I have been with my boyfriend for five years. Today, his mom sent me an email. In this email, she told me (in two pages) why she is concerned for my health and weight. Her reasons were mostly medical, insisting I have hormonal issues and possibly PCOS because (she is projecting, for one) her niece was recently diagnosed with it. Her email came mid school day for me, one of my longest days of the week. Needless to say, this email crushed me. I felt ashamed, overwhelmed, confused, angry, heartbroken- all of it. I felt like my boyfriend's family didn't see me for who I am, but rather who they thought I should be.
I wasn't going to respond. I was overcome with embarrassment and hurt. No one had ever taken such a concern and I was worried I looked awful. I knew that if I didn't find a way to turn this around and quick, my eating disorder and shame would creep back. So I sat down and wrote back to her. I wrote honestly, openly, and kept true to myself. I needed to share, because this is my truth, and also because I am so proud of what this says about my recovery.
Here's my response:
I don't think it will come as a shock when I tell you that this email disappointed and hurt me.
Since you are always honest, I assume that I am able to freely express my feelings regarding this email.
I feel as though this advice would be much more warranted had my habits or health be inquired about. It was never asked if I was in good health, you only assumed I was not, I’m guessing, based on the fact that I have fat. This is very disheartening for me, as I have been working for my entire 20’s to become the healthier, happier version of myself that I am today.
When I was Bulimic and starving myself, I went through major health issues. My hormones and thyroid had been damaged, my blood levels were terrible, and my weight was at an all time low and accompanied many other issues. I was miserable at the peak of my illness, however, compliments on how my body looked never ceased. No one cared that I was miserable or sick, because I “Looked good.”
Now, fast forward to one of my last doctors appointments. I got a blood test that indicated after 5 years of recovery, trauma work, and food - not only were my hormones were normal, but my thyroid had HEALED! (Although doctors had told me years of starving myself would surely mean it was permanent.) It was the healthiest I had ever been. This seems hard to believe for some who stick to the assumption that all fat is bad. However, when my body was shutting down from starvation no one was concerned. Yet ironically, it is at this point in my life that I get a concerned email regarding my health.
I love and take care of my body. Your email did indeed make me feel as though my lifestyle and the way I look is being openly judged. This is painful because I love your son and family, and I want you to see all of the good things I am and can offer the world. I shouldn't need to defend my lifestyle to anyone. I shouldn't feel as though I owe anyone any explanation of my journey or my body, or of how I look. I shouldn't need to tell you that I work out, eat mindfully, and nourish myself healthfully and without binging. I shouldn't feel ashamed around certain people I fear may be judging me.
I can tell you that I am proud of my recovery over the last 5 years, weight gain and all- because it was my path to full recovery (as it is for many with an eating disorder.) I am healthy, I have none of the mentioned symptoms, and I have the right to feel good about myself. I have always been chubby, unless I was sick. It is my genetics, my shape, my structure, and unless I risk my recovery by taking drastic measures, I will most likely always be a thicker person in general.
I do hope you see more than the fat on my body, because I am so much more than the inferences someone can make about it. I'm going to say thank you for your concern, although it is unnecessary.
I hope you understand where I am coming from, and see all the positive things my experiences and my body has done for me. I am what I am, and I am going to do my best to keep taking care of myself and practicing loving this body I am in, especially when other people do not.