An open letter to Donald Trump, from a recovered anorexic

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An open letter to Donald Trump, from a recovered anorexic

Alicia Machado was ‘Miss Piggy’ and so was I

Hillary Clinton went head to head with Donald Trump on Monday evening in the first of many presidential debates, and came out on top despite Donald’s best attempts. One thing Clinton mentioned was Trump’s bullying of Alicia Machado, former Miss Universe and Miss Venezuela, who he was both sexist and racist towards. Machado, after winning Miss Universe, put weight on, which Trump stated was ‘a real problem’.

In Hillary’s video above Alicia talks about how Trump’s nasty remarks, how he called her Miss Piggy and Miss Housekeeping, eventually led to her developing an eating disorder. Trump bullied Machado and as a result, she developed a potentially life-threatening disease.

Like Alicia Machado, I was a bully’s ‘Miss Piggy’.

I have previously written about my eating disorder. At the age of 15, I was anorexic. But like Machado, the cause of my eating disorder was rooted in a sustained, personal attack of my appearance. People always say ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’. Unfortunately, verbal and emotional abuse can be so much more damaging and have serious long-term effects.

I can’t pinpoint when I genuinely became conscious of my weight, but I remember knowing that something wasn’t right because when me and my family were shopping for a summer holiday, we walked straight past the children’s clothes and to the women’s section. I was perplexed, but my mum soothed me. “It’s OK”, she said. “You’re a big girl now like mummy, you need proper clothes like mummy.”

She never made me feel inadequate because of my size. But I’d heard different from other family members. One of them referred to be as “obese”. My mum leaped to my defense, but I’d already heard that nasty word.

Me now, with my mum
Me now, with my mum

I put it to the back of my mind, somehow. I decided that what they said didn’t matter. I went to my secondary school and for a couple of years, everything was OK. I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t hated either. But something changed. The other girls in class seemed to lose their weight and slim down naturally. I stayed the same, although I had grown a lot taller.

Then I started getting bullied. At first, it was just one girl that was bullying me, but she was popular and others joined in. On the last day of term, she was drawing caricatures of everyone in class. I was praying she’d miss me out considering she hated me, but no such luck. I held my breath as she drew me on the board as an obese pig. Everyone else seemed to find it hilarious. Inside, I was dying.

The effect of the relentless bullying was awful. I felt so ashamed of my body. I was taking up too much space. I was gross. Why was I so big? All the other girls were so much thinner. That’s what I should be like. I shouldn’t take up the room I’m taking up. I need to shrink.

Things got so bad that I used any old excuse to get out of PE because I didn’t want to get undressed in front of other people. On the odd occasion that I had to participate, I made sure to scan the room and make sure no one was looking in my direction before quickly whipping my clothes on and off, sucking and tucking in the fat that poured out of my sides and betrayed me.

I vowed to slim down. Things started off healthily. I cut the junk food out of my diet and went to the gym three to four times a week. I dropped two dress sizes and was losing weight at a steady pace. After the summer holidays, everyone commented on how great and healthy I looked. I was a size 12. I had lost a lot of weight but it looked right on me.

I was curvy. Healthy. For the first time in my life, I could actually participate in PE without getting out of breath after running 100 metres. But I was still petrified of changing in front of other girls – and despite being thinner, the bullying hadn’t stopped.

I was diagnosed with depression around this time and the bullying from others only fuelled my inner hatred. I felt as though I needed to lose more weight. I stopped eating lunch. I cut down what I was eating for dinner dramatically, living on paltry portions of sandwiches, cereal bars and apples. Often, it was just a sandwich.

As I got sicker, the bullying intensified, despite the fact that I was losing weight. Why didn’t it stop? I thought that was what people wanted. I thought that my life would become easier once I shrunk myself to fit into what the bullies told me I should be. I thought that they would finally accept me because I wasn’t fat, I wasn’t disgusting to look at anymore.

Surely I was desirable now that I wasn’t such a terror to look at? Surely the bullying could stop now that I was clearly no longer obese? My weight-loss was so dramatic that a year after dropping to a size 12, I was smaller than a size 6. When my best friend called out the bullies and said ‘it’s funny, because now she’s skinner than you’, I stopped being Miss Piggy and became Anorexic Rat instead.

I simply couldn’t win.

Me at a size 4 (size zero)
Me at a size 4 (size zero)

I developed anorexia because of a sustained attack on my weight and my appearance. The bullies didn’t care. No amount of weight I lost satisfied them or halted their relentless, daily attack on me. Even if I’d disappeared and died because of my anorexia, it wouldn’t have been enough.

And that’s what Alicia Machado realised.

It’s disgusting that because of evil-spirited, malicious people, we both had to go through hell and back. We were both insecure women who felt pressure to conform in order to be accepted. We weren’t allowed to just be. We weren’t allowed the bodies that we had.

There was a silent threat all around us: change or lose everything. Change or else we’ll make your life worse than it already is. Change, because you’re worthless if you’re fat.

Like Alicia Machado, the bullying and my eating disorder affect me on a daily basis. Like Alicia, I am using my experience to speak out because eating disorders caused by bullying or spiteful remarks are happening under our noses. We are both trying to turn our experiences into something helpful, because no one should have to suffer like we did.

But still, we both have our own inner demons. To this day, I find it difficult to get undressed, even if it’s in front of a partner who loves me. I’m still ashamed of the space I occupy. I sometimes feel guilty about what I eat. I don’t think I’ll ever know a life of peace because those bullies robbed me of something I will never get back.

They robbed me of the ability to truly be comfortable in my own skin. I’m always looking over my shoulder, wondering how others judge me because of the way I look and my weight and size. But hopefully, like Alicia, by speaking out and living boldly, I am showing my bullies that they didn’t succeed.

@MillieSansoye

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