Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Weakly Whine: Being Skinny*

Recently one of my loyal commenters joked that I should write about how "Being Skinny Rocks". Except everyone already knows (or thinks they know) how being a skinny woman "rocks"-- basically, you get more attention from men. So instead I'm going to tell you why being skinny can really suck. Don't believe me? Read on...

1) I mentioned this in previous posts, but other people (especially heavier people) are constantly remarking on my eating habits. Half of them imply that I must be secretly anorexic. The other half see me eat some oreos or donuts after a lunch at McDonald's and assume I must be secretly bulimic! Sorry, but you're wrong on both counts. I eat a reasonable portion size, and sometimes I enjoy a small treat after my meal. There's no big secret here; I've found that if you practice some basic self-control it is easy to eat a satisfying meal while maintaining a very healthy BMI. Even if the wild accusations of others are just jealousy, it can really get to you
(Don't get me wrong-- there are obviously some people who struggle with obesity whose problems are not some simple moralistic "lack of willpower". For example, some of my bed-ridden patients who simply cannot get around like us able-bodied folks.)

2) Claims that my being skinny will somehow scar my kids-- it is totally inappropriate for someone to bring your kids into an argument like that. I'm proud to be a skinny mother of two. As a mother, it's important to set a good example for my kids, and as a doctor, I strive to set a good example for my patients. You could definitely argue the opposite point, actually. Overweight or obese parents set a terrible example for a young child, teaching them that an unhealthy weight is "normal". It's also unfair to the children who will (statistically) lose those parents early to heart disease or stroke.

3) The attention from men ain't all it's cracked up to be-- I don't want to blow this out of proportion, because I'm NOT trying to accuse any guys I know of sexually harassing me or creating a hostile environment. Mostly, I've just noticed that a lot of men tend to be a lot friendlier and more helpful to me and the other women around who are a healthy body weight. And I suppose that's just how men are. But frankly, I'm happily married and have two beautiful children. I'm not keeping my slim figure for their benefit, and I'm past the point in my life where I need to constantly be flirting with men. And look, I get that this attention is not fair to the heavier women. But it's not my FAULT either. The animosity displayed to me by those other women is what really creates a hostile environment for me. (It goes without saying that whatever great advantage they think I'm getting from this attention is all in their head; being skinny didn't get me Christmas off to spend with my kids!)

4) Finding clothes that fit-- I live in the United States, where the average clothing store mostly caters to the size of the average American. 'nuff said.

Skinny readers, feel free to add to my list in the comments.



*This satirical post was actually written by Mr. McFizz, who is on vacation now and clearly has too much time on his hands. He isn't skinny, but actually lost 40 pounds recently which I think is pretty great for him (his health at least... I'm totally into overweight guys). He said I would never post this, but clearly he doesn't know me very well. But I may take it down quickly if a firestorm results.

33 comments:

  1. You already know how I feel about this.... but I will say that while people who are overweight say that they get tired of the incessant commentary over what they eat, I think most people grossly underestimate the commentary that skinny people get over what they eat.

    Case in point: I was recently doing some shadowing, and the attending kept offering me food and commenting on my body size in a way I'm guess she wouldn't have done had I been overweight. While I'm sure it's not fun for overweight people when they are scolded by strangers for ordering fries, it's ALSO not fun to be tacitly accused of having an eating disorder by people who keep trying to shove food down your throat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From what I've heard, skinny people and very overweight people frequently get hassled by others about their weight. Maybe there's some sort of scientific study that can be done about the weight range you have to be in for people to realize that it's none of their business to comment.

      Delete
    2. Oh! I forgot another disadvantage to being skinny: You don't get to participate in conversations with other women about how fat you feel. Ever. This may seem trivial, but given this topic constitutes at least 50% of what some women talk about, this means that skinny people miss out on an important female bonding experience, and can essentially never become friends with certain segments of the population.

      (I really wish I were joking with this one...)

      Delete
    3. My husband, not being a skinny woman, wouldn't have thought of that :)

      Delete
    4. I completely agree with OMDG about that one. I got jumped on by some of the dancers on the team when my partner brought me a salad for lunch one day. First because they thought he was controlling what I ate and second because I was 'too obsessive about my weight'. We can't win.

      Delete
  2. I would have to agree with OMG. At my recent job, at an hospital, I am constantly talked about regarding my weight. I say, "Oh I can't eat that," mainly because I am watching my unhealthy eating habits, not my weight. I'm 5'7 and 120ish lbs, give or take a few pounds, mainly take. But yes, it is super annoying. My boss constantly says, "Oh my gosh you're so skinny, what are you eating?" Or..."We have free food and snacks for anyone to take. You sure you don't want any?" Sorry I was born naturally thin. I probably eat more than you, your husband, and kids combine. I actually bet I do. To me, I like my size, I've tried gaining weight when I was younger but I'm almost in my 50s and I figured all the billions of dollars going into dieting, I should be happy I got this weight naturally and free. Now should I forsake eating healthy to make those around me feel comfortable? No because no one is going to donate their heart to me nor their arteries, lungs, liver, etc if mines go out due to the unhealthy food choices I indulge in. Sorry I'm getting really annoyed typing this so it probably makes no sense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel physically ill when I eat more than a small amount of food, so I'm really careful. I was just telling my husband that I would rather fast for a day than indulge myself for a day, regardless of weight consequences.

