I remember the first time someone commenting on my weight really bothered me. I was in elementary school at an after-school dance class. Another girl grabbed my wrists and started talking about how skinny I was. I remember being so mad that she was shaking me around like a rag doll and nobody seemed to think it was a problem. I was skinny so it wasn't mean to point it out, but it's always wrong to point out anything that may make someone feel insecure and less than.
I've been skinny my entire life. I'm just genetically built that way. If you look at my family, there's a long line of skinny people so odds were high that I would turn out that way as well.
It seems like when you're thin, there's some sort of unwritten rule that makes it OK for people to yell "you're so skinny!" That rule is stupid. It's absolutely not okay in any way to comment on someone's weight, no matter what their weight is.
My parents have had to take on this battle way before I even realized it was one. I have two brothers and there were definitely times I out-ate them both, but my parents had to swear up and down that they fed me. My mom spent hours trying to force milkshakes filled with protein powder or instant breakfast drinks down my throat. I would put up a good fight and eventually she would give up and move on to the next technique to put a few pounds on her kid. Other people's commentary on my weight probably didn't add any pressure whatsoever, right? Nothing like people assuming you starve your kid.
When you're thin, everyone thinks you're super lucky and feels the need to tell you just how much. What people don't always see is the stigma of being thin. Case in point, here's story from my freshman year of college that still makes me angry — I started feeling awful one day and my throat was killing me. I was no rookie to having strep throat so I made an appointment at the campus health center to get it checked out. Somehow, my appointment for suspected strep throat became a nurse questioning me about my eating habits.
Was I using my meal plan?
Living away from home can be stressful how was I coping?
Had I always been this thin?
Did I often find myself concerned about my weight?
No lady. My throat did not hurt because I stuck my finger down it.
That was my answer word for word and it earned me a referral to the counseling center. I'm now a clinical social worker and am well aware of how common eating disorders are but I had never had one. What if I did though? That situation for sure wasn't a comfortable and nonjudgmental environment where I would want to say that I needed help. The assumption that I couldn't possibly be living on the college freshman diet of pizza and pasta and not gain the freshman fifteen without an eating disorder was offensive.
I couldn't believe trying to do the right thing and get a medical issue checked on turned into me leaving that office feeling so awful and insecure with a brochure in my hand about what the mental health counselors on campus could do for me.
When you're thin, another unspoken rule is that you are not allowed to say you feel like you need to work out. I work out three times a week for my own physical and mental health. I'm not under the assumption I'm overweight in any way but definitely don't feel my healthiest when I've been particularly lazy some weeks. Those are the times I feel like I need to get myself up and off the couch and head to my dance studio for a class. You have no idea how many times I've been told to shut up because I'm so skinny and don't have to worry about going to the gym or eating healthfully.
That's usually when the body comparison starts and every little inch of you is picked apart and evaluated. That doesn't feel good no matter what size you are.
I'm a naturally introverted person so to be looked up and down and torn apart is a nightmare. Nothing makes me want to run into my introvert shell more than having all eyes on me.
I understand its human nature to compare ourselves to others. We look at those around us and try to figure out how we rate compared to them in our heads. It's a horrible little game and we know we can't possibly win all the time, but why do was feel the need to play the game out loud? Everybody deserves the right to feel safe and secure in his or her own body.
It is never okay to invade someone's personal space and comment on their appearance. If that was to be done to someone who was overweight there would be an outcry over how rude and socially unacceptable it is. Why doesn't the same respect and compassion apply to everyone?
I'm not writing this to brag about my body type. I'm well aware of my own flaws and have people who love me for them. I'm writing this in hopes you will stop and think. The next time you say something about someone would you say it if the opposite case were to be true? If the answer is no you probably shouldn't do it. "You're so skinny!" can be taken just as hard as "You need to lose a few pounds."