It’s almost every girl’s dream to fit in size zero jeans or have a flat belly, but let’s be honest––that’s nearly impossible unless you have a naturally petite build. Even then, you’ll still have belly fat and other things that you don’t normally see on models because someone photoshopped them out.  I’ve seen countless photos of girls on Instagram bragging that they’re losing weight and are now only 105 lbs at 5’4. Well, let me tell you that they’ll face health problems later on in life, just like I did after losing over 20 pounds from gastritis.

Here’s what the underweight life feels like.

Today’s Dietician states that being underweight leads to osteoporosis, increased illness, amenorrhea (for women), low muscle mass, hair loss, nutritional deficiencies, anemia, and more.

My emotions were all over the place when I was underweight. The smallest thing that went wrong,––such as the time when I tripped going up the stairs to one of my classes and spilled coffee literally all over myself and was nearly late to class––will make me cry.  I’d also cry anytime my stomach pain flared up. I had days where I was so emotionally unstable that I no longer wanted to be alive, which is clearly not normal. Random things, such as the sound of someone chewing, would annoy me. I often felt groggy and isolated myself from people because I feared that’d I’d snap at someone. I’d feel happy at one moment and distraught the next. My emotions got so out of control that my anxiety became extreme and I also developed some depression.

That’s just one problem.

I had other physical problems in addition to my emotional imbalance. I’d shed hair like a dog and frequently pulled out clumps of hair. My chocolate brown hair later turned dark umber and then grey on the top layers. My eyes always hurt and I felt lightheaded due to extreme fatigue. My bones were so brittle that I felt like I was always walking on stilts.  And now that I’ve gained back 20 pounds, I have to wear an ankle brace because my ankles are literally too weak to support the additional weight, plus I have to go through PT for the damage Due to my restricted eating from my gastritis pain, I became nauseous whenever I ate. When I tried to eat normally again, I developed Gastrophic Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), which is essentially chronic acid reflux, because my stomach treated everything like an invasive species. My heart rate became so low that I had to see a cardiologist.

All this happened because I lost so much weight. I’m ashamed to say I used to be one of those girls who wanted to stay super thin (but I never intentionally tried to lose weight, I just wished for a thinner build), but after this experience, I’m content with a healthy weight.

So, please, don’t freak out if you’re 5’5 and 120 pounds. That’s completely normal, plus you need to account for muscle weight, especially if you’re an athlete. You weigh a certain amount because your body cannot perform key functions without that extra muscle or fat. It’s important to make sure you don’t become overweight, but there’s nothing to worry about as long as you’re within a healthy weight range. If you’re naturally underweight, find some healthy ways to gain a little extra padding, such as dipping apples in peanut butter or pouring olive oil on salads.  If you have an eating disorder, please find someone you can confide in and get the help you need. Being underweight comes with significant health risks, and I’d like to spare as many people from going down that road as possible.

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