      I think it's a mistake when people think really skinny = super attractive. I had a patient with a super high metabolism who had to consume like 4000 calories a day to stay even. She just looked emaciated.

      Delete
  3. Oh and I was talking baout working out with some women from my church yesterday who are overweight and they turned their heads so fast I thought it would pop off. I was like yes I know I'm skinny but I do have a pudge. I think when someone starts asking you if you're pregnant, that is a sure sign that you need to be working out. But of course, being skinny with a bulge is nothing compared their bulges for whatever reason.... Awww the joys of being skinny. Feeling bloated is nothing if it is not on an overweight scale, so I don't bloat according to the women who are bigger than me even if they're only 15lbs bigger than me. Go figure right.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Im 5'1" 103-105lbs so good weight for my height. I came home for Christmas two days ago and every person in my family before saying hi told me I had to eat and asked if I was anorexic. It honestly sucks hearing this stuff all the time. I get made fun of and told I dont understand what it is like to be pick on ect ect.

    My "favorite" though is being told that I'm not a --real-- woman because I dont have "curves" or stretch marks. Also the sayings like "I a guy wanted to be with a 14 year old boy they would"... Those are the ones that really hurt. It is ridiculous that I am a horrible person if I say anything about the weight or lifestyle of an overweight person but its perfectly ok for them to tell me I'm not a real woman...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If it makes you feel better, overweight people tell me that people constantly comment on their weight, so apparently that's okay too.

      I am thin but I also have curves and stretch marks... thanks, pregnancy x 2! :)

      Delete
  5. I am quite skinny. Trousers very rarely fit me. IT'S SUCH A PAIN. And I DO eat, I just don't put on weight. hmmmmph.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trousers never fit me either, although it's probably because I'm short.

      Delete
  6. Jezebel, the feminist(-ish) part of the Gawker media sites, which regularly takes to task those who "mock the fatties", once posted an awesome rant about how size acceptance goes both ways.

    Just as fat people don't want to hear the comments and so-called advice, that doesn't give anyone the right to turn around and "mock the scrawnies."

    I admit that I've sometimes seen pictures of people where you can easily count their ribs and thought to myself, "Eat a sandwich!" but then I mentally slap myself upside the head.

    I've known a couple of people who have had true anorexia [NOT anorexia nervosa]. It really opened my eyes to the way people feel the need to comment on what other people do.

    Health-wise, there are pluses and minuses to being any size and weight. There's no "perfect body size" outside of the myths presented by the mass media. It is important to remember that we are not all stamped out of the same cookie cutter, that we live different lives, and that includes what and how and when we eat.

    In the end, it all should be filed under Mind Your Own Business.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EXACTLY. Commenting on someone else's weight is Obnoxious with a capital O.

      What ultimately inspired this was that I wrote a post on Mothers in Medicine about being proud of breastfeeding for a whole year, and said one thing I'd miss about it is getting to eat whatever I want and still stay skinny. A "concerned physician" wrote in that my "multiple" posts about my weight were somehow promoting an unhealthy body image. Multiple posts? I mentioned ONCE before that I had been angry about my gestational diabetes testing in light of the fact that my nausea kept me from gaining much weight. That's it!

      Later I made a post about how I lost some weight and it's thrown off my body temperature and now I'm always freezing, and someone commented that my saying that had made them so angry, they hated me or something.

      It's just unbelievable that a few offhand mentions of weight could spark this kind of reaction.

      Delete
    2. I think it says a lot about our culture and how much emphasis we put on weight -- as a matter of looks and health and other issues.

      We (as a culture) need to stop worrying about what people look like, including ourselves, and get off the train of food and weight obsessions. People spend so much time denying themselves food, obsessing what they can and cannot eat, and fearing how they will look that they forget to that food isn't just for health it's also to be enjoyed, and they become so obsessed with how they look that they start pushing their obsessions on other people. Part of that is some sort of mis-guided "envy" of thin people. It's all such a horrific mess.

