Let me preface this by saying I have heard every version of the, “Eat a cheeseburger and stop whining,” comment, so save your time instead for that Buzzfeed quiz, “Which Saved By The Bell Character Am I?” (By the way, I’m Jesse.)
I’m 5’9. When I graduated high school I weighed 128 pounds, last summer I weighed 103 pounds, and today I weigh 115 pounds. According to doctors and the Internet, I should weigh no less than 125. Whoops.
I know it’s impossible to write about being skinny without sounding like I’m an entitled pretty girl who should shut the hell up, but I’m going to anyway. I know I’m lucky to have inherited a slim body type and fast metabolism, but lots of anorexic and bulimic women suffer from this thing called body dysmorphia. I have that. It’s where you think your body looks much different than it really does. In my case, I think my legs are way too big.
Modeling exacerbated my insecurity, which I’m sure happened to the majority of other models I’ve worked with. I started in the industry when I was 25, so I was years ahead of the teenagers as far as confidence and knowledge went. Still, I was affected by the unrealistic body standards despite thinking I was stronger than that.
Models need Polaroids when they first join an agency. I remember getting mine done when I first signed with my NY agency and hearing, "Watch your thighs because they look a little big, honey.” I stood in my agency in a bikini and one of the bookers tried to fix the bikini bottoms.
“Maybe pull them up on her thighs to create a slimming effect.”
“I don’t think it’s her thighs, I think her hip bones just stick out like that.”
Listening to women talk about my body was very uncomfortable. I was standing there, practically naked, being examined and thinking, “I shouldn’t have eaten that bagel this morning.” I looked down and could see my stomach wasn’t as flat as it could be. I vowed to only eat vegetables for the rest of the day.
In the first two years of modeling, I wouldn’t feel right unless I weighed under 110 pounds. I would get dressed in the morning and go to my castings thinking I looked great, but then I would wait in a hallway with other models and obsessively stare at their bodies and compare myself to them.
“They’re younger and prettier and thinner, why are you even trying to do this?”
I’d book a job, then go back to feeling inadequate immediately. I beat myself up. I felt hungry all the time. Hunger is something that I learned to live with and ignore. I would go a full day of castings only having had a banana and coffee, then come home in a bad mood and be starving.
If I went out to eat with friends I would always eat a crazy amount of food. When they asked how I stayed so skinny eating so much food, I would always say either, “Fast metabolism!” or, “I’ve always been able to eat this much, just lucky I guess.”
My last boyfriend always talked about how he loved really skinny girls. I think subconsciously it muddled my brain. He never said anything to the effect of “You look unhealthy,” so I assumed I looked great.
When we broke up, I was insanely stressed and feeling a ton of anxiety. I can barely eat when I’m upset. It’s like my mouth doesn’t want to chew and I can barely swallow anything. I went a few months eating very limited amounts of food because all I could feel was anxiety. Sometimes I would sleep to get rid of the hunger pains.
To keep myself energized, I drank coffee. I rarely ate more than 1,000 calories. I was defined by being a model, and if I gained weight I wouldn’t be a model anymore. I told myself I needed to stay skinny to be relevant and attractive. Who would pay attention to me if I were average? I’d been riding this skinny model wave for the past few years. The thought of not looking like a model was frightening.
My roommate is constantly cooking and reminding me to eat healthy, so last summer when she said, “Umm, yeah you might be too skinny,” I knew I might have a problem. My mood was directly related to how flat my stomach looked each day. The skinnier, the better. I stepped on a scale and it said 103. That’s the skinniest I’ve been since I was maybe 15. Still, I would look at myself in the mirror and think, “Your thighs are still too big.” I knew what anorexic girls looked like, and I didn’t think I looked at all like them.
I posted this photo of myself on Instagram in the midst of my Skeletor phase:
I received comments like, “Yuck, gain 20 pounds,” and “Anorexia at its finest,” and my favorite: “Jam two cantaloupe-sized implants into your tits and you’re perfect.”
Of course I was going to get criticized. If I weighed 20 more pounds, I’d be told to lose weight. You cannot win on the Internet.
I argued that it was insensitive to make fun of someone’s weight, even if they’re skinny, but looking at that photo now makes me realize I was, in fact, too skinny. I had to force myself to eat most days. I know I felt better when I ate more food, but I was horrified of gaining weight.
Two months ago, I was visiting New York and I ate more than I usually do. I had Junior’s Cheesecake for the first time (which changed my life) and ate pizza every chance I could get. I knew I was going to gain weight, but I forgot how much I love food, especially in New York. The guy I was dating told me I looked much better with five extra pounds. I had more energy consuming more calories, and my chest bones weren’t visible.
Now that I’m not modeling as much, I feel much more confident about my body. But some days I’ll still look in the mirror and think, “How did I ever work as a model?”
I thought that by 29 my insecurities would magically disappear, but I feel less evolved than I should be. I’m not blaming the modeling industry for my own self-hatred, but yeah, I am blaming it. I know if I never had to be skinny to pay my rent, I wouldn’t have cared one bit about my thighs. I can't even imagine how a girl who started modeling at 16 must feel. It's beaten into your brain that skinny is better.
I’m so used to being judged on what I look like, rather than who I am as a person. I’m afraid of never having full confidence in my appearance ever again. Modeling is like that insecure boyfriend who tells you you’re not good enough, but then does something nice to make you think he really cares.
I want to be happy with what I look like all the time. I want to have no problem eating 2,000 calories. I’m starting to think the money I would lose from not modeling is not nearly as important as my state of mind.