It seems odd that someone would ever be praised for having an eating disorder, but that's exactly what happened to Blythe Baird.
Anorexia nervosa is one of the three most common eating disorders in the United States, characterized by starvation-centered dieting. Over time, this can result in unsafe levels of weight loss, hair that falls out, and the shutting down of certain bodily functions such as menstruation. If no intervention occurs, the person can die.
For the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, Calif., Baird performed "When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny" and highlighted how worrying it can be to live with anorexia.
The poem opens with Baird thinking back on a time when she was suffering from anorexia and how spending time engaging in self-destructive activities was commonplace.
"Trying diets we found on the Internet, menthol cigarettes, eating in front of a mirror, donating blood," she recalled. "Replacing meals with other practical hobbies like making flower crowns or fainting."
While most people who suffer from anorexia are viewed as sick and receive treatment, Baird's weight loss was revered for one heartbreaking reason: when she started down this path, she was obese.
"As a child, 'fat' was the first word people used to describe me, which didn't offend me," she states with a shrug, "until I found out it was supposed to."
The poem takes a sharp turn when Baird discusses her lifelong history of struggling with her weight. Those closest to her saw that being obese wasn't healthy, but were seemingly blind to the fact that her method of weight loss was detrimental.
"If you develop an eating disorder when you are already thin to begin with, you to go the hospital," she explains. "If you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story."
Instead of her extreme weight-loss measures sparking concern in those around her, she was heralded. Rather than being criticized for the way she looked, her body was bringing her much-desired positive attention.
"How could I not fall in love with my illness?"
The poem makes one final turn, as she describes the healing power of finally learning to love herself and recovering from the disease.
Check out the beautiful ending of Baird's powerful poem here:
Hats off, Blythe. That was amazing!
Know someone who needs to hear this message about self-acceptance? Pass this along!
(H/T: Button Poetry)