February 1, 2012

a rant: in defence of skinny girls

This is something that has been brewing in me for years and this post has been brewing for months. I usually keep topics on my blog fairly light and superficial but this is something I want to talk about. It's personal for me and I'm sure there must be girls out there that can relate. I have avoided posting about this topic in fear of offending someone when in turn I'm the one being offended time and again. I feel like it's time I said something.

I have been petite, skinny, slender, slight, thin (deathly thin - yes, someone called me that once), scrawny, gaunt, a toothpick - whatever name you have for it, for my whole life. For whatever reason my gene pool is full of tadpoles instead of big beautiful fish. Being an organically skinny girl has been interesting. I am comfortable with my body, my size and my image but it seems that many others are not. It never ceases to amaze me the kinds of things people will say to my face, let alone when I can not hear.

Even after all these years I can not wrap my head around the fact that someone (and I'll tell you, it's many someones) feels it's appropriate to tell me I'm too thin. You would never approach an overweight woman and tell her she is too heavy or that she should lose some weight. How rude! Why then is it ok to take me by the hand and tell me to eat more, or tell me you are worried about my health. It is not acceptable to voice your concern that I am too skinny or that you'd like to see me "put on a couple pounds." I have seen the looks, I have heard the whispers and I am fully aware that some people think I have a problem. There are also those that assume because I'm petite I have no idea what body image issues are. Imagine for a moment what it would be like to be stuck in a 13 year old's body forever. Granted, it's not quite like that but I do get an inferiority complex when I stand next to tall, beautiful, curvy women. Always being the twerp in the room gets old. Shopping in the youth department has it's perks but having a ladies small (or xs) still be too big is discouraging. And do you know how hard it is to stay warm? I am not trying to paint the picture that being thin is a trial but I do believe that many woman don't see it from our view, they just think we're skinny and we've got it made.

I was so angered while watching Ellen one afternoon (I've since forgiven her - love Ellen) as she commented that clothes in size zero should not even be made. Her argument was that it only encourages girls to try and be thinner and that it perpetuates eating disorders. I shouted at the TV, "NOT ALL GIRLS THAT WEAR A SIZE ZERO HAVE AN EATING DISORDER!" It is views like that I am talking about, that we are only this thin if we are unhealthy. I do nothing to stay this size and in fact I have to do some things to maintain this size.  I would not say I have never experienced any eating related issues, in fact I have. Through much of junior high and high school I had a fear of eating in front of people. In social settings I would sit and push food around my plate, cut it into tiny bite size pieces or find some excuse not to eat it at all. These are similar signs to that of an eating disorder but I assure you it was social anxiety, not anorexia. It was a fear of having food on my face, something stuck in my teeth, or being spoken to with a mouth full. I would be able to chew but not swallow, sitting there with a knot in my stomach. It was not an eating disorder, it was a type of social phobia, not something great for a skinny girl to have. I struggled with this for years and I know it fueled speculation but through friends and actually a really great boyfriend I was able to overcome it and now while dining in social settings it doesn't even cross my mind. There was also a period in high school that for whatever reason I had convinced myself that going to bed hungry was some kind of power trip - a mind over matter accomplishment. It was foolish and I soon realized that going to bed with a bowl of cereal or a piece of toast in my tummy was a much better idea. I think we all go through phases of trying to take charge of our lives, and it was nothing more than that. I am sharing this to illustrate that these issues had nothing to do with my size, or weight. I believe they were natural growing pains and how unfair that something serious like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa be attached to them. There are other causes of 'thin-ness' than these painful diseases. Like say, your natural shape.

I feel it is ignorant for a thin person to be labelled with a "problem" while others who walk around carrying extra weight legitimately do have a problem. The stress those extra pounds put on your system is concerning. It is not my intention to offend those that struggle with weight gain but when pointing the finger at who is 'unhealthy,' I ask you to please not point at me. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and that's a beatiful thing. We should celebrate our bodies, regardless of how much they weigh. It is my argument that it is socially acceptable to outwardly comment on a thin person's body when you would never dream of saying something to someone who is obese. I am not talking about the, "that dress looks great on you, you skinny mini," or the "man, if I was as thin as you..." comments. I don't expect people to ignore it altogether, and I am the first to poke fun at my being a lil bitty. What I am referring to are the comments of supposed concern and worry and the remarks of, "you need to eat more!" I am tired of defending the absence of an eating disorder in my life. It's when it's assumed I have an issue that I take offence. Perhaps you are wondering why I care what other people think and why I let what they say bother me. I can appreciate that and to some extent I don't care. But when someone tells you to go "eat another sandwich," it is harder to ignore.

I want to raise awareness on behalf of skinny girls (and gentlemen) everywhere. Not because I think you inconsiderately tell the thin people in your life to stop throwing up their meals, but because some of the things people say could be said in a different way. That, "you're so skinny, I hate you!" isn't really a compliment. It is possible the person you are talking to can do nothing about her size. I want to bring to light that like being overweight, being underweight isn't without it's inconveniences either. It's good form to be respectful of both.

I don't know how else to conclude other than to say I am a healthy 100 pound woman and I eat. A lot actually. And I know there are others like me.

I would appreciate your feedback.


*Examples given are things that have actually been said to me.
**Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are serious disorders and in no way am I trying to discredit those individuals that struggle with these illnesses. I have seen their grips in my personal circle and can attest to the legitimate anguish they cause. 

