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To the Woman Who Told Me 'You Look Great... Don't Get Fat'

To the woman who told me, “You look great! Don’t gain weight. Don’t get fat. Being fat is the worst!”

I wish you knew who I was before you decided to blurt these few words out to me. I wish you knew my story because then maybe you would have been more mindful. Maybe, you would have chosen to speak differently.

You didn’t know me. You don’t know me. You looked at my body that day and you saw skinny, something you perhaps envy and desire yourself. What you didn’t know is that not even 24 hours prior to our interaction, I sat anxiously in a chair, shaking my legs uncontrollably, located in the office of a dietician who treats eating disorders.

You saw skinny, and you praised it. In fact, you praised me for being it. Yet, what you don’t know is how I got to be the weight you see. You don’t know how many meals I’ve skipped and how many meals I’ve watched others enjoy with immense jealousy and discontent. You’ve never seen me leave my house at 3 a.m. to go for a “needed” run, and you’ve never seen me pacing back and forth on the laxative and diuretics aisle at CVS.

You didn’t know I have been in and out of outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial and residential facilities for the past five years, desperately seeking treatment to overcome my anorexia and bulimia.

You don’t know the repercussions my body has endured due to malnourishment and self-hatred. When you analyzed my body, what you missed were my brittle bones enduring osteopenia and arthritis. You missed my ankle, neck and back injuries that have left me unable to exercise at all anymore.

“You look great. Don’t gain weight. Don’t get fat. Being fat is the worst.”

You have no idea how much your careless words affected me this day. For you see, I am supposed to be following a weight-gain meal plan to put fat back on my body in the places where it rightfully belongs. Every day, I struggle to put food into my mouth, chew, swallow and keep it down. It’s a battle I don’t always win because I find myself consumed with the words “don’t,” “shouldn’t” and “fat” 24/7.

Your words gave reassurance to my eating disorder, and I cried that evening at dinner as I twirled pasta around my fork. You looked at my body, and you made a judgment. The biggest fear that I walk with all day long, and you said it aloud to me.

It hurt me. It angered me. It baffled me.

You see, I am not like most others. I do not take being called skinny as a compliment. My eating disorder twists it too much to think anything other than “starve more” and “not skinny enough.” Skinny isn’t a compliment, rather a trap I keep walking into.

“You look great. Don’t gain weight. Don’t get fat. Being fat is the worst.”

Although my eating disorder, also categorized as a mental illness, may agree with you, I cannot say that I do. I’d choose fat over ignorant, misinformed, uneducated, judgmental and mean any day.

 If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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