Growing up, I was as anxious and insecure as any young person. But the one thing I never felt bad about was my weight. My weight and height have always been perfectly average for my age. In fact, I didn’t even consider if I were “skinny” or not. When I got older, I even learned to love my body. Then around last year, I started losing weight.
I had probably lost around 15 pounds before I even noticed I was thinner. As someone who had never really cared about my weight before, I didn’t even have a working scale at home.
It was my family who ended up pointing out how skinny I looked. Every time I went to my parents’ house, they would always send me home with lots of food and I always promised them I’d eat everything.
And I did eat it all. In fact, I felt like I was eating more than ever, but I still kept losing weight.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Wow, you’re eating and losing weight, you’re still skinny? That’s living the dream!” And initially, that’s what I thought as well — I thought that I was just blessed with a good metabolism.
What’s more, some people were complimenting me. I had coworkers telling me they were going to the gym so they could look like me. Others explicitly told me not to gain more weight and that I was good the way I was. And I felt good. I was still at a healthy-looking weight, so I figured I was fine. But I couldn’t ignore the symptoms that came after that. At least not for long.
Despite eating plenty of food and drinking way more than the usual eight cups of water a day, I was constantly hungry and thirsty. I also always had to pee because of all the water. But my body looked good and I otherwise didn’t feel unhealthy. So I carried on for another few months.
In October, I googled my symptoms and terms like “diabetes” and “high blood sugar” came up on the screen. I was scared, so I went to see a diabetes specialist that worked at my university.
I told her my symptoms and she more or less laughed me out of her office. She said I hadn’t lost enough weight for it to be a concern, so it was probably just stress. She said that if I wanted to get a blood test, I could. After that, she just sent me on my way.
I’ve always had an intense fear of needles, so of course I didn’t want to do a blood test. And since I was working two jobs in addition to attending my classes, the stress theory seemed plausible.
And so I went on for another few months. During that time, I’d say I got an equal amount of compliments and concerned comments about my weight. In the meantime, I felt worse and worse. The hunger was so intense that I could have a huge meal and still be hungry. A stomachache from eating too much was my body’s only way of telling me to stop. And I had lost another ten pounds. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel good about my weight. I would look in the mirror and see how paper-thin my arms were and how my hip bones jutted out. All I wanted to do was cry. I was skinny but definitely not healthy.
Finally, in May, I decided to listen to my body and make an appointment to get a blood test. Though I had fasted all day before the test, my blood sugar was 482 mg/dL (for context, normal fasting blood sugar is 70-100). Immediately, I was told to go to the emergency room. I ended up having to stay in the hospital for three nights.
Turns out I have Type 1 Diabetes and I was hospitalized for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which happens when you don’t have insulin in your body, so it can’t convert your sugar into energy and uses fat instead. The process of DKA creates acid in your blood, which can lead to many serious health problems including organ damage.
Now, just over a month later, I’m watching my carb intake and doing insulin injections every day. I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to have a glass of water and not down the whole thing immediately. A few days ago, I ate and felt full for the first time in a long time. I’m gaining weight and I’m so thrilled.
I tell this story because I want to point out how dangerous it can be to associate skinniness with health. Even if someone’s at a healthy weight, that doesn’t mean they are actually healthy. Up until a month or two before my hospitalization, I looked very healthy. However, in reality, my body was so starved for energy that it was basically eating itself alive. My body that some people were so jealous of would have gone into a coma and I could have died if I’d carried on the way I had. A “nice beach body” is not worth any of these risks.
So I ask you not just to love your body the way it is, but to listen to it. Society will always have opinions on how you look, whether that be skinny or on the heavier side, but only you know how healthy you feel on the inside. So don’t be afraid to listen to your body and advocate for yourself. Trust me, your body will thank you.
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