If you’re like most people, someone has commented on your weight at some point in your life. Maybe it was your friend in junior high school; perhaps a family member. However it happens, it can pierce your confidence when someone comments negatively about your body.
We have a wide variety of body types, shapes, and builds, most of which are somewhat genetically predispositioned. Born with the genes we are given from our parents, we have the power of lifestyle choices to shape our bodies further. Our genetic mold, like a cookie-cutter, sets the overall pattern, though. My parents are both lean and athletic, passing on such traits to me and my two sisters. From a young age, we were often called “skinny”.
We live in a weight focused, if not obsessed, culture. From the images and messages we receive from media and advertising, or the way we compare ourselves to each other, we are all affected by our own relationship with “weight”.
I haven’t met an American girl who, at some point in her life, hasn’t been on a diet or cleanse of some sort to lose weight. That includes myself. Food has always been a source of pleasure and positivity for me; I’ve eaten whatever I’ve wanted my whole life. After four years in college, though, I did gain about 10-15 pounds. Wanting to get back to my strong, athletic self, I tried the Atkins diet in 2003, when it was wildly popular. It worked well, but made me a little shaky from low blood-sugar. I was off that diet after one month, and reaffirmed my philosophy to simply listen to my body. I eat what I want to, in tune with what my body needs the most. I love a good pint of ice-cream as much as I do a glorious cup of blueberries. I need the calories.
Pretty much every single day of my life has involved some sort of rigorous physical activity, from a very young age. I’ve always had a ton of natural energy, and love to be physical. Over the years I’ve learned how important, if not medicinal, it is to expend my energy through exercise. Not just exercise, but outdoor physical adventure. A good, hard ride or run in nature not only makes me feel happy, but it calms me. It helps me focus, problem-solve, and think of new ideas. It also helps me to fall asleep each night within minutes. Being on the move so much keeps me in great shape.
But please don’t call me “skinny” as if it’s a bad thing.
I have nothing against what I perceive to be “skinny”, but the judgment with which people say the word bothers me. I couldn’t do the things I can if I were “skinny”, without the muscles I have. That’s not arrogance, but fact. It takes strength and endurance to mountain bike for hours on end; to run up a steep hill; to hold plank position or downward dog for two minutes; to build a retaining wall in my backyard; to climb; to snowboard down a mountain. Some people assume I’m thin because I’m vain and want to look a certain way; they don’t know all of the cool things I can do as an athlete. They assume that I don’t eat much or diet like crazy. Comments have ranged from ignorant to rude to just plain mean.
“You must spend all day at the gym”.
“Gosh, you’re so skinny! Do you ever eat?”
“Are you okay?” with feigned concern.
“You look like you’re anorexic”.
Those are just a few of the plethora of comments I’ve heard over the years. I’ve been told I’m too athletic; too top-heavy for my small frame; my shoulders are too broad; my arms too muscular. I’ve even had my emotional well-being questioned; “Is she happy?” someone asked my friend while I was climbing at the gym. People can be quite creative and specific with their observations. From strangers to colleagues, friends, and family members, the gamut runs wide. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve learned to stand up for myself.
It’s inappropriate to comment on someone’s weight. I think it would be common sense, but no. There seems to be a double-standard with weight shaming. Would it ever be acceptable for someone to comment, “Wow, you’ve really put on some weight, haven’t you?” It would be considered totally rude! People would gasp in shock. To tell someone they’ve gained weight, or look fat, is taboo.
So why is it okay to tell someone they are too skinny?
I used to try to justify myself to such skeptics who would question me. “I exercise a lot; I eat well; I’m naturally thin”, I’d offer. Eventually, I became irritated that I was wasting my time dignifying such questions with an answer. Why did I have to explain myself to someone who was body-shaming me? Who were they to judge me and my body? Most of the time, they were projecting their own body issues onto me, but it hurt my feelings and made me defensive. I can’t make someone who doesn’t exercise regularly understand how hard I push my body, and it’s futile to try to change their mind or control their views.
It didn’t happen right away, but I became more curt in my responses to weight comments. Now I just frankly say, “I think it’s best not to talk about other people’s weight”, and change the subject. I try not to take it personally, even though I still feel a bit offended. If I’m feeling feisty, I’ll retort, “Want to go run 7 miles with me? Want to ride a bike through the forest up and down (mostly up!) steep hills for two hours?!”
It’s important to keep our opinions in perspective; to take them with a grain of salt. Who are we to decide what’s right or healthy for someone else? We should be supportive of each other, and positive with our words. Although we may interpret someone to be “too skinny” or “too fat”, that doesn’t make it so. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the old adage goes. Look at all of the different cultures around the world, and all of the different types of beauties, lifestyles, and diets they embrace.
At the end of the day, we’re all the same: human. There is no one right way to eat, no magic diet. There is no one perfect weight, body type, or way to live your life. As I always say, just do you.
To each their own Flow; to each their own Grace.