Erika, 21

@erikabowes

Anonymous 

So this is just a very small collection of some of the anonymous hate messages i’ve received on tumblr over the past 5/6 years. I mean I have 75,9384 unanswered asks and I probably could of spent weeks gathering the 100’s of cruel, unnecessary and rude messages that i’ve received about my appearance but i’ve just about got to the point where other peoplesnegative opinions don’t effect me and I want it to stay that way. 

When I started using tumblr I was around 15 and I never remember having issues with my appearance or ever thinking i was ‘fat’. It was just something that never seemed to cross my mind. I always remember being happy with myself, comfortable wearing what I want and I didn’t constantly think about my diet. I was a gymnast for around 10 years so I was fit, I exercised but not to be ‘skinny’ and I had a good appetite and loved eating food with my family and friends. So weight and my body shape was never a concern for me. It was only when I went on holiday to Thailand and I posting a photo of myself in a bikini on my Tumblr and Instagram everything seemed to change. I started receiving messages from anonymous (obviously) bullies telling me I looked big, chubby, thick, fat etc. And in no ways am I saying being a bigger woman is a negative thing, but I was a size uk 8, 16 years old being told i’m fat and have an awful body on an online platform which I loved using to share my fashion and advice to followers. 

At first I was a little upset, but when I was that age I was quite happy with myself and I really did love my appearance so I found it a lot easier to reply with some cocky comeback and shake if off. I really thought i had nice boobs, legs and I was content with mostly everything. But the more I posted images that showed of my parts of my body the more hate and judgment i’d get. But although I probably had more compliments than criticism, you know how it is, the cruel comments really stand out and unfortunately they stick. 

Since the comments started I became more aware of the foodI was eating and the way my stomach and ‘wide horrible man’ shoulders looked. I had never dieted or tried dieting until this. I remember trying numerous diets like the apple diet (eating 5/6 apples a day), water diet (only water and veg), Soup diet, pretty much everything. Thankfully at the time I was surrounded by such a fun group of friends in school and we always ate out together and I was distracted by them long enough to forget about the comments as I was happy. 

When I started college my friendship group broke apart slowly as everyone went their own ways. I’m not saying this made it worse, but being surrounded by friends was a really good distraction and break from my online life. At this point, after continual hate messages on my tumblr, my body appearance and my diet became a really big obsession in my life. Every photo that I saw of myself I began to hate the way my body looked. I was a gymnast and a swimmer for a long time and I had broad shoulders, strong arms and legs. I just myself as big, manly and ‘fat’. I remember googling all different ways to make myself smaller in a shorter amount of time, because obviously being ‘skinnier’ was the only way to stop people commenting on my body.

WhenI was 18, In the space of 5 months, I managed to get my weight down from 58-60kg to 48kg and at a girl at 5’7 I had an underweight BMI of 16.6 which i saw as a bonus. I worked out twice a day, 6-7 times a week and I weighed all my food. I was so tired, my hair started to fall out and I lost my period because In got PCOS. When friends would ask me to do something like eat out or go out partying I would literally avoid it or freak out about it and would figure out how many calories would be in a diet gin and tonic and would eat less to make sure I didn’t go over 1200 calories. My friends would even say like “where is the old erika, you used to be so fun and eat whatever you wanted :( ?”.  Obviously I didn’t care, I loved being skinny and as sick as it was, every time someone said I looked ill or too skinny on tumblr, I took that as a positive, like i’d achieved a goal they had set for me.

These fast diets don’t last and after going to Uni and meeting new people, new environments and more distractions I slowly started to gain a little weight but I was always obsessed with the food I was eating and working out. I got to 52 kg and I started to have serious sadness and anxiety. Of course some followers noticed and again the comments came back like ‘oh erika i see you’ve gained some weight, be careful’. But at this point I still didn’t have a period and I was starting to worry. My parents would tell me that I had to gain some more weight if i wanted them back, but for me that was tough. my thought process was that because I didn’t have periods I was still underweight and that sadly made me feel better about myself. 

At this time veganmisim was on a rise and because I had an obsession with food, this was something I thought i could put all my energy into. I had read things about veganisim which helped with eating disorders and helped females gain back healthy, unnoticeable weight and helped to regulate healthy periods. Because my metabolism was fucked up, I instantly started gaining weight through this high fruit diet and for once this didn’t make me upset or ashamed. I had a lot more energy and my skin was a lot nicer. 

From then until now I have gained back the weight and I’m back to how I used to look (thank my asian genes) and I am 50% happy. This is due to my friends and my life situation. But most days I don’tlike the way my body looks, I still obsess over my diet and my confidence is pretty shit. I still get negative comments on my body and most of the time I do regret letting my strict diet slip. It sounds so lame being 21 years old, but cyber bullies really have hurt me and their comments are always on the back of my mind. At this point I feel like i’m never going to be happy with the way I look and this obsession over my appearance will stay with me forever. Cyber bullies need to understand the consequences of their actions and realise destructive comments on girls / womens body can deeply damage someone in the long term.