How to Make a Skinny Girl Feel Fat

8:00 AM


I had never felt fat until today.

My sophomore year of college, the school nurse told me to eat more carbs, even if that meant grabbing an ice cream after every meal. I was teetering close to below normal weight for my BMI. It was kind of a badge of pride for me, hitting the scales around 110 pounds every time. I didn't even have to work out. (I also never ate anything because of a busy lifestyle and a picky palette.) It made me excited to fit into size two dresses. My biggest accomplishment? No overwhelming body image issues -- just a few days here and there where I felt weird and off and ugly. Normal stuff.

Then two people mentioned in passing how skinny minny I was compared to my younger years. And they weren't talking about my two-year-old self with thunder thighs. They meant my freshman year in college.

I scrolled through my freshman year photos. I looked younger, yes. Maybe a little rounder in the face? A little stouter in the waist? That haircut and dumpy outfit didn't help. Yikes. But I couldn't see any huge difference.

It troubled me that my current body was so close to my chub-chub freshman body. Didn't I lose the freshman fifteen instead of gain it? But come to think of it, I did get stuck in my friend's size two dress and almost split the seams shimmying it off. And I did notice a slightly significant drop in weight once I started dancing full-time sophomore year.

I was fat? Really? I knew I looked awkward and frumpy in my younger years, but chubby? Gosh. Say it isn't so.

It feels so shameful to hear that label attached to my body. I heard the shame in my sister's voice every time she "joked" about being fat. "You're not fat," I kept telling her. "You're just tall and have really petite sisters." When she kept repeating the same "jokes," I wanted to slap her with medical statistics about what it actually meant to be overweight and how dangerous it would be for a tall girl to weigh like a ten-year-old and did it even matter, anyway?

This is what troubles me: Even if I was five pounds heavier two years ago and met the vague standard of "chubby," I know for certain I was a healthy five pounds heavier. I was an undistracted five pounds heavier, unworried by obsessively working out or eating more carbs to stay alive.

It's disturbing that "fat" is now a measure of beauty instead of a measure of health. And that's how to make a skinny girl feel fat -- use "chubby" as a beauty term, not a health term. Make the normal little belly bulge and a round face and curves something abnormal and unattractive. Make a size four noteworthy for not being a size two. Make it something worth mentioning, something worth celebrating, that a skinny girl dropped a few pounds of teenage fat -- and that makes her cuter.

I dislike being evaluated, rated, and categorized based on physical features. So what if I was a little chubby in the face two years ago? Did that make me any less valuable? Did that diminish my personality, my education, and my passion? It didn't.

The impact of my weight on my attractiveness doesn't matter because beauty doesn't factor into worth. I'm not a pageant queen or a candidate for Xerxes' harem, so beauty shouldn't affect my success in life. Just because I'm a woman does not mean that I submit myself to a beauty rating system. Yet I feel coerced into playing this pageant game that rates beauty with an objective, part-by-part measuring stick.

When I told my boyfriend that I "felt fat" based on these recent comments, he immediately told me, "What? You're not fat. And you're pretty."

Those words felt hollow -- not because I didn't believe that he saw me as beautiful and skinny. It's just that his opinion -- his opinion -- does not change my objective rating on the beauty scale that the world uses. As long as I played the pageant game, I would equate beauty with worth -- and the skinnier the better.

So I said, "Stop. No. Tell me I'm smart or something" -- something that mattered. Something that I cared about being. Something that I knew I objectively was. Something that wasn't clouded with a twisted measuring stick. I was loved. I was cute. I was funny. I was a good student. I was caring. I was passionate.

And that's how a skinny girl stopped feeling fat -- because five pounds, gained or lost, doesn't make a bit of difference to who I am.

