Skinny Ashley vs. Fat Ashley: When the Worth is in the Weight

I often feel ashamed of the pain I used to inflict on my own personhood.

I often feel ashamed of the person I used to be in general. I don’t like her, for so many different reasons. I don’t like the old version of myself at all.

But guess what? That old version of myself is still me, and she still deserves all the compassion that I now know I am worthy of.

Learning to love past versions of Ashley, however, is a hurdle I have been trying to jump over these last few months. I think I’ve only truly realized it more recently, but I have a lot of trouble reconciling who I am now with who I used to be. Skinny Ashley is sick. Skinny Ashley is fucked in the head. Skinny Ashley is hurting herself. I don’t want to be Skinny Ashley. These mantras are so very different from what they used to be (e.g. Skinny Ashley is pretty Ashley and the only Ashley who deserves anything at all), but they are still just as damaging. I equate being heavier with allowing myself to grow. Fat Ashley is mentally healthy Ashley. Skinny Ashley writes things like this:

“Looking at the pictures of other girls and their beautiful bodies makes me ache. It makes my heart hurt. Because I know I will never look like them. I will never be tiny or fragile or bony. I'm curvy and shapely and all there. It physically pains me to know that I can never have that perfection. I can do my best. I can try my hardest. I can get skinnier. And I will. I will get so fucking skinny. But I will never be tiny or ethereal or delicate. No one will ever look at me and wonder if they could break my bones or make me fall with a huff. But these girls in the pictures; they're like beautiful pieces of crisp, white, flimsy paper. Beautiful paper.

I will be skinny. Before I go to college I will have reached my ultimate goal. No excuses, no exceptions. I will be one hundred and twenty five pounds before the next school year is out. I have to be. I just have to be. I have to look like a piece of thin paper. I have to look like someone who could blow away with the wind. I must.

I want to be wanted. I want to be sexy and hot and beautiful. With each and every pound I drop I just get a bit closer. I must stick to my rules this time. And never go back. Never ever go back. I can't. I must be skinny.

I sound like a sick fuck. But I must be beautiful. I must be perfect. Never again will I be ashamed of my body or complain about wearing a bathing suit. I will never again be worried when someone tries to pick me up or my fat jiggling when I run. Never. Ever.”

There are so many things I could say about this piece, in retrospect.

But when it all comes down to it, reading this just hits me in my chest like a bag of fucking bricks; every damn time. I pity the girl who thought these things. And I shouldn’t pity her; I should love her just as much as I have grown to love my current self, even through all the self-hatred and clear loathing.

I wrote that piece during my senior year of high school; my tipping point. I tend to think of that year of my life as the beginning of the end. It was filled with shameful night binges and so much self-hatred fueled by so many different things.

I don’t like that Ashley. I pity that Ashley. I look back and think, “How could you have done that to yourself, Ashley?

But then I remember that Ashley did those things because she felt she had to. Ashley did those things to protect her fragile insides from fracturing under the pressure of everything, surrounding her on all sides.

Just like I ask people to be understanding about the ways I chose to fix my brokenness, the ways I chose to cope with life, I must also learn to be understanding. I must learn to love Skinny Ashley.

This dichotomy of Skinny Ashley and Fat Ashley is a fiction, something that I have created in my head to compartmentalize my life and separate myself from the emotional pain I associate with those more unstable years. The line I’ve drawn between “her” and “me,” however, isn’t real, and perpetuating it doesn’t serve me.

The reality is that Skinny Ashley and Fat Ashley aren’t all that different.

We’re all just… Ashley.


Pasta Shmasta

There was once a point in my life that the idea of eating pasta for dinner would send me into a tizzy. I won't be able to stop myselfIt will make me fat. It will make me a bad person if I eat too much. All of these thoughts would run through my head with abandon, and I would do everything I could to avoid the dreaded, glutinous, heavy pasta.

But, as we all know, life tends to get in the way of those hard and fast rules we makes for ourselves. That, and my family loves pasta. And so the inevitable eventually came, at least once a week, that I would have to sit down and eat pasta. Try as I might, those thoughts would swallow me like a wave at high tide, pulling me back, dragging me across the itchy sand every time I tried to force myself above the surface to catch my breath.

Too cliche? Perhaps. But too, too true.

