During summer 2013, I got too thin.
I suffer from chronic migraines that can be as little as tense neck and head pain for one day or as big as throwing up an entire day or suffering from pounding pain for a week straight. It wasn’t always like this. I used to suffer from migraines sporadically. Maybe one every couple of months. But from late 2012 to late 2013, I was in some sort of pain weekly, many times daily.
It got to the point where it interfered with the things I love. Just a couple months after completing my first marathon, I could not run without triggering a headache. My work, which is a great source of pride and fulfillment for me, became, well, work.
For months, I took on the role of lab rat. I was desperate to try anything to get rid of my pain. In May, after being put on a couple different prescriptions, I saw a neurologist about the pain, despite seeing two different doctors to try to help me. In my mind I thought, “Neurologists are like migraine experts. This will be a good thing.”
This doctor put me on Topamax, a prescription I’ve heard good things about from friends and family members that also suffer from migraines. I thought if it’s worked so well for them, it might work for me.
One of the side effects for Topamax is weight loss. Since I was already at 114 pounds, I figured I couldn’t lose that much anyway, so I went for it. I didn’t understand that this drug takes away a person’s appetite and in the beginning, leaves them nauseous daily.
Every day, I had the feeling that I had to throw up, but nothing ever came up. I accumulated ginger ale around my desk at work because I needed to calm my stomach somehow. I told myself to just stick it out, that it would get better, this is a good drug and it would help me.
After a while, I started to notice I was getting smaller. I looked on the scale and I was 111 pounds. OK, nothing to worry about. I’ve been this size before.
A couple weeks later, it was 110. OK, I just need to try to eat more.
When it got to 108, I knew I had to do something. I stopped working out completely because I was afraid to lose more weight. The last time I saw those numbers on the scale, I was 16 years old and not yet fully developed. I was starting to get worried that people would notice. And they did. Some approached me out of concern, thinking I might be harming myself. It was that noticeable. If people were mentioning things to me and voicing concerns, I could only imagine what was being said behind my back. In order to squash any potential rumors, I decided I’d be upfront about my struggle, letting people know that I was working toward getting better.
Skinny Girl Problems
I’ve always felt uncomfortable about saying “I am skinny.” It’s the truth, it is what I am, but even though I know I’m small, I feel guilty around people who are bigger than me; like I am the one perpetuating the size-two culture we live in.
I feel bad because I have never really struggled with my weight. At 5’4″, I’ve fluctuated between 113 and 120 pounds for a good part of my adult life. I have never dieted. I have never said no to food because I was worried about calories. I know it’s a luxury not many people have.
But since I am the size-two culture, I’ve never been able to completely understand how messed up body image is in this country. I do know the culture is messed up, but since I’m right in the middle of the ‘problem,’ per se, I can’t fully understand how someone outside of that tiny bubble might feel. And because of this, there is some sort of war against thin women. While other women get to embrace their curves, those that are my size must hold responsibility for what Hollywood and the media set as their standards. And once I started struggling with being too thin, I saw exactly how screwed up our culture can be.
I can give you some of my fat
I don’t expect people to understand what it’s like to be too thin. It’s not something that happens in our day-to-day lives. People struggle to lose weight, they don’t struggle to gain weight. So when I thought I was taking control with telling people about my struggle, it turned out that I just giving them a passive-aggressive route to respond.
“Wow. Must be nice to have that problem.”
“I wish I had that problem.”
“Which medication are you on? Maybe I should get my hands on that!”
And the most annoying, “I can give you some of my fat.”
Not only is that statement insensitive to what I’m going through, it is downright impossible. You cannot just give me your fat.
So in doing what I thought would be opening up a healthy conversation and understanding, it just turned out to be more stress on myself. Wow. Who am I to complain about this “problem?’” I should be happy I can no longer fit into my size-two pants, that my hard-earned muscles have shrunk, that I just feel weak all the time. I am the size of Kate Bosworth! I should be happy! I should shut up with my complaints because there are overweight people in this world.
And I get it, overweight people do get looks. They get nasty comments. To be concise, they get treated like shit. And trust me, I am not the problem. I want people to feel good, to be healthy, to be confident in their bodies, regardless of size. At 108 pounds, I felt weak, I felt unhealthy, I felt incapable. The healthiest I ever felt, in fact, was summer of 2012, when I was 10 pounds heavier and in marathon training. I was strong, I was capable and I was confident. I was proud of my body and what it could do and I also liked the way I looked.
As for me today, I am much better. I went off my medication and switched over to one that fits my needs. I am back to exercising almost daily and most importantly, I feel healthy, strong and happy. Even better, migraines are fewer because I’ve learned to listen to my body.
So I ask you, before you judge someone for their size, before you think, “Just eat less” or “Just eat more,” it might not be as easy as that for them. In fact, they could be struggling with something much bigger.