Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On Body Image

This is a post about body image from the skinny girl's perspective. It is IN NO WAY an anti-fat, anti-curvy, anti-whatever-you-want-to-call-it post. I've never thought that one body type is inherently better than any other, so if you're happy and healthy, then so am I. I also am not saying in this post that my "struggle" (if you can really call it that) is comparable to those that other people have faced. I'm not trying to whine or one-up anyone - I just have never really heard anyone tell this side of the story, and I know I cannot be the only one who faced some of these issues. So here it is:

I'm skinny. I've basically always been skinny. My mom is skinny, my grandma was skinny, and the majority of my family is, well, skinny. I was born weighing 10 lbs, and that is the absolute last time I've been above average in the weight department. This is where everyone usually interjects with a "you're so lucky," but it's really not that simple.

Sorry for the awkward, unfocused picture, but this shows what I look like these days.

As a kid, I never really thought about weight much. I suppose that's because it wasn't an issue for me. I was pretty normal. But as I started getting older I didn't gain much weight. I was getting taller but not any wider. I still didn't think much of it.

Around the time I started middle school, you know - that awkward time when everyone is self-conscious no matter what size, I started getting a lot of people saying things like "you're too skinny." You're too skinny? I never understood why this was a socially acceptable thing to say to someone. I mean, I'm not talking about a doctor here, I'm talking about casual acquaintances making such claims in a really nonchalant way. Some of them even sounded like they might be trying to compliment me. I just don't get why, even though saying "you're fat" to someone is so clearly rude and disrespectful, people think it's totally fine to say "you're too skinny." I mean, you're still saying the same basic thing: you're not the right size, and you don't look how I think you should. At least that's how I heard it. (I realize some of you might have said this to people in the past, as it seems to be widely accepted as an okay thing to say, and you probably didn't even mean to be rude - just realize that it's not quite as harmless as you might have thought).

For a long time, I thought I had to gain weight. I didn't really hate my size on my own, but people told me I was too small so I believed them. I ate like a normal kid my age, and then some. But I really honestly could not gain any weight. I have heard about other people struggling with this on the opposite end of the spectrum a lot, and that's exactly how I felt: helpless.

On top of all that, I've been accused of having eating disorders several times. That's a pretty serious thing to accuse someone of, and it was never, ever true. I've always eaten when I was hungry, and this just made me feel like even more of a freak. Did I look like I was sick or something?

Even one time in college (by this point I was pretty much over the self-consciousness about my size) someone indirectly called me "disgusting." We were having a discussion about body image in regards to magazine covers and all that good stuff. He, of course, thought he was being noble in defending overweight people and said something to the effect of "I think it's disgusting when you can see a girl's ribcage." Ouch. I know he was trying to refer to supermodels who weigh 80lbs at 5'10" and starve themselves and all that, (and I don't look like that at all), but yes, I can see my ribcage. I didn't say anything because I didn't know what to say. I've never starved myself or deprived myself of food, but there it is. And apparently it's disgusting...

On the few occasions I've talked about this with people, they usually say something like "oh, they're just jealous" or something. I don't really know if that's true. It might be that they really thought they were complimenting me (kind of warped if you think about it), they just have no filter, or they were jealous. I don't know why anyone would be jealous or happy for a person who is "too skinny" but apparently that's the world we live in?

Again, I have no body image issues anymore. I feel totally comfortable with my size and my appearance. I just wanted to share my own little issues of growing up as a skinny girl who still felt like I was the wrong size. Body image issues aren't specific to one body type. If we all just mind our own business and stop trying to hold ourselves and others to unreasonable standards, then a lot of these things wouldn't be issues.

The bottom line, I guess, is that you never know what someone is going through. Be nice to people and really think about what you say before you say it, especially when talking to young girls who are so impressionable and self-conscious in the first place.

If you have a story, and don't mind sharing it, please do.

12 comments :

  1. I think I am more than qualified to comment first! :) Yes, I am thin and I don't apologize for it anymore. I used to but as I got older I realized-- its just who I am. I'm healthy and happy with it! Kudos for writing this post, m'dear. #selfconfidence

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  2. Hey. I just wanted to say that I can relate to you 100%.

    In fact, if that's you in the photograph, I believe I may be even thinner (I weight around 100lbs, 5"4, 20 years old.. if that's a comparison..?)

    Anyway, I have always had trouble gaining weight. The thing is, I not only eat all my meals but I OVER eat every single day. I eat good food and then I eat a whooooole bunch of fatty junk foods. I've been trying to gain weight for a really long time, and I've tried REALLY hard this past year and I think I've gained a few lbs but I can't tell because my electronic scale is whack.

    I had a best friend in elementary school who I parted with for years, and then I had a reunion sleepover with her about 4 years after. She said I was too skinny and that my body looked "disgusting" and that it's not what boys like. I was really offended and I'll never forget that.

