So Skinny It Hurts

A few weeks ago, as I was shimmying by the pool on vacation with my sister, a teenage girl approached me, smiled, and – with only the best intentions – said, “you’re so skinny it hurts.”

So skinny it hurts.

Her comment knocked the wind out of me, made my heart skip a beat. It infuriated my loyal sister, who seriously considered fighting this chick on the spot. I couldn’t even muster up a response at the time so I merely smiled and walked away, but her comment has haunted me ever since.

The thing is, I have been so skinny that it truly, physically hurt. It used to be painful to sleep on my side because my bony knees would knock together so much. Opening a heavy door felt like a feat of strength and determination that left me exhausted. Everything from carrying my backpack to bumping a table left me bruised. My muscles (or lack thereof) constantly ached like I had the flu. My body was literally breaking down because it didn’t have the fuel it needed to keep going. That is so skinny it hurts.

But far worse than the physical pain of being too thin was the emotional pain that accompanied it. I vividly remember the range of reactions I would see in people’s eyes as they looked my skinny body up and down – shock, confusion, disbelief, disgust – and the shame I felt in return. I swore off tank tops, shorts, and (God forbid) swimsuits for fear of the reactions I would get if I exposed my emaciated limbs. I stopped wearing makeup and doing my hair even for special occasions because beauty felt entirely unattainable to me. It broke my heart to look into my friends’ eyes and know that they didn’t believe me, that they thought I was choosing to destroy my body rather than watching helplessly as it happened before my eyes. I have never in my life felt so isolated and so alone. That is so skinny it hurts.

The ironic part is that was nearly two years and 25 pounds ago for me. Today, I am confident enough to shimmy in my swimsuit, strong enough to dance for hours by the pool, happy enough to go on vacation without a care in the world. I might be thin now, but I am so far from so skinny it hurts.

What still hurts is acknowledging that people don’t know my story. Most people assume I try every day to maintain my thin figure, but little do they know how hard I have worked to gain weight and restore my health over the past few years. When people see me on the street, they have no idea that I would gladly be 20 pounds heavier if it meant that I could be as strong and capable as I was five years ago.

What hurts is knowing that women in our society equate beauty with a number on the scale. People assume that skinnier is always better without having even the slightest idea of what lies below the skin. Losing weight contributed to one of the darkest periods of my life but gaining weight did not reverse it. Beauty and happiness lie in confidence in and peace with yourself rather than a dress size. Health lies in nourishment and self-care, strength and self-love – not a certain weight.

fullsizeoutput_1851The innocent bystander may think I’m so skinny it hurts, but I know what that it is and I know it is behind me now.  The next time you envy someone else’s body, remember that you have no idea how they got to where they are now or how they are feeling under their skin. And when you are tempted to critique the physical appearance of your own body, I challenge you to instead be grateful for its many capabilities.

Friends, let’s embrace and love our bodies rather than resenting them. With this mindset, we will never be so skinny – or so far in the opposite direction – that it hurts.

 

 

11 thoughts on “So Skinny It Hurts

  1. Hi Liz,
    I look forward to each of your blogs – you are a talented writer. I have struggled with lupus for many years and I understand everything you write about. Your commitment to Paleo is amazing!! You have inspired me to go beyond just my gluten free and dairy free lifestyle. Thank you!
    It is sad how little people think before they talk and how folks assume that they know more about you than you know about yourself. Throughout my lupus struggles I have gained weight from medicine and lost so much weight from fatigue and digestive issues that it can feel like a never ending struggle. My kids would tell me it was no fun hugging me because I was too boney! But I know this is my challenge and, like you, I will never give up. I have to come to think about it as my big hill to climb and I will take it on like any other challenge. It is great feeling well and I try not to think about what might happen and enjoy the present. Thank you for your wonderful blog. It is super helpful and incredibly thoughtful. Not only are you getting well but you are helping many people! I will look forward to your next blog while I try to master the Paleo breakfast!
    God bless!!
    Kim Roerig

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    1. Thank you so much for your message and for your support! Knowing that others are experiencing the same challenges as I am somehow makes it a little bit easier. I am honestly a little scared for the days when I try to manage lupus with children of my own…the stress and fatigue seems like it would be too much. You are an inspiration to me! Thanks again!!

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    1. Thank you so, so much, Hannah! You are a light in my life and this whole community. I don’t think we’re even friends on FB?! That must change. Love you!

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  2. Thank you for this, Liz. You are an amazing person! May I share this on Facebook? Especially the part that resonates with me: “And when you are tempted to critique the physical appearance of your own body, I challenge you to instead be grateful for its many capabilities.” I’m working on that!

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  3. Thank you for sharing this story! I have been dealing with similar dietary issues and situation for the last two years. I know that shame/embarrassing feeling every time someone blurts out ‘you’re soooo skinny.’
    Thanks, again!

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  4. Beautifully and thoughtfully written. Your story will help so many women who struggle with body image. You are beautiful and healthy…inside and out.

    Liked by 1 person

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