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Life is more than a thigh gap

Blythe Baird “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny”

The year of Skinny Pop and sugar-free Jell-o cups,

we guzzled vitamin water and vodka,

toasting to high school and survival

complimenting each other’s thigh gaps.

Trying diets we found on the Internet:

menthol cigarettes, eating in front of a mirror, donating blood

replacing meals with other practical hobbies like making flower crowns or fainting.

Wondering why I haven’t had my period in months

or why breakfast tastes like giving up

or how many more productive ways I could have spent my time today

besides Googling the calories in the glue of a US envelope.

Watching America’s Next Top Model like the gospel

hunching naked over a bathroom scale shrine

crying into an empty bowl of Coco Puffs

because I only feel pretty when I’m hungry.

If you are not recovering, you are dying.

By the time I was sixteen, I had already experienced being clinically overweight, underweight, and obese.

As a child, “fat” was the first word people used to describe me

which didn’t offend me until I found out it was supposed to.

When I lost weight, my dad was so proud.

He started carrying my before-and-after photo in his wallet.

So relieved he could stop worrying about me getting diabetes.

He saw a program on the news about the epidemic with obesity.

Said he is just so glad to finally see me taking care of myself.

If you develop an eating disorder when you are already thin to begin with, you go to the hospital.

If you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story.

So when I evaporated, of course everyone congratulated me on getting healthy.

Girls at school who never spoke to me before stopped me in the hallway to ask how I did it.

I say, “I am sick.”

They say, “No, you’re an inspiration.”

How could I not fall in love with my illness?

With becoming the kind of silhouette people are supposed to fall in love with?

Why would I ever want to stop being hungry when anorexia was the most interesting thing about me?

So how lucky it is, now, to be boring.

The way not going to the hospital is boring.

The way looking at an apple and seeing only an apple, not sixty or half an hour of sit-ups is boring.

My story may not be as exciting as it used to, but at least there is nothing left to count.

The calculator in my head finally stopped.

I used to love the feeling of drinking water on an empty stomach

waiting for the coolness to slip all the way down and land in the well,

not obsessed with being empty but afraid of being full.

I used to be proud when I was cold in a warm room.

Now, I am proud I have stopped seeking revenge on this body.

This was the year of eating when I was hungry without punishing myself

and I know it sounds ridiculous, but that shit is hard.

When I was little, someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said


Below an ad for “1 Flat Belly Tip” has announced that Blythe Baird’s poem now has 1 million views. It is such a heart breaking and brave poem. Congratulations and thank you so much Blythe Baird for speaking so beautifully on such a difficult mental health issue. The person who organises advertising for the page, on the other hand, needs a lesson on sensitivity.

For the women that I work with and for everyone I know, I hope that 2017 will be the year of eating when we are hungry, the year of eating without guilt and the year of looking at the bigger picture. Our bodies are tools: we use them to dance, to climb, to run, swim and play. They need to be strong enough and without pain to do this. We only realise this obvious fact when something starts to hurt. But I also know that I would take on physical pain and an extra fifty kilos if I could guarantee the good health of my family. My biggest fear is the death of one of my children. We can eat organic, we can get outside everyday but we can’t always avoid car accidents, cancer or random acts of violence.

Sorry, that was a bit heavy - On a happier note, I went out to dinner with a group of Pilates friends last week, Our ages spanned from eighty something through to women in their seventies, sixties, fifties and me - almost forty. These women are strong, flexible and beautiful. More importantly they are women who do move without pain and though their lives have been touched by tragedy, they - with time - have recovered, they have incredible life experience and wisdom. One of them is still studying and got her degree after she retired. Some of them are or have been carers, A few are travellers and explorers. The entire group are the perfect example of beauty being so much more than a dress size or smooth unlined skin. I hope 2017 is a year of creating, of moving, of learning and of friendship. All of these things are so much more important than ‘becoming the silhouette people are supposed to fall in love with’.

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