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"I'm still falling, still hating myself, still regretting that I let it all come to this"

Jessica Spencer talks about her struggles with her body and the pressure to be thin

I REMEMBER BEING a child, swinging on my chair in school, rocking it back and forth until suddenly, it just kept going back. I had pushed too far and now I was falling, and there was that split second where terror overrode every other feeling in my body. There was no way to stop it.

But that feeling that’s supposed to only last a second, where your heart reminds you it’s there in your chest and it’s overwhelmed with fear and it jumps and your eyes bulge, it never stopped for me.

Every time I leave the house, or I talk to someone new, it’s just like falling. It tells me that the people who see me won’t like me. They may not know me but who cares? I’ve fat thighs, messy hair, a tummy that feels like jelly when I walk and I use glasses to hide the bags under my eyes.

Of course they won’t like me. How could they? Do they not see what I see every time I stand in front of a mirror and hold my stomach in, crying my eyes out saying “I hope one day I’m this thin?”

How could you ignore all the flaws that I’ve been lead to believe make me a bad person?

“Too fat”

One day I was told I’d become too fat and my whole perception of myself was destroyed. How had I not seen it before? I should be ashamed. How could I be so blind as to not see what the whole world saw – that my weight was so important and now at fourteen, I had let myself go.

Maybe there was a message I missed, a label sewn into size twelve jeans to let us buyers know that these should not fit because if they do, it means you’re too fat too.

I swapped eating for dancing, and then dancing for fainting. Headaches, blackouts, dizziness whenever I stood up because that was too much effort. My body, it didn’t have the energy to do something so taxing as walking to the kitchen for another glass of water. Now all I consumed were lies and diet plans on how to become thin.

And it tasted fantastic finally getting validation.

“Wow, what’s your secret? You’ve lost so much so fast. You really must be working hard.”

I’d laugh and say “oh, haha, it wasn’t work. No secrets here.”

Because really, work ends. You show up at nine am, leave at five. And this didn’t. This was an everlasting battle to get my body to stop craving nutrition.

I’d feed it with what I thought was the truth. “I can treat myself to ice-cream, or pizza, or anything other than cereal bars and water in the weeks to come when I’m done. This will be worth it when other people like me. Skinny means pretty.” I promised myself. “I will love me, when I look like somebody worthy of love.”

But just being skinny was never enough.

Not knowing when to stop

I wasn’t too fat anymore, but when people stopped commenting I started to forget that, and my head kept telling me “don’t give up yet! When you lose weight, you look great. Other people tell you so.”

I never asked myself, “when will it be enough?” At the start I didn’t know that I was “too fat,” so how would I know when I wasn’t? When I’d become “just right,” or maybe even “too thin?” Well, I didn’t really think there could be such a thing.

I couldn’t trust myself. Clearly I don’t see things the way others do – they’re telling me they’re happy to see me looking healthy and light, but I think “they must be lying, right? The most obvious thing about me is my huge pudge, and how my arms are not toned enough, and how I’ve this flappy skin under my chin.”

Actions not appearances

Do you know how unhealthy that is? To rely on other people for validation. To only feel good enough when other people tell you you are?

Your weight, your hairstyle, your height, your appearance, none of it defines how good of a person you are. Your actions will speak so much louder than a vibrant orange extra large t-shirt or a pair of size zero short shorts.

But I’m still falling, still hating myself every minute as that terror sears through my body for being such an embarrassing mess. Still regretting that I allowed it to all come to this. Still wishing I could hit rock bottom soon, because at least then I can’t fall any further down.

Jessica Spencer is a writer and Youtuber.

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