Body

Skinny girl

 

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Growing up, I was one of those kids that always stood in the front row of the class pictures.

Most of my classmates were taller and bigger than me. Fair-skinned and blue-eyed, I had knees with sharp knobs that protruded out on each leg, and my collar bones jutted forward, framing my shoulders.

“You have dainty hands,” my grandma told me one day as she traced my fingers with her own knobby hands. “You will probably play the piano.”

So I tried to learn the piano, but I had no patience for learning the chords and the notes — the black keys were so elusive with their sharp sounds that never seemed to fit the melody.

When I was five years old, I raced my next-door neighbour. He was four years older and I wanted to prove that even I — this spindly little girl — could be fast. But in two steps I tripped over my own feet and landed face first on the driveway pavement. I spent the rest of the summer with a brace that hugged my fractured, tiny collarbone.

Upon entering the seventh grade I grew taller but instead of resembling a young woman, I appeared as though I had simply been stretched. My mother went from store to store in search of clothes that would fit my growing body. The girls’ sizes were too short and the teens’ sizes hung loosely from my frame. We finally had success in an obscure shop called Small Stuff. I stocked up on size zero pants and belts that cinched in the waist.

“You need to eat more potatoes,” relatives would tease. “You’re going to be blown away in the wind.”

Soon after the start of high school, my body began to finally catch up. I relished in my teenage appetite and enjoyed fried foods and ice cream, which led to fuller hips and thighs and finally, breasts.

“Do you think my legs are fat?” my friend asked one day. I had never really looked at her legs, so I did.

“No,” I answered truthfully, “They look fine.”

She pressed her leg down into the seat of the chair, which made the flesh of her thighs splay out farther. “See?” she implored, “They are so fat.”

We began drinking Diet Coke.

After graduating high school, there came college, which meant late nights of coffee and fast food. I didn’t really worry about my weight, but was conscious of the fact that I wasn’t going to blow away in the wind anymore.

While still in school, I married, and there were dinners of partially cooked hamburgers and Rice-A-Roni. We burned frozen pizzas and bought rotisserie-cooked chicken from the Convenient store. I asked my new husband if he thought I needed to lose weight.

He said maybe, just a little.

When I learned I was carrying a tiny baby inside me, my perspective on my body and food suddenly changed quite a bit.

While in the back of my mind I wondered how my mind would emotionally handle a growing belly, another part of me knew that didn’t really matter.

What mattered was that now I worried about how much caffeine I drank and how few vegetables I ate. It mattered that the first three months, I barely held food down and when I stood on the scale at the midwife’s office she scolded me and said that I needed to eat more. In the months that followed, my belly blossomed further and my hips began to spread. I didn’t know where I ended and where I began and I clumsily bumped into people and walls.

And then, when my skin had been stretched as far as it could go and the whole weight of my body shifted so much that I thought I might simply topple over into a heap, the baby came. Also came swollen, leaking breasts and spider veins, feet that no longer fit into my shoes and hips that protested jeans with zippers.

But I had a newborn baby to feed and take care of, and surgery to recover from. I didn’t concern myself with exercise or getting back my pre-pregnant body. I sat on the couch for hours with a pillow over my newly scarred skin and kept my eyes locked on two tiny eyes looking up at me.

Another baby followed that one, which meant I was now chasing after a toddler and carrying an infant. The need for exercise was no longer an issue because I constantly exercised. I was always in motion and dinners were short and quick. The baby weight slipped off like an old worn out shoe and I found myself at Easter dinner surrounded by relatives telling me I need to eat more. “You’re too skinny,” they said. “Eat more potatoes.”

Then things changed again. In my thirties, I felt the nudge to shift careers so I went back to school to become a massage therapist. I saw people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and ages. I heard their stories and tried to relieve some of their aches and pains. I met clients who were tattooed, and clients who bore scars. I met clients whose skin had become wrinkled and worn, clients who had gained weight and some who had lost. They were all beautiful in some way or another.

It was then that I began taking yoga and found places in my body that were tight, some places that were weak while others were strong. My hamstrings were almost as unforgiving as my confidence and I felt shameful for this body I called mine. I thought I was fairly strong, and found that I was unable to support my own weight. What had happened to me?

I stopped eating cookies and cake.

At 40 I became vegan. I finally learned what being healthy was like and surprised myself at how much better I felt. I worried less about calories and learned about nutrition. I started teaching my children about food and cooked a lot less from boxes. I started hanging out in the produce section of the store a bit more and eliminated soda from our house.

“You need to eat meat,” my relatives told me at Christmas dinner. “You need protein. You will blow away in the wind.”

I watched as my children grew and their shapes changed. I saw their faces begin to morph into tiny adults and their bodies grow strong.

Then one night while tucking my 11-year old daughter in bed she shifted in her bed and I knew the way mothers know that something just wasn’t quite right.

Quietly, her voice slightly unsure, she says, “Some of my friends say I’m too skinny, Mom. They say I look like I am starving. They tell me to eat more.”

I lean in, touching her forehead and sweeping her silky brown hair from her dark eyes.

“You are perfect,” I tell her, “In every way.”

 

This article was originally published in Be You Media and has been republished with permission. 

 {Photo: Maggie Brauer/Flickr}

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Dana Gornall

Dana Gornall

Dana Gornall is the co-founder of The Tattooed Buddha and mom of three crazy kids and a dog. She has been writing stories since she could put words into sentences, and is completely in love with language of all kinds. The need to connect with people on a deeper level has always been something she strives for and finds fulfilling. Whether it be through massage, writing, interpreting or just chatting with a good friend, she finds bits of enlightenment in those connections. If not working or writing, you can find her standing outside in the dark night gazing up at the millions of stars or dancing in the kitchen with her children. You can also see her writing on Elephant Journal, Be You Media and Rebelle Society.

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