Like many other young women, I’ve struggled with body image. I know there are many poems and stories out there about people’s journey with body positivity, yet this is one of the first that had struck me so deeply. I first listened to Baird recite this years ago, and it has stayed in my mind ever since. Even though I’ve never had an eating disorder, I related to her words so immensely and thoroughly appreciated the style and delivery of her poem. That being said, this may trigger you if you have/had an eating disorder, so continue with caution. Please enjoy October’s poem of the month!
When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny by Blythe Baird
“The year of skinny pop and sugar-free jello 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 hadn’t had my period in months, or why breakfast tastes like giving up.
Or how many more productive ways I could’ve spent my time today besides googling the calories in the glue of a U.S envelope.
Watching Americas Next Topmodel like the gospel,
hunching naked over a bathroom scale shrine,
crying into an empty bowl of cocoa 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’s 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 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.”