By Saliha Shariff

CN: Eating disorders

Dear sister,

Between the ages of sixteen and twenty, any time that I felt lost as to who I was, I restricted the amount that I ate. I’d never felt like the prettiest one or the funniest one, I started university and suddenly my intelligence was average at best. So my new aim? To be the smallest one.

I had this irrational idea that once I’d reached a specific ‘magic’ number, I’d have achieved something, and I’d be happy. My self-esteem was at the lowest that it’s ever been. And with every pound that I lost, I felt more lost too. I felt sad and empty and exhausted all the time, my stomach ached with acid, and I was absolutely terrified of putting on weight.

It breaks my heart to think that there’s a possibility that you could ever feel anything like that, and every part of me hopes that you won’t. But your friends are starting to skip meals so they “won’t get fat”, and you’ve said a few things to me that worry me. I could easily be projecting my own issues on to you, and I really hope that I am, because I never want you to feel like you are your weight, or the meaningless number on the labels inside your clothes.


We are not defined by our empty spaces – the gaps between our thighs, the grooves between our ribs, the dips on either side of our collarbones and hipbones – or lack thereof. And being smaller than those around you is not an achievement, just as being bigger than them is not an offence. It can be so difficult to remember this when you’re surrounded by so many outlets poisoning your mind with the opposite, completely wrong idea, but every single part of your body not only serves a purpose, it is absolutely beautiful. Cellulite, eczema scars, stretch marks, body hair – they’re all the paints and pastels and sequins that make up your own personal masterpiece.

The food that you eat is your body’s fuel – it powers your brain, your heart, and every other part of you that allows you to strive for and reach your happiest self. Embrace it.

And if you ever feel like you’re losing yourself, or losing control, please, please reach out to me or to anyone else you feel comfortable speaking to. It’s easier said than done, but it helps more than anything else in the world.

All my love always,

Your big sister.


Eating Disorders Awareness Week runs from the 27th Feb to 5th March. For more information on eating disorders, and what you can do to support those suffering from them, check out b-eat.

Images by Stella Ajayi

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