    Like you, I've also heard many times people say that seeing a rib cage is disgusting. The thing is, I've noticed that you can see rib cages in average sized people as well. It really depends on your body structure and bone size, along with where your body puts your weight, etc.

    I can completely relate to what you've been through and probably are still going through (because so am I.)

    Oh, what's worse is that I have such tiny breasts that I can't even remember the last time I decided to put on a bra - I don't need one. It's embarrassing, but that's the way my body is.

    Fortunately for me, I think the only place my fat goes to is my ass.. haha! I do have a cute bum, so I'm glad. :)

    -Dori.

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  3. P.S. I absolutely HATE it when people say that only chubby people have "curves"!

    I have wide hips and my body is CURVY, even though I'm skinny.

    Have you ever thought of that? Haha. :)

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  4. Great read, Ann(i)e! [Sorry. I've heard Whitney refer to you as both.]

    The same is also true on the other side of the... sextrum, shall we call it (instead of spectrum, hur hur)?

    Like you growing up, the taller I got, the skinnier I got. My metabolism has always been through the roof. Just as there's pressure on women to be thin, I feel like there's pressure on men to be, well, almost fat. Guys are in such a damn hurry to grow up and be like Dad that it's cool and manly to have a gut when you're 14, 15 years old -- something I've never had and was therefore the subject of LOTS of locker room ridicule.

    Either way, it's a unique perspective and you're right: Not many people realize the psychological damage that comes with it.

    The bottom line I think is that, no matter who or what shape you are, kids -- and adults -- are mean.

    I read recently that, over his fireplace, Kurt Vonnegutt had etched in stone, "We need to be nice to one another!" I like that.

    Peter

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  5. I actually am I recovery from anorexia. I was never pleased with how I looked. I still get comments thar I'm on verge of too skinny though I'm at my healthy set point. I had to gain about 80 pounds to get there and people hated me for that. In a world where a large chunk of people are overweight and wishing to lose, skinny and weight gain is foreign. I learne to love my body whether too thin, too big, or just right which is preferable! :) I try to use comments to share with people about my condition and how comments like that are what nearly killed me...

    If you ever want to talk

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  6. Thank you for sharing! People never really know what someone else is struggling with...

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  7. what a sweet and honest post annie! i definitely think that weight is a touchy subject for women.. in general. people definitely need to be aware of what they are saying~

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  8. Thanks for your honesty! I had a friend growing up that was like that. People used to whisper in the hallways about how she was anorexic or bulimic. It broke my heart because I knew the other side of it. I knew how she would eat every meal and try to gain weight.

    I'm glad to hear you have a healthy body image now!

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  9. Though my struggle hasn't been to gain weight (it's been to not gain it), I definitely identify with being bothered by people's thoughtless comments.

    I'm super short (4'10") but not petite-framed. I have a serious chest, butt (less so), hips. Thick, muscular legs, thick torso, lots of muscle and lots of curves. People seem to think that because I'm so short, I should weigh nothing. I can't count how many times people have tried to PICK ME UP and then said, "Oh my God, how much do you weigh?" or "Do you eat bricks?"

    What's so sad is that during my teens - from jr. high through early college - I thought I was chubby. I was always one of the "thickest" girls on my dance teams and on my college dance team, was always being measured and weighed and never skinny enough by the coach's standards. Now when I look at photos of myself, I'm shocked and saddened that I thought I was fat. I was HOT. I wish I'd known that then.

    I'm sorry people have been careless with their words. It is easier to be thoughtless about "skinny" because it's seen as the goal in our culture, and I bet people do think it's not offensive because of that. I happen to think you're gorgeous and very well-proportioned.

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  10. I completely get this! I had a friend in high school that was i suppose 5'0" and tiny. She had a fast metabolism and could never gain weight. She had some of the same stuff said to her.

    As for me, I'm the complete opposite in Elementary School, I was picked on for being to big. Honestly, I think it's because I have hips for days, and I'm short (5'1 1/2" lol)I've always struggled with insecurities about the way I look, and still do. Thankfully, I have big boobs to balance out the big hips lol.

    I'm so glad you put this up. It's nice to have a conversation like this.

    xo
    Coop

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  11. HOLLA, I'm a skinny bitch too. I was most definitely a late bloomer, I didn't even need a bra til 10th grade and I got teased quite a bit. But WHATEVS, when I was pregnant/breastfeeding I had Ds and curves and it was a lot of fun, but I'm quite glad to be back to my old size 0 flat-chested self. For starters I have a lot more clothing options. SO I LOOK LIKE A LITTLE BOY, but I'm totally okay with that now.

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  12. I just wanted to say that my turning point was when I changed how I talked to myself. I have no control over what others say to me, and I've stopped giving their words any power. Now, when I look at my body, I actually say "I love you." I've made peace with me and actually celebrate me. I'd highly recommend it!

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