Photo Credz: Livingly

You Might Also Like

14 impressions

  1. Ugh, I feel for you. I'm not exactly skinny; I'd say I could probably stand to lose a few pounds, but I'm definitely not overweight. I never had a problem with body image until I was 16 or so, and now I have a hard time in my own mind. I don't really like most pictures of myself; I'm not super photogenic, so I usually look nicer in a mirror than in a picture. I just try not to downgrade myself, and just wear clothes that flatter my figure.
    It doesn't help that clothing magazines with 'plus sizes' show women who are definitely not plus sized. They're always slimmer than I am! I guess they're only plus sized compared to the unhealthily skinny models :/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry you have to wade through these negative emotions. You're right -- many plus-size models aren't really plus-sized. One thing that's helped me is living around a bunch of girls all within healthy weights -- some are skinny, some are rounder, some have more padding, but we're all happy and healthy and mean more than a number on a scale. I hope life brings you similar reminders that help you beat back these nasty insecure thoughts about weight! You're a boss for staying strong for so long.

      Delete
  2. Had to laugh at the Xerxes' harem comment. :)

    As a girl who has spent much of her life at least slightly overweight, I can definitely relate to this. At 13, I thought I was ugly and it was several years before I could believe that I was beautiful. For me, it's important to believe that. Because 13 year old Rebekah looked in the mirror and said, "You're so ugly, Rebekah, how could anyone ever love you?" And then I argued that that wasn't why my family and friends loved me. I told myself that I wasn't beautiful, and than I tried to convince myself that it didn't matter. But it did matter to me, and trying to stifle that was a real problem. I still have days where I feel kind of ugly, and I would like to lose some weight so I can be healthier, but I'm doing a lot better not letting those thoughts and facts define me. Because it's important for every woman to know that there is much more to them than just their beauty/attractiveness/appearance and that their worth as a human being made in the image of God is not dependent on where they measure up on a scale.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's some hard stuff to work through. You're so wise to remember that your family's and friends' love has nothing to do with your weight or beauty. I'm proud of you. :)

      Delete
  3. Thanks Bailey, I needed this reminder. This winter in Australia I've felt the cold a lot more, and have consequently not exercised half as much as I should've, and with younger sisters who cook sweet stuff, well... I know that I'm not as fit as I was a year or so ago, and it amazes me how much the knowledge that I really do need to lose a few kilos effects your emotional state. Just being able to pinch here and there and know I never used to be able to do that makes you somehow feel less human, for some reason. Thanks for the reminder that I'm more than a pound (or pounds too many) of flesh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ohhhh, the winter and its accompanying lack of motivation to move.....yeah, I totally know what you mean on all fronts. I usually don't worry about the fact that I gained a couple pounds during the winter; it's more like I feel less human for not doing anything but sitting, sitting, and sitting. :P

      Delete
  4. I think you hit the nail on the head with the last few paragraphs. There've only been a few times in my life when I've felt that I am fatter than I would prefer, but I've dealt off and on with feeling unattractive. And hearing 'you're pretty' from boyfriends, nice as it is, doesn't ever seem to really fix the body image issues for me. It's a lot more helpful to hear about *who I am*, not what I look like.

    And it's weird--I am hovering around underweight and have been for my last three years of college, due to stress, stomach troubles, and indeterminate health issues. I felt really poorly during some of that time, and I would have happily traded a few pounds to feel healthy again.
    Now I am feeling mostly-okay again, and am actually pretty happy about how I look (for once). But I have this sneaking suspicion that, were I to gain just a little weight, I would start to dislike my appearance again. (And let's not even think about the body-image trauma of pregnancy!) So the real issue isn't fixed. A healthy body image that is predicated on a certain narrow weight range is NOT actually a healthy body image, I'm afraid.
    Thank you for sharing this with us :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your last few lines are so wise -- only being okay with your body at a certain, near underweight weight is NOT a healthy body image! That's why it scares me when girls seek to change their body image issues by changing their body -- it's not their body but their mind that needs changing.

