“Have you had her checked for a tapeworm?” My grandmother asked my mother when I was 11 years old. My outspoken and opinionated grandma was in disbelief that a girl like me could eat so much and not gain a pound.
But I was just a normal, healthy kid with a good metabolism. I didn’t have an eating disorder. I was fortunate that I could eat three bowls of ice cream a day and still fit into my skinny jeans. But when I was in early high school, I was diagnosed as anaemic.
“No wonder you’re so skinny,” a friend told me, insinuating that my body shape was indicative of a medical condition.
Here’s how to improve your daughter’s body image. Post continues below.
When I look back at pictures of me in my teens, I was thin, but I didn’t look unhealthy. Yet even at the height of my thinness in my youth, I still struggled with body issues. My arms were too hairy, I hated my chin. My ankles weren’t dainty enough. Like most women and girls, my body image was far from perfect.
In university, I gained the infamous “freshman fifteen”. Two years later, when I interned and walked well over 10,000 steps a day to work, I lost weight. When I returned to campus, I was inundated with compliments: “You look fantastic!” “You’re so skinny now, I hate you.” “What did you do to lose so much weight?”
I asked myself, was I really that fat before? Did I look so terrible before I lost weight that people felt the need to congratulate me on my new, more societal appropriate appearance?
With 9kg lost, and back to a size 8, I was suddenly in the “club” again; pretty enough for guys to hit on me at parties and back in the population of women who regularly got catcalled when I walked down a busy street.
Four years later, I was 20kg heavier. I worked for a senator in the United States. In the span of three months, my father died, 9/11 happened, and anthrax was mailed to our office.
And so I ate. Food was a great escape from the stress. At my heaviest, I was a size 16.
Not long after I married, my husband and I tried to get pregnant. Months went by with no luck. I visited an gynaecologist. As soon as she walked into the room she took one look at me and said, “I can tell by looking at you that you’re not ovulating regularly. You need to lose weight. If you drop 10kg, you’ll be pregnant before you know it.”