The Weight of a Comment

Talking-in-coffee-shop Photo : Alanna Bagladi

I weigh what I weigh. My value is not determined by my dress size. If I am happy at 140 lbs, 200 lbs, or 115 lbs, it is no one’s place to judge my worth but my own.

I used to struggle with an eating disorder. It is still something I find myself battling in my head even though the behaviors have been in remission for 6 years. This is why it is so upsetting to me when others, who are ultimately insecure with their own appearance, invalidate me, or anyone else for that matter, based on their appearance. I find that when my weight comes up and I do end up divulging the number, I occasionally get a comment like, “Wow, don’t worry, you don’t look like you weigh that amount!” Thoughtless statements like that make me wonder how we have gotten to this point as a society.

The beginnings of my eating disorder, which was rooted in a vicious cycle of anorexia, orthorexia, and bulimia, stemmed from bullying that followed me from age 5 to age 18, all because of the number on the scale. Growing up, my external appearance was valued by others more than my internal warmth, generosity, kindness, talents, wits, wisdom, and essentially all that really makes up who I am. As I lost weight, starved my soul, and started wearing brand name clothing, I gained friends, ultimately teaching me at that time in my life something entirely false: I am likable only if I am thin.

When will society finally learn not to judge a book by its cover, and that true beauty is in the eyes of the beholder? We each come from different backgrounds, backed by separate prior knowledge and prior experiences, and these have ultimately shaped who we are and how we view the world. Therefore, I don’t think it is anyone’s place to decide what is beautiful to anyone but that person. This thought process helps me when I hear snide comments about my appearance, be it from a stranger or someone who just sees something in me that they ultimately don’t like in themselves. I luckily have also come to a place in my life where I have surrounded myself with genuine, warm, encouraging friends who build me up, even when I am tearing myself down.

It is my goal to empower young girls and women to love themselves for who they are, celebrate their talents and accomplishments, and believe they can do anything, regardless of what others tell them. If I loved my body at a young age and knew what I know now, I would have saved myself years of internalized torture.

I am human. I weigh what I weigh. The number on the scale does not decide my happiness, define who I am as a person, or dictate whether or not I am beautiful. I am smart. I am generous. I am caring. I am a good daughter, sister, aunt, niece, grandchild, and friend. I refuse to let a number define me, and for that I can celebrate.

Rachel Mandel: A graduate student and naturalist who hopes to help elementary students stay true to their creativity. She lives happily in her home, Chicago.
Rachel Mandel: A graduate student and naturalist who hopes to help elementary students stay true to their creativity. She lives happily in her home, Chicago.
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