Overexposed: A Self-Love Project.

Overexposed: “No, I’m Not Hungry.”

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I used to skip lunch in high-school because I convinced myself that I wasn’t hungry. I once threw up acid from my empty stomach, after not eating anything for 12+ hours.

Hi, my name is Liz, and I used to starve myself in public.

You hear skinny people, who think they are still fat, having an eating disorder more often than you’ll hear a fat person having one. If the standard for having an eating disorder is not eating/starving yourself, wouldn’t it apply to all types of bodies?

I am not saying I have an eating disorder whatsoever, but there were times in my life that I said “No, I’m not hungry” with a stomach growling.

I was never self-conscious about me eating in public. To this day, my sister and I talk about the many nostalgic school lunches we had in our public school years. Needless to say, I always ate lunch, and it was actually good. Once I started to get bullied in middle school, slowly but surely that stopped happening. I would eat just a couple of bites before ultimately throwing my tray away, and whenever I went over to a friend’s house, I would say that I wasn’t hungry, despite me really wanting to eat what their parents cooked for dinner.

As my self-hatred for my body began to grow, I started to binge eat in the privacy of my home, after hours of not eating in public.

Even before I knew I had anxiety, I had anxiety. I was afraid of eating in public because I didn’t want to be seen as “the fat girl who’s eating.” I mean, that’s your typical narrative: fat girl refuses to eat in public because she doesn’t want to look fat in public.

If I couldn’t eat actual meals in front of friends, it was even harder to eat in front of my partner for the first couple of years we knew each other. The first time he ever caught me eating was a Big Mac on a coach bus back from a performance we had, and although he didn’t make me feel bad about eating a Big Mac in public, I still was kicking myself for eating a Big Mac in public, in front of the guy I really liked. 

Even after he graduated high-school and we still hung out outside of school, I never ate in front of him. He would offer me a snack, a drink, and meals whenever we would hang out, and by this point in my journey, my response became second nature, like a reflex:

No, I’m not hungry.

After the many teenage years of getting away with eating nothing for hours on end, I was now entering my 20’s, with a freshly removed gallbladder after being in extreme pain for the latter of my 19th year. I still didn’t eat in public for a while, but I realized that now doing so came with more than just a growling stomach. It came with actual illness.

One afternoon during my sophomore year of college, I was on the bus, going home after being out of the house and on campus since 5:30 in the morning. I didn’t eat anything that morning, during the day, even up to this exact moment. One minute I was just listening to my music on my iPod Touch, the next thing you know my stomach is in a literal knot. I couldn’t feel my stomach; it had gone completely numb. I started to sweat profusely, my headache intensified, and I got dizzy. I thought I was going to pass out on a bus just stops away from mine. I did what my mother told me to do: take a Motrin I had in my bag. For the most part, it helped keep my focus, but the stomach pains, boy they are singlehandedly the most painful thing I’ve experienced in my life thus far.

I knew I couldn’t get away from not eating in public anymore. I didn’t get over my fear of eating in public because I wanted to, I had to for the sake of my health. Like, I would choose to eat in public than practically fainting from the pain my body induced when I didn’t.

“Yes, I would love to have something to eat.”

The more I had to accept that my health depended on me eating (even snacking) during the day, I started to care more about my body’s needs instead of my anxieties of eating in public. I accepted that all bodies deserve to be fed and that human beings, big or small, need to fuckin’ eat in order to survive. Slowly but surely, I ate whole meals in front of my partner, I eat in front of my friends, and I will murder a snack package of cookies and a bag of chips in public.

My self-image of not appearing hungry was unrealistic and just plain stupid. Although the removal of my gallbladder has caused a lot of my weight gain, I’m grateful that the removal of it literally made me more accepting to the fact that it’s okay to eat in public! If it’s 9 o’clock in the morning and I’m not going to be able to eat my first meal of the day until lunchtime, then you best to believe I’m eating a bag of chips just to hold me over until then. Of course, there are other healthy alternatives, but it’s whatever I have at that moment, I’m eating.

Just because I’m fat, doesn’t mean I don’t deserve the human right to eat.

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