15 comments:

  1. Good for you Michelle! I mean, I am in no way or form a "skinny girl" but I would totally be offended if someone came up to me and said, "hey you could probably drop a few pounds..." so why they feel they have a right to say something rude about your size when there REALLY is nothing you can do about it is beyond me. I think your shape is beautiful and NOT at all like a 13 year old gal. lol. You are a stunning woman and mother. I really have to say some must make such rude comments just because they are jealous, and its not acceptable. I mean we all want (us taller gals) want to be skinnier... but for no reason should anyone say something rude or harsh against your size. We love you and your small little frame. Your so cute and your personality makes you who you are and we just love it! xo

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  2. Jared has always been super skinny too, which is just as bad for a guy, and he has gotten these sorts of rude comments all his life. It's mean and hurtful, but sadly most people don't see it that way, even when you point it out to them. They just don't get it.

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  3. If I could sing onto your blog page, the song I would sing is
    "I Love You Just The Way You Are."
    You are beautiful, you dress so darn cute, and you have the most
    fun personality in the world. Where are these people that say these things to you and this "mama bear" will go after them!!

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  4. You tell 'em! I had a similar problem growing up of always ALWAYS being the smallest, both in height and weight in my classes. Last year, I started unintentionally losing weight despite the fact that I was eating like a horse every day. I was ravenously hungry All The Time. As it turned out, my body was using all of the energy I was feeding it and more because I had undiagnosed arthritis, but until I got treatment, it was literally IMPOSSIBLE for me to gain weight. Family members kept mentioning to me that I would probably feel better and stay warmer if I would just gain some weight, and I was helpless, and the comments were hurtful. I couldn't do anything. Seriously. I've never ever had trouble with anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders. I really really love food, and some people are just made small.

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  5. Michelle, these types of things have EVERYTHING to do with jealousy. I'll be the first to admit I'm occasionally one of those people. I'd love to be able to eat anything I want like you do and and stay model-thin. I'd love to be able to find cute clothes on the sale racks like you do, because believe me, there is nothing but XS on those racks. And let's be honest, I'm sure you love it too, just not the jerky comments that you have to put up with as a result. Fortunately I know that you eat plenty for your size, and people who question that are just trying to make themselves feel better because they are uncomfortable with the fact that you're thin and they're not. Bodies DO come in all shapes and sizes and the fact that I'm the same height as you and weigh almost 30 pounds more than you isn't a reason for either of us to be sad. I like your post. People need to stop worrying about how everyone else looks. There are plenty of girls out there going to extremes, including eating disorders and getting unnecessary surgeries, to try and make their bodies more "beautiful" when they should really just be happy with their beautiful God-given natural shape like you described. Thanks.

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  6. I found you my long lost friend! I am so glad you have a blog and I am so glad you wrote this post. You know I understand -I believe we've had this very conversation a time or two many moons ago. I have always felt uncomfortable by the comments but never have the guts to say anything. Good for you! I miss you...wish we could catch up one day!

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  7. come visit the Shockey blog sometime ;) jjshocks@blogspot.com

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  8. Thanks for saying what is on your mind. You are right, sometimes people don't think before they speak, or like you said, don't really understand the other side.

    I appreciate what you said and will now be more aware. Some people don't realize what they are saying or how it sounds until someone else says it back to them. So thanks.

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  9. I love that you said it all! I've had a few people ask me if you were anorexic. And I'm always taken back by such rudeness and nonsense. First of all why are you asking me? and secondly what business is it of yours?
    I think you are perfect and gorgeous and I love every 100lbs of you!...oh and totally jealous that you don't ever look like you've carried 9lb babies...so not fair.

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  10. I especially love it when people are meaning to give you a compliment on how skinny you are but put themselves down in the process. ("I wish I was as skinny as you...or If I was as skinny as you I could wear cute clothes like that") what are you supposed to say to that? How about just saying "you look great! I like that shirt on you"!

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  11. I see where you are coming from. I have been overweight most of my life. I am fully aware of the discomfort and frustration that come from unthoughtful words and snap judgements. I completely agree that another persons opinion of my weight, or yours, should be kept to themselves. However, being naturally skinny, does not carry the same depth of social repercussions as being heavy does. My two closest friends growing up were considered too skinny. It was something that bothered them and it was super frustrating to have anyone point out the fact to them that they looked "too thin". But side by side, in social settings, they did not experience anything close to what I did being heavy. They were in no way held to the same microscope that I was. I am not saying they didn't struggle. But it was certainly not the same. You mention that the heavy women are the ones with the legitimate problem because of their extra weight. But even there is a stereotype. Being overweight does put a person at risk for many complications. But there are actually people who struggle with weight, work out, eat reasonably and still maintain a higher weight, while their thinner counterparts may not excercise or necessarily eat healthily. There is no way any one person can be absolutely sure of anothers health just by looking at them. You are helping others to see the flipside of weight struggles and I think your post is wonderful, but by making a comment about heavier people walking around and not being the ones told they have a problem comes across in a funny way. The finger is pointed incessantly at heavy people! By daily media, peers, doctors, weightloss advertisements, having to shop in "special" stores, and the list runs long. You mention that it is good form to be respectful of both and I totally agree. But in order for us to move forward, thin or heavy, it is only going to happen when we as a whole, skinny and heavy, truly embrace eachother without thinking the other is the bad guy.

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  12. Jill, I applaud your comments. I wanted to say something similar but just couldn't phrase it in a polite, positive way as you have done. Thanks for being the other side of this discussion.

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  13. Thank you very much for your comment Jill. You make some compelling arguments - I under exercise and do not watch what I eat, I know heavier women that are undoubtedly more "fit" than I am, it's absolutely true. I would never argue that overweight women (and men) do not struggle with harsh words and disgusting, unrealistic pressures from society and media. I wanted to point out that it unfortunately happens on this side as well. Thank you for your views on this topic that is personal to both of us. :)

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  14. Poor little thin girl. You have it so hard. Come back when you face actual discrimination.

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