Health And Wellness

The "Diet" Nobody Talks About: I Starve Myself To Be Skinny

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back of skinny woman

A few months ago, I was out to dinner with a couple of friends, tucked into a booth and sipping cocktails as good girlfriends do when our waiter arrived with our appetizers: three tiny fried chicken croquettes.

Ready to indulge, we placed our napkins on our laps and grabbed our forks.

"I'm eating this, but I need to start getting back to skinny," one of my friends casually remarked. 

I nodded my head in agreement.

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Wait, what? Why was that my immediate reaction? She is super-petite and does NOT need to lose weight.

I mean, earlier this summer I found her bathing suit near my hot tub and mistook it for my 12-year-old's. (She's that petite.)

"Don't go crazy," I told her.

"Oh, I'm not going to go crazy. You know, I just don't feel right in my pants," she responded.

"Been there. Totally get that."

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For me, there's this magical five pounds that either make me feel amazing or horrid. It's not just the way my pants fit, but it's also the way my skin feels.

There's a bloated feeling that accompanies what I call "The Final 5". When I start to teeter toward the five-over side of the scale, my desire to lose weight kicks into overdrive.

Then my friend said something truly shocking: "Yeah, I've got to get back to losing weight, but it takes so much work. I basically have to starve myself. It's like all I have the bandwidth for. I can't go out for dinner, or drinks, I just skip as many meals as possible." 

Her statement wasn't shocking because it was extreme. It was shocking because it's exactly what I've been doing for the last two years (and up until then, I had never heard anyone else admit that's how they lose weight. too).

My other friend chimed in, "Yep. Me too. It's basically the only way I can get from everyday thin to actually skinny. Just stop eating."

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Sipping martinis and forking tiny bites of croquettes into our mouths, we began sharing what we have to do to hit "skinny," the diets we've tried, and how many foods we've attempted to live without. 

There we were: three women between the ages of 28-40.

On the outside? Every day, ordinary girls: nurses, writers, photographers, girlfriends, mothers, volunteers, lovers, and newlyweds, with tiny wrists and rounded backsides wearing skinny jeans and tank tops.

On the inside? Women starving themselves to be skinny. And we can't be the only ones.

How many women are starving themselves to be skinny

In the last two years, I've lost 25 pounds. I went from a mushy size 8 (145 pounds) on my 5'8" frame to 125 lbs. That 125 lbs. feels nice on my body, but I honestly prefer the weeks when I eat just one self-limited meal per day and slim down to 121 lbs.

At 121, my stomach feels flat, and when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window panes mirroring the city sidewalks, I smile. I look skinny at 121. I like looking skinny. 

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When people ask how I lost weight, I demurely reply, "Paleo. It's been amazing. My cravings are gone, the weight just melted off."

But really, I lost that initial 20 pounds with a little paleo and a LOT of meal skipping.

And to lose that last five? I have to do what my girlfriend will do this month when she decides it's time to get back to the even smaller version of herself: starve myself.

Should I have left that dinner feeling upset? Enraged? Should I have said, "Girls, it's not worth it. We're bending to societal pressures and we should just live, let live and eat another croquette"?

But I didn't.

Instead, I went home and stood in front of the mirror. Put my hands flat on my belly, turned to the side, and stared.

I stuck my tongue out at the tiny muffin top creeping over my jeans, frowned at the bulge beneath my belly button, and vowed to go without breakfast in the morning. 

Because that's how I get skinny.

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Brooke Lark is a photographer, cookbook writer, and mom. Find her @brookelark on Instagram.