Whether standing on the Wii Fit or working out my BMI in biology, I loved asking my friends what category their BMI was in and I would reply smiling saying that I underweight. I’m not sure why I was proud of being malnourished. Maybe it’s because it demonstrated how much control and will power I could have? Maybe it’s because in a world where everyone was obsessing over their weight, I was winning?
As stupid as it seems, I have never actually realised that being underweight was unhealthy. When everyone is striving to be as skinny as possible, how could that ever be a bad thing? I managed to function well for years with much less calories than I should’ve been eating, especially considering I was active and still growing. However, it wasn’t until I Became far too skinny that I understood how dangerous disordered eating can be for you.
In November, I made an active decision to restrict my calorie intake because I had put on more weight than I was comfortable with and I feel this contributed to my mental breakdown. At first, it was fine since I was just eating a lot less junk food but then this choice to restrict my calories became involuntarily – not optional in the slightest. I was suffering from such extreme anxiety that I couldn’t face eating and when I did, or even when I drank something, I would be sick immediately. I lost my appetite completely; I fought with my mum as she tried to make me eat. Having three meals a day was a seemingly impossible task at the best of times. I got significantly more anxious when I knew I had to leave the house and throwing up with nothing in my stomach became so painful, I used to eat solely to be sick. After being sick I would feel better for two minutes. This is obviously not a good thing to be doing but I just felt, in that time, it was the only thing I could do to make myself feel a bit of relief.
During this time I lost a lot of weight; my mum would wince whenever she saw me and tell me “your clothes are hanging off of you”. My work uniform got far too big around the waist that my trousers were constantly falling down. It wasn’t the weight loss, not even losing my boobs and bum, that was the worst thing for me – it was the feeling. I constantly was cold, even though I was overheating, I felt i had no heat circulating to my extremities. I felt tired 24/7. My limbs just felt so weak, as if I had no strength in them. And perhaps the weirdest sensation of all was the empty feeling inside me, not mentally, but physically I felt empty – like I had no food inside of me. It was a horrendous feeling and my stomach hurt so badly with it having no food to process.
The good news is that I recovered, in that aspect anyway 🙂 I got my appetite back from forcing myself to eat three meals a day, eventually, it was no longer a struggle and just natural. The best feeling was one day when I said “I’m so hungry” and when I realised what I had said I celebrated – I had not been hungry for as long as I could remember. This thought was a milestone in my recovery, it meant I was getting back to normal.
Now I’m a healthy weight and I feel so much more energetic. When I move, I can feel the strength in my limbs and I feel warm again. Not only is my body happy with my food intake, I’m getting happier with my body as I’ve learned that I look so much better in clothes being a normal weight. I’m still trying to gain weight because the sudden weight loss stole my boobs and I’m terrified that I will become too anxious to eat again, so I want to have some reserves.
This whole experience has just made me appreciate my body so much – it is not there to look as society deems preferable – it is there to keep you alive (no matter how much you test it). Believing being underweight is a goal now seems like a dangerous idea and much work needs to be done in educating young people that you need to respect your body because abusing it will lead to awful consequences.
A BMI > 18.5 IS ESSENTIAL