The Myth of Skinniness

When I work out, people tell me I shouldn’t because I’m already “in shape”

They don’t hear me wheezing after a flight of stairs

When I take pictures and my neck is showing, my dad tells me I look malnourished

He doesn’t see me eat three plates of rice and goat on Sunday

When I play basketball in the summer, I look like I’ve been playing since forever

They don’t know that I haven’t been on a team in two years, my body just looks like it

 

“You’re losing weight,” my mother says

And my pastor says

And my best friend says

And my aunt says

But I don’t see it

I eat

I believe so

But I don’t see that either

Where does the food go?

When I was younger, I fed into the “fast metabolism” explanation. I thought that it could be used as my excuse to eat any and everything, whether healthy or not. It’s easier to see that you’re not healthy when your body shows it, but being skinny is scary. You can’t really tell right away. You can go on eating all the junk in the world, maintaining your perfect shape, having everyone envy your body, meanwhile your health is deteriorating. Skinniness is a mask. A myth that must be dispelled.

My mother makes me salads now. We call it leaves.

“Mom why am I eating leaves? That’s goat food where we come from.”

“It’s healthy.”

After high school I stopped eating McDonald’s, and mostly all the other fast food restaurants. I actually gained weight. I became so self conscious and depressed. Why am I getting bigger? I started working out. Trying to lose weight. This was something new to me. I’ve never had to lose weight before. I went to the park, did workout routines at home, had group workout sessions with friends who couldn’t understand what “weight gain” I was referring to. It seemed like I was the only one who saw it. Then one day I looked in the mirror and realized: I was skinny again. Perhaps it was my transition from high school to college that initiated my imaginary weight gain, but once it left, so did my health regimen. Healthy was a physical characteristic to me, not internal.

I used to eat bacon cheeseburgers before basketball practice in college. In my head, I’d “work it off.” I had a teammate who was vegan her whole life. I was skinnier than her. In fact, she wasn’t skinny at all, but she had more endurance on the court than I did. I looked fit, she was fit.

I decided another diet was at hand. I stopped eating chicken. As a fried chicken lover, this was particularly difficult. Despite the difficulty, I managed to go for a while. Then I stopped eating meat altogether. I was now a pescatarian. This was when I realized how much of a role meat plays in my community. There was absolutely nothing to eat around me. I became stressed out because of food. I wasn’t meeting my daily nutritional recommendations and wasn’t taking supplements for them.

You’re losing weight,” my mother says.

I’m not getting healthier. What’s the point of this diet?

I still have clothes from when I was 16 years old that fit me perfectly. Then I have clothes from 3 years ago that don’t fit at all. I have days that I eat so much I look pregnant. Then I have days that I skip meals, or forget to eat, and my bones start to protrude. There are days when I play basketball and I outrun my middle school students, and they look at me like I’m a goddess with skills. Then there are days when I run for the bus and feel like passing out when I get on.

Maybe it’s my allergies that affect my breathing. Maybe it’s my monthly cycle that causes bloating and fatigue. Maybe it’s stress from school that causes my bones to pop. Is anyone really healthy? Maybe, maybe not.

I’m skinny, though.

-Fortunate Ekwuruke

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