This is a very personal post. I do not in any way recommend doing what I did. I just want to share my story in hopes that someone out there won’t feel as alone after reading this. Everyone is different and makes different choices. Always remember that and be nice.
I was born in September of 1999. By the age of 9, I was about to enter puberty… that is quite early. Luckily, my mother was a nurse and noticed it. She took me to the doctor where they tried to figure out whether I should get some kind of treatment to stop my puberty for a while so that I could grow just a little taller. They told me that if they did that, they could promise me to become 1,6 meters.
I decided to say no and pray that I would grow taller than 1,54 metres – my grandmother was 1,53 metres and I wanted to be taller than her.
The consequence of that choice was that I entered puberty a couple of months after. The doctors told me that I would get my first period within two years. Meanwhile, my breasts grew, my hips grew and my butt grew. As a competition dancer with two years younger girls on my team, I felt enormous compared to them. That was where my insecurity started.
I was the most mature looking girl in my grade at school. As soon as I had what is considered “small boobs” the boys started paying attention. Keep in mind that I was 11 and 12 years old back then. I didn’t think about sexuality, equality or anything. All I thought about was marching band, dancing, books, One Direction and my friends.
The boys from my class started a game where they touched my breasts and my butt. Insecure little me didn’t know what to do. I just laughed and went home and hated my body. That was when it started for real. I was done with being “chubby”.
I was never chubby. I haven’t been chubby since I was a baby. There is nothing wrong with being chubby and I don’t in any way fat shame chubby people. But when I was 12 years old I didn’t want to be the chubby dancer in the background. So I wanted to make sure that it didn’t happen.
The calorie counting started when I was 12 years old. In the beginning, I didnøt know much about calories besides that I didn’t want them in my body. A school nutritionist told us to eat more for lunch and less for dinner in order to be able to burn the calories (bullshit to tell 12 years olds if you ask me today!) so I started eating “a lot” for lunch and not much for dinner. And after dinner, I went straight to the trampoline in our backyard to burn off the calories. I would jump on it while listening to music for 30 minutes every evening after dinner.
Worst of all, I lied to my parents about it. I told them I just loved jumping around and didn’t need time to digest my food. And I got crazy mad at them when they told me no. My whole world fell apart and I would cry myself to sleep believing that I would wake up being fat.
I was scared of calories.
I changed school to a bigger school where many of the girls from my grade looked much more mature than I did. It was a relief not to go to school with people judging and touching your body. I finally looked normal.
For my 13th birthday, I got my first ever smartphone. I noticed an app where you could register the food you ate and it would tell you how many calories to eat and to burn. That was when the nightmare really started…
I counted calories all the time. Whenever I ate something I would make sure to burn it off with 100 jumping jacks. I would run in circles in my room so my parents wouldn’t notice me working out 2-3 times a day. All I could think about was getting skinny.
Today, I am so grateful that I never starved myself. I was educated on eating disorders and didn’t want one. I just really had to get skinny. But I ate 3-5 meals every day.
Birthdays were the worst. People expected me to eat cake because I always talked about cake. I would ask for a small slice, eat it and feel guilty about it. But I ate it so that no one would ask any questions. That was what it was all about. I didn’t want anyone to tell me that I didn’t have to lose weight. I didn’t want other people’s opinions on my body because they would never understand it.
In 9th grade when I turned 15 I decided to end it. I hadn’t lost a single kilo during those 2,5 years of being worried about it and deep down I knew it wasn’t healthy. A decision like that it easy to tell about and not so easy to make a reality. Especially not when the two people knowing about it were out of reach. I was no longer friends with one of them and the other friend’s dad had cancer.
We had to make a workout programme in PE and I started working out and counting calories again. I thought I had it under control but I was still afraid of the calories. It was Christmas and I remember having to “jumping jack” off the calories from the two pieces of chocolate I ate every day while sitting with my parents. I had a crush on a guy who went to the gym a lot and looked very muscular. I thought he would only want me if I got skinny and everyone from our grade was going to an aqua park resort in January where he would see me in a bikini.
He talked to me multiple times during that trip. My plan had worked. By that time I still hadn’t lost a single kilo since I was 12. I tried to ignore the fear of calories afterwards. There were more important things in life such as graduating, working and spending time with my friends.
I only had a few relapses until October 2016. They lasted a week or two and I never really took them to the same level as before. I was still an active dancer, ran every now and then and tried my best to accept my body while still work out 3-5 times a week.
In October 2016 I started feeling really unhappy in the relationship I was in. We’d been together for nearly a year and I just couldn’t see the point of continuing when I was genuinely bored in the relationship. At the same time, I wanted him to do something that would make it easy for me to break up with him. A terrible thing to do!
One time he told me that he liked that I was tiny and skinny. That triggered me because I’d never seen myself as skinny or small or pretty and he probably just lied to make me happy. That was what I thought. Compared to him I was tiny.
While being sad about school, sad in my relationship and sad about my body I fell into a dark hole. Luckily, I realised that I needed help and went to a psychologist who really helped me.
During those 1,5 months of feeling sad all the time, I lost 5 kilos.
That is beyond crazy. I am quite small and 5 kilos are a lot on my body. I was not just skinny, I was weak. I loved the way my body looked but I didn’t like the way I felt. I had broken up with my boyfriend and felt sad again. I didn’t eat much but oatmeal and bread that my mother forced me to eat. I had told her about it all when I told her I wanted to see a psychologist.
The psychologist helped me find peace with my body. So did Freelee the Banana Girl and my best friend. They taught me not to eat in order to survive but eat in order to feel good, function better and be more confident. That is what I tell myself every time I bust myself checking the calories on something.
I would not call myself a specialist in body positivity – not at all – but I am slowly learning that being skinny is not everything. In fact, it would never benefit me because of my bone structure. I can’t be skinny without being weak and weak is the last thing a dancer should be. Dancing makes me so happy. I chose to dance instead of being skinny.
I haven’t counted calories in a long time, I can talk openly about it with my friends and my eating habits are so much more healthy now that I don’t blame myself for eating too much all the time. I’ve gained 6 kilos so I now weight 1 kilo more than I did when I was 12 years old. But honestly, I haven’t weighed myself in 3 months so I don’t really know. I look more fit than I ever did and a lot of my insecurities don’t involve my body anymore.
The insecurities are still inside me but they no longer control my life.
At this moment, I am not ready to give advice about eating disorders yet. I need to know that I am completely free from it myself before advising others to do things that might not even help.
I just want you to know that you are beautiful just the way you are. If someone tells you anything different they’re wrong and don’t listen to them. Don’t ever think that you should look a certain way to please anyone but yourself. But in the end it’s not about how you look but how you feel. Strive to be happy.
Stay happy, stay beautiful!