Running up a mountain slope on one of my longer joy-filled trail runs this past summer a realization of recovery shocked a laugh out of me: I will never be skinny again. I knew the truth of the statement the moment it floated into my mind. However, the reasoning behind it has developed over the past months as the thought marinated in the back of my mind. There are two reasons why I—as a woman recovered from anorexia—will never be skinny again.
First, I will never believe that I am skinny. Even in the middle of my eating disorder when I had slipped out of the healthy weight range for my age and height I never thought that I was skinny enough. The disorder trained my brain to never be satisfied with the shape of my malnourished body, with air between my thighs, with the flatness of my stomach, or the ever-shrinking diameter of my arms. Those solidly etched filters tainted the way I saw my weakened body…and now, also, my new healthy one. The screen I unconsciously but willingly placed before my eyes was created with permanent ink that fades slowly. Though I scrub away at the film passionately, the work is hard and the stains—while softer—remain in strands. When I look in a mirror I must remind myself to take my perception into account with a grain of salt. Through recovery I have both decreased the strength of the filter and increased my awareness of it so that I may see my body for the unique beauty that it is. However, whether I am fit or curvy or muscled or trim, my mind will never allow me to wear the label of “skinny.”
Second, I will never want to wear that label. I will never allow myself to get back to a place where others might frequently and automatically slap the body-type of “skinny” onto my frame. Yes, the term is only a societal construct but it is an immensely dangerous one. I recognize that, for me, slipping into that construct like a pair of old grown-too-big jeans is like playing with fire. I know all too well the slippery slope of losing a little weight and a little more and a little more to fit into the embrace of that one tiny but powerful word. Skinny. While I once coquettishly danced with the word to spin it into my identity, I now let it sit on the edge of the dance floor forlornly. Why? Through recovery I have developed a deep respect for myself and I will not let myself be in a place of matchstick thinness again. Ever. The occasional lingering thought from my eating disorder that tells me I am fat is balanced by equal “freak-out” thoughts if I feel too thin. When I used to check my thigh gap to make sure it was still there (and hopefully widening), I now check to make sure it doesn’t exist. I won’t ever let myself be “skinny.”
Therefore, with a recovered brain that will never accept the term “skinny” applying to my body and a determination stemming from self-love to never again come close to disrespecting my health as much as I did during my eating disorder, I will never be skinny.
And I’m glad! This realization simultaneously fills my being with pride for the recovery I have made and the self-respect I have developed and a ground sense of defiance solidifying my core resolve to stay separate from the eating disorder and step out from under the rule of labels.
In the end, “skinny” is only a word and my body is so much more. I don’t care how society, or others, or my ex-friend filter-creating eating disorder choose to see my body. While it can still sometimes be a struggle I select to see my body as something to be cherished in a wordless way; my relationship with this home that dances me through life is something I will protect from labels, especially one as loaded as “skinny.”