Skinny: Not a Fancy Title

I have a confession to make. I make this confession not as a writer, not as a traveler, not as a business person.


I know more about working out than any gym-goer I know. I know more about nutrition than my athlete friends. But I will never tell them. When I was was a teacher, I remember having a conversation in the teacher’s lounge over lunch about how tough it is to get into the mindset of healthy eating and going to the gym regularly–She was in her mid-thirties, not fat, but not skinny.  I was in my mid-twenties and thin by most standards–I tried to give her some tips and empathize with her, but she cut me off, clicking her tongue: “You’ve never struggled with weight in your life!”


But I do.


I make this confession as a woman who has struggled with my self-image all of my life.


For as long as I can remember, I have had an unhealthy relationship with food. When I was 11, I kept a bucket under my bed so I could throw up my dinner at night without my parents knowing it. I would wait for them to fall asleep and go to the bathroom to empty it, rinse it out, and use it the next night. I read blogs studying the best laxatives for weight control. Now, I have to drink Miralax at least every-other day to make sure I can regulate my digestion. I do not know if its a result of my youth eating habits or just coincidence. I’ll never ask my doctor.  


I love food. I love to cook. I love to experience new tastes and cultures.


No one knows this torture inside of me. My family does not know. My friends do not know. My clients do not know. Sometimes I worry, “does my dentist know?” My girlfriend once told me about her ex who she thought was immature for being bulimic, and I said nothing for a week about my teenage years–even then, I only mentioned my teenage years…Not my daily arguments with myself about food, water, and exercise.


What qualifies as healthy? Just because I LOOK healthy. I EAT healthily. I EXERCISE…It does not mean I am healthy. I am constantly tangled in a battle, balancing the healthy body with the healthy mindset. Is is healthy to obsess over anything?


I have an eating disorder.

I would never feel comfortable saying it aloud to anyone. I didn’t have an eating disorder. I HAVE an eating disorder. It’s always with me like a phantom sucking my soul. I do not know how to get rid of it. To my alcoholic readers, I know what it is like to struggle every day with the decision. Do I eat it? If I do, how will I recover?


Do I purge it? If I do, how will I recover?


Food is like a drug for me. I tell you I do not want to go to a buffet because I do not have self-control. I will eat. I will even over eat and justify it as a celebration with my loved ones. I can only have 2-3 plates because you will want me to “enjoy myself” or “make the money worth it.” I do it for you. But I will come home and step on the scale to shame myself. I will spend an hour in the bathroom making myself feel bad. Why didn’t I stand up for myself!? Like food is the bully breaking me down. I do not puke anymore. But I think about it every day. I fight the urge every day. Usually, I win the battle. But not always.


When I was 11, I started eating all of my meals with egg spoons to slow down my eating pace. It’s not a cute quirk. It’s a tool for self-control. At home, I eat all of my meals off tea platters leaving at least two centimeters of porcelain around for the edges. Yes, this is a healthy portion, but again, a tool for self-control.


Even when I am eating healthy, I am counting. I know how many calories are in the yolk of a large egg; I know the difference between 4.5 ounces of chicken and 6 ounces without weighing it. I know exactly what two tablespoon of mayonnaise looks like. And I try to be discreet. I hope no one notices how often I say “Man, I ate too much!” I do not want anyone to hear my internal battle. I worry about what they would THINK  of my obsessions.


I know I have a nice body. I know I am not fat. I have a beautiful face when I wear a size 14, and I have a beautiful face when I wear a size four. To my transgender friends, I know what it is like to look in the mirror and be disappointed by what you see. To be so unhappy in your skin that you want to die. That was me four years ago at my peak weight of 178lbs in the morning. Broke down on the floor of a Gordman’s dressing room, I would stop at nothing to change the reflection looking back at me.

I overcame my fear of gyms and learned a new obsession.

You may tell me, “Kelli you are skinny! You are beautiful.” But even when I am being “healthy” I’m not. Don’t assume it’s easy for some people and not others. I weight myself every day. Twice a day, sometimes three or four. Always naked. It is the first thing I do every morning; I pee to relieve myself of water weight; I take off my clothes; and I step on to wait for the diagnosis. When I step on the scale in the morning, I can determine the quality of my mood that day based on the number I see. When I go to bed at night, and the scale says 136.4, I know exactly how much I will weigh in the morning if I get 6 hours of sleep versus 9 hours of sleep. Sometimes, I sleep three extra hours to avoid thinking about food for three more hours. When I have my period, I hold arguments with myself over whether it is water weight or that slice of cake. No. I cannot even enjoy a beer because I am thinking about the cost. And when I look in the mirror, I can physically see the difference between 129 and 132. My scale is like a drug for me.


No one looks at me and says, “Kelli, you look like you put on 2 pounds.”


I am not telling you this for you to remind me how beautiful I am. Nor do I want you to think I am crazy. I am saying this to let you know that yes, I am a happy girl. I am a lovely girl. I am a smart girl. I am kind. And I have a horrible affliction, one that someone could easily judge me by. Please do not.


Everyone has a horrible affliction.


I hate our culture for serving up huge portions and making fun of my decisions to share my dinner at a restaurant and order water. I am not cheap.I am sparing myself the judgment of overeating, and now I hate to worry about the judgment of you thinking I am poor or just do not want to tip more.  


I judge too. When I see an obese person, I think to myself “why do they not have more self-control?!” And I am no better, because I fight too hard to gain control, that in the end, I lose it.


I judge my sister. Not for her weight; I tell her all of the time, “you worry too much! Why are you so anxious? Why do you care so much about what other people think?” Why do I say these things to her? The person I judge the most is myself. If I knew who ANYONE judged her the way I judge myself, I’d kill them. I want her to be free of judgment. I want her to be herself.


I lie to other people when I tell them that I do not have anxiety as bad as her. I just control it in such a quiet way. This control is like a drug to me. I HAVE to have it. To have self-control is to be poised. Lovely. Lady-like.


I want to be skinny like the girls in Paris, but I am not a small-framed woman. I have a small waist, but a big butt, big hips, naturally large breasts. In my culture, to be pretty is to be girly. To be girly is to be small. I curse myself sometimes thinking “It’s not fair.” Why do I have to work so hard to feel like a woman?




Why do I have to feel attractive to feel in-control, or in-control to feel attractive…to feel I have power in my life.


This is my point. Body shaming is not just a problem for just heavy women. Shaming is a problem. Period.


Believe me; I am a SMART woman. I know the difference between rhetoric that builds up a society, and rhetoric that makes us feel self-important. Sometimes judgment comes from the standpoint of love and wanting something better for ourselves and others. But more often, we shame others and ourselves just to feel successful. Here is my confession:


I am not a nice person all of the time. I know what it is like to feel ugly, fat, out of control, crazy, sexy, powerful, and skinny. And I am guilty of saying every one of these things:


She is so fat!

She is so skinny!

She is so ugly!

She is so poor and still makes bad money choices!

She has a beard!

She is huge!

She is tiny!

She is an idiot!

She has done nothing with her life!

She is so awkward!


And every one of them feeds the mindset that you have to be perfect: skinny, symmetrical, hairless, rich, and reserved to be a successful woman.


I would like to say this mindset does not apply as much to my generation. We are moving away from gender roles. We are moving away from strict gender identity. We are moving away from dichotomous sexual orientations.


Then why do I still feel the way I do? Why do I still say these things even knowing they break other people down? Why do I still let the things other people may or may not say or even think about me change the way I think about myself. Why do I have the shave my legs and wear makeup to go to a sales meeting? Or wear high-heels to go to an interview?