      Delete
  5. I'm married to a man from South America, and it always makes me feel...uncomfortable with the way they throw around "fat" (gord(o/a)) as a descriptor. And why? Because for so long I've been used to "fat" as a negative term which is inherently tied to your beauty and value. Yet for them, its not -- or at least, doesn't seem to be from the outside.

    They will, without hesitation, report that my husband has gotten fatter since his last visit. Or say, "what happened? you look so fat in this picture!" But its not an insult -- its simply a statement of reality. Sometimes I wish we could be more like that. For example, I have a friend who is, without question, fat. Of course, she's also beautiful! And not just in personality, although she has an amazing personality. But she has the most gorgeous red-blonde curls, just barely there freckles all in the right places, a knock-out smile, and these gray-blue eyes that mesmerize. Yet for some reason, everyone (or society or whatever) seems to discount these and only acknowledge that she's fat -- but at the same time we can't say she's fat, because FAT is a dirty, loaded word rather than just being one of her many attributes.

    Sorry, is that making any sense? I guess I wish fat wasn't an insult or an attribute tied to our value, but just a neutral statement of reality.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear you! I've wondered what using the word as a statement of reality would be like....but is it really neutral even then? Why should someone bring up anyone's weight except for health reasons? I have a friend who grew up around people tracking her weight as a statement of reality, and it was sometimes hurtful to her. I don't know. I just try to always say positive things about people's appearance!

      Delete
  6. I really appreciate this post, because I feel strongly about how society views women's bodies and how girls hurt themselves and others by comparing and holding unrealistic standards. I have never had any significant body image issues beyond the typical feeling of middle school awkwardness, but because I'm skinny, I never feel like I can say that around people, because I don't want to make it look like I'm bragging about my weight. The truth is that I never had body image issues because I cared more about who I was as an individual, and that I'm thin because that's my natural body type. Also, I have severe food intolerances and thus have eaten strictly healthy for the past several years. I don't think that my body type or shape makes me superior or inferior to anyone else, and am grateful for the good example my mother set for me by never fretting about her appearance, obsessively dieting, or making post-pregnancy weight loss an inappropriately high priority after my siblings were born. The positive environment in which I grew up had a huge impact on how I viewed my body, and I'm thankful for it. Also, reading books instead of watching TV had incalcuable effect. I viewed characters, and therefore people, based on who they were, not on the shape they were. Also, reading old-fashioned books like Anne of Green Gables were helpful. Anne was envious of Diana for being plumper than she was. I was astonished. That used to be normal? It taught me that cultural standards for beauty had only been focused on total thinness in the past several decades, and was one of my influences to help me view physical attractiveness in a big picture way that got past what culture was shouting.

    I now have friends of many different shapes and sizes, and am glad I grew up seeing beauty in all kinds of different appearances. I'm grateful not to judge people based on the standards society holds up. I never know what to say when a girl is critical about her weight, because people often want to hear different things, but I do feel very strongly about being a good example to younger girls. I want to be more confident and willing to speak out when someone is criticizing their body, because I don't want to keep my healthy view to myself!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everything you just said is so beautiful and admirable. I grew up similarly to you, so I too am blessed with the healthy body image my mom and upbringing passed down to me!

      Delete
  7. "It's disturbing that "fat" is now a measure of beauty instead of a measure of health." That. That says it all.
    I have always had a very petite figure, I don't exercise, I eat what I want, and I have stayed the same weight for like literally five years. I am happy and confident with my body. But I have friends who are really not fat at all, but are constantly telling me how fat they are. I get frustrated, honestly, because I know they are not. They are healthy and fit, but they are bringing themselves down because people have told them they are fat, or they keep comparing themselves to naturally small girls like me. They don't take into account their height or their muscle, all they see is a number on a scale that is larger than what the world would like. I love this post, Bailey. Thank you for being able to say what I haven't been able to.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love this! I'm so grateful that you decided to discuss this issue from both sides of the spectrum. Login' your blog!

    ReplyDelete

Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)