'Last week, Jonah Hill said what I've been wishing I could say for years.'

Content warning: this article deals with disordered eating and mental health, and may be triggering for some readers.

I was probably only in Year 2 or 3 when I realised my body was something to be ashamed of. 

That it was a little bigger than the others. That it was embarrassing. That it needed to be scolded, tamed and controlled. 

I don't have a lot of childhood memories in which my body wasn't a problem that needed to be fixed. 

I was a sporty, active kid, but one who was constantly tugging at her t-shirt, avoiding cameras, and looking at her crossed legs at the school assembly and comparing them to the girl sitting next to her. 

I grew up in the 1990s, a time when diet culture was at its most perversive. Low-fat, sugar-free, chemical-packed foods lined the aisles in every supermarket. 

Ads for Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers and two-for-one ab rollers dominated daytime TV. 

I would watch my mum sweat her way through an hour-long aerobics workout on a VHS tape, in 40 degree heat, before rewarding herself with a plate of boiled veggies for dinner. 

She was always trying to 'lose those last few kilos', like reaching a certain number on the scales would suddenly mean that she was okay. That she was enough. 

By the time I reached high school, I had my own tricks. I started drinking coffee and diet soft drink, instead of eating meals. There was a stage when my diet consisted mostly of apples. I felt my body growing smaller and my confidence increasing. 


Then came non-stop gym sessions and Lean Cuisines, 300grams of calorie-controlled frozen food for dinner. I started smoking, which wasn't exactly frowned upon by my parents because it was the '90s and I was the youngest child, and my older siblings were doing it too. 

My body weight fluctuated for years, as did my confidence. 

But no matter what I did, I was always a little bit bigger than my friends. I went clothes shopping by myself because I didn't want my friends to see me reaching for the size 16 jeans at the bottom of the pile. 

I came to equate weight loss, and the compliments that came with it, as the height of success. But then there was always the other side of the coin. The weight gain. The disappointed looks. The helpful suggestions about how I could shed the weight. Fast. 

When I was 21, I developed a full-blown eating disorder. My body rapidly grew smaller. And the compliments came in thick and fast. 




At first I was riding on a high. I felt like everything that had been missing in my life was finally within reach. 

But the interest in my weight loss and my body size, far outweighed the interest in my wellbeing and happiness. 

I remember friends staring at my thighs, asking what size jeans I was wearing now. Other friends asked me for my secrets. How did I do it? I laughed off their questions. Of course, I couldn't tell them the truth. That I was slowly killing myself. 


And when it all became too much. When I was finally 'the right size' but my life was falling apart around me, I had no one to turn to. 

I couldn't tell those same people who told me "well done, keep going" that I needed help. 

So I slowly recovered, and my weight returned, and the compliments disappeared. 

My weight continued to fluctuate throughout my 20s and my 30s, through job losses and friend losses and anxiety and depression. 

I'd love to say that I grew to love my body, that I became the poster girl for body positivity. But the truth is I learnt to become confident despite my body. 

I worked really hard and created a career for myself where I got (almost) the same opportunities as people in smaller bodies than me. 

I found friends who didn't talk about weight and diet and bodies so much. They talked about ideas

I started to love other parts of myself. I could make people laugh. I had bloody great hair. I could keep all my indoor plants alive. I was writing for a living. 

But occasionally the questions came. Maybe on a trip home, or when I caught up with a friend I hadn't seen for a while, or when I bumped into a colleague in the kitchen. 

"Have you lost weight?" 

"You look like you've lost weight. You look great!" 

An off-handed comment that immediately brought my body and its "worthiness" back into the room.

Every time someone commented on my body, it reminded me they were looking at it. Assessing it. Making a value judgement about it.

I knew the people asking the questions or giving the compliments usually meant well. They too were a product of our society's obsession with diet culture and weight. 

But I wished they knew how much one little comment could undo me. And I wished I knew how to tell them that. 

Then last week, Jonah Hill posted something on Instagram. 

The 37-year-old actor has been in the spotlight for two decades now and his weight has often been the focus. 

When he loses or gains weight, millions of people have an opinion on it. 


So last week, he finally told people how that actually made him feel. 

"I know you mean well but I kindly ask that you don't comment on my body, good or bad. I want to politely let you know that it's not helpful and doesn't feel good. Much respect," he wrote on Instagram. 

When I read his post I immediately thought of that little girl who absorbed the message that she wasn't good enough, that her body was something that needed to be fixed. 

I thought of that teenager, restricting her meals and avoiding swimming.

I thought of the 21-year-old me who thanked people who praised her weight loss and felt like the loneliest person in the world. 

I thought of the 'me' from a few months ago, who laughed and changed the subject when a friend asked whether I had lost weight. Because I looked great! 

In two sentences, Jonah Hill perfectly summed up what I wish I had been able to say for years. 

My weight will continue to fluctuate throughout my life. I might gain weight through depression, lose weight through a particularly anxious time, gain or lose weight due to illness. 

My body might change for a million different reasons. 

But I hope that the next time someone comments on my body, I'll have the confidence to say: 

I know you mean well. 

But please don't comment on my body. 

Good or bad.

For their sake and mine. 

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation's National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected]tterflyfoundation.org.au. You can also visit their website, here.

Keryn Donnelly is Mamamia's Pop Culture Editor. For more of her TV, film and book recommendations and to see photos of her dog, follow her on Instagram