up until that point because I would only see how skinny I looked. This in itself is pretty ironic since I am a photographer. The photo he took of me needed some heavy editing because of bad lighting. I did my best at fixing it and posted to a photography group for some help from my peers. What happened after I posted brought a lot of emotions. The comments that came from my post wasn’t about my editing it was about my body. The comments again were things like ‘I could give you some of my fat’ to ‘You should remove the scar on her butt.’ I sat there looking at the comments. I responded to some with ‘haha’ because laughing it off had been how I coped. It hit me I shouldn’t be laughing. Enough is enough.
Skinny shaming is just as real as fat shaming. It isn’t talked about as much because we are thought to have the ‘perfect’ body. We have what everyone supposedly wants. I personally don’t want to be the ‘skinny bitch’ in songs like ‘All about that Bass.’ I don’t want to be hated for my body. My hope is that no matter if you are a size 00 or a 33x you are met with comments like ‘Wow you look good, girl!’ or ‘You are rocking that swimsuit!’ My dream is that we can get to a point that phrases regarding our looks don’t come have to come with a ‘you look good for THAT size.’ This is one reason why I love photography, I get the chance to show people how beautiful they truly are! I get the opportunity to change the inner monolog that is replaying the phrases people have been told all their lives. To change all the insults disguised as compliments or even the straight up insults. My hope for anyone leaving a session with me is that they felt seen for who they are in that moment. They feel beautiful just how they are. As for myself I can actually say I not only LIKE the woman I see in the mirror I now LOVE her.
My advice to those feeling the same is to learn to love yourself. Listen to the positive people who are telling you how beautiful you are. Truly allow those words to fill your mind instead of the negative ones. If this means writing their words down on your mirror or repeating them over and over again do it! Let them drown out the negative. For me the phrase I repeat in those deep moments actually comes from The Help. ‘You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important.’ Embrace this body you have and care from it. It’s amazing what kindness to yourself can do.’
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Julia Daniel of Dacula, GA. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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