And every time I sat at the dinner table, convincing myself that this time would be different even as those destructive thoughts swirled inside my brain, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I feared I would overeat, and so I did. I feared I would berate myself for it, and so I did. I feared I would gain weight from one measly bowl, and so I did. Now, that last bit is somewhat scientifically inaccurate, as one meal could never cause you to gain actual weight, but as I obsessively weighed myself every morning, the inevitable water retention from eating heavier food the night before would reflect back at me from the scale, and I would feel like a failure once again.

And thus my hatred for pasta emerged, and stuck for quite a while. I believed that pasta was my kryptonite. All bread products, really. I convinced myself that bread and pasta and heavy starch were just too taboo, too risky. If I even took a bite, I would tumble down the rabbit hole that was my disorder, and so I had to stay away at all costs. We all know how that turns out.

As I've ventured through my Intuitive Eating journey, this black and white thinking about which foods were good and bad started to fade. Slowly, due to how ingrained they had become, but fading none the less. And soon, pasta was just pasta.

I learned that a bowl of plain pasta wasn't kryptonite; it was dissatisfying. A bowl of just starch, all on its lonesome, would never make me feel full and satiated and satisfied because it was lacking essential components to make a well-rounded meal. I soon figured out how to make myself a bowl of pasta that I felt good about, both because of its nutritious components, and because of how it made me feel.

And so we have the pasta bowl. Generally, I take whatever pasta is in the pantry and combine it with whatever veggies and protein I have on hand. Sometimes that's zucchini and salmon, topped with a little pesto. Other times it's broccoli and chicken, adorned with olive oil, avocado, and parmesan cheese. Really, it's just a way to throw whatever is looking a little worse-for-wear in my fridge into an arguably edible and happy-making meal.

This week was sausage, along with beautiful mini heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe's, sautéed broccoli and garlic, pesto, and ricotta cheese. 

Perfection in a bowl, man. Seriously, look at that beast. You can't even see the pasta under all that!

I ate every bite, and even had seconds. And it was damn good. And I felt damn good.

Dear All of those Little Girls,

            Please do not try to make yourself smaller, make yourself fit into this world that wants to see you cave in upon yourself.

Please do not listen to those boys who yell at you in the school hallways and poke at you for their own fun; they like you, you see, but society has told them that because you don’t look like the magazines, they aren’t allowed to like you. And so they hate themselves and they take it out on you.

            Please ignore your mother when she asks you if you’re really going to take that second piece of cake, and respond with an indignant, “Yes, I am.” Please do not take her disapproving glances and tilt of mouth, and carry it with you all the way upstairs to the porcelain basin, and empty your sorrows within. You won’t leave them there; they follow you.

            Please do not go to the yearly Christmas party and refuse to take a single bite of the holiday turkey, as you feel your stomach vibrate with hunger and desperation. It needs you to take care of it. You need to take care of it… because no one else will.

            Please do not eat an apple and a bottle of water for lunch because you saw Amanda, the most popular and skinniest and prettiest girl in school do the same. Please do not starve your brain, and let your amazing brilliance dim into shadows in the hopes of fitting in and getting that boy to look at you.

            Please do not sit silently in the background, afraid that your size will offend someone. Do not sit idly by as your life lives itself, as your classmates learn all they can, as your peers experience everything the world has to offer because they have decided that they are worth that; that their existence is worth being noted, and that they will not hide behind silence and inaction.

            Please do not listen to your friends who download calorie counting apps, discuss their excessive exercise regimens, and wonder aloud to one another every morning whether or not their outfit makes them look fat. Please do not choose the big, body-hiding sack of a costume for Halloween, because you feel you do not measure up to those friends of yours in their leotards and bunny ears. Please do not measure your worth by your jean size, or decide that you aren’t sexy or attractive because you can’t wear those things; please, never buy into the word can’t, or deny yourself something simply because others will feel uncomfortable.

            Please never forget that fat does not equate to ugly and that skinny does not equate to beautiful; that your beauty emanates from the core of your being, from your luminescence that beats with every thought that flows through you.

            Please do not try to make yourself smaller, make yourself fit into this world that wants to see you cave in upon yourself. Grow outwards. Expand. Make them make room for your huge laugh, bountiful energy, enormous smile. Never make yourself small; make yourself as large as the whole universe. And fuck anyone who tells you otherwise.