      Delete
  7. My story: super skinny, 5'9" 115 lbs, until around 30 yrs old. Try to gain weight, try to gain weight, try to gain weight. Finally gained weight. Ooops! Now I'm fat, especially in the stomach, 205 lbs. Hated myself skinny, hate myself fat. Skinny-no boobs, no butt, looked like a boy, couldn't find clothes to fit. Fat-fat butt, fat stomach, boobs obscured by stomach, can't find clothes to fit. This year I'm working on a happy medium. And loving myself any weight I am.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I've struggled with eating issues my whole life, even though I'm a pretty solid 5'9" 145 lbs. size 8/10 and rarely go more than five pounds in either direction, except when I was nursing and in bad marriage and got down to 118 and looked like Skeletor. I'm finally happy with my weight and exercise patterns, but am finding new struggles in projecting healthy body image onto my daughter. She is beautiful but got my ex's genes - shorter without the tall skinny genes that Jack clearly has - ones that run in my family. She is already comparing herself to skinnier, taller girls at school, even though she is not overweight, and coming up short in her own head. It pains me to see this and I've got all the women in the family, especially stepmom and my mom, reminding her how beautiful she is. Teaching good health and exercise rather than "Don't eat this or you will get fat, or Eat more you need to gain some weight." This body image stuff starts so young and I agree - is largely created by our environment and those constant running comments from others that play in our minds and warp us. I love this post from your husband - glad you posted it is wonderful and so true. Just existing, skinny or fat, seems to invite criticism from others. We need to stop the madness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really upsets me that my daughter (who is not skinny but very tall, solid, and athletic) may eventually feel she's too fat. I feel like the people who get totally hysterical in the comments whenever I mention weight in any offhand way are definitely part of the problem. I want her to feel like she's beautiful no matter what and weight doesn't even matter.

      Delete

    2. Part of the problem is that "fat" is, these days, defined by unscientific bullshit like BMI, which doesn't take into account anything actually important like fitness. By BMI standards, most athletes are at least classified as "overweight" if not "obese."

      The biggest irony is that long-term studies are showing that people who are fit and in the "obese" categories are the ones who have the best health. Look at the works of Dr Paul Ernsberger, who has done repeated studies showing that higher BMI numbers don't mean anything if you are fit.

      As long as you have the majority of the health profession insisting that BMI is a health standard, these kinds of issues will continue. Many doctors are feeding into the hysteria of "being fat is bad, I must now obsess about it." (BMI also works the other way, if you're below a certain number you're classified as meeting the standards for having anorexia nervosa. Which is also bullshit, it takes nothing else into account but weight!)

      p.s. do you know why the weight standards switched from the old height/weight charts to BMI? A large part of it was because pharmaceutical companies pushing weight loss drugs started shipping the drugs with BMI charts.

      p.p.s. the height/weight charts were actually from insurance companies who developed them in the early 20th century, based on statistics.

      Neither of these are actual quality science.

      (Sorry, I get ranty. This is a big hot button for me.)

      Delete
  9. The big one that gets me is that people assume I'm unhealthy because I'm thin...

    Case in point: when I was at infants' school, my mother was nearly reported to social services by another parent because I was 'too thin'. Ignoring the fact that I was running around the playground as much as the rest of the kids... I appreciate there is genuine neglect to watch for, but I hardly think the kid running laps of the playground is a real worry.

    And of cause, there was my ex who constantly said he thought I needed to put on more weight (because I really want to hear that from my boyfriend...)

    I like being thin, for all the difficulty in getting clothes. At least my only major health worry is hypotension...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Having one child who has consistently been 90+%tile for weight and one who has consistently been less than 10%tile since infancy, I recognize how strong a genetic component there is to weight. We did roughly the same thing with both kids yet what a difference!

      Delete
  10. I am overweight, but I have celiac disease, so ironically enough I actually get the constant commentary on how I should eat more and people thinking that I secretly have an eating disorder because people often see me not eating very much at parties and things because everything is full of gluten. "Oh, come on, it won't hurt you to have just a little piece of cake! It's a special occasion! You can just go for a jog later!" They don't get that I'm not worried about the calories or the carbs, and a lot of people really don't get that celiac disease is forever. Some people are so pushy and obnoxious about it that I have resorted to describing in detail the diarrhea that will quickly result if eat whatever they're trying to get me to eat. "Well, your cake looks beautiful, but so do your carpets, and if I eat the cake, I'm not sure that I would actually make it to the bathroom before I started pooping everywhere." I do still get unsolicited commentary on my weight (thanks, I had no idea that I was fat and that I might benefit from being less fat!), but much more often it's "concern" about what I'm not eating. People just need to get it through their heads that what other people are eating or not eating and what other people look like is none of their business.

    -Some random med student

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sheesh! I'd think saying you have a severe gluten allergy would be enough...

      Delete
    2. Yeah, for sane people saying I have a severe gluten allergy is enough. But some people just don't believe in any form of food allergy or intolerance that doesn't involve peanuts and and an epi-pen (and some people don't even believe in that, which is truly frightening). I mostly avoid those people, but there are some social obligations that you just can't get out of.

      Delete
    3. And I was on the skinnier side as a kid, and now I'm bigger, so I think that some people who have known me since I was a kid and who are disinclined to believe in things like celiac disease just assume that I must be developing an eating disorder to try to lose weight. I've seriously had people sit me down and try to tell me that I will get very sick if I don't start eating wheat again and that there are "healthier ways to lose weight."

      Delete
  11. Also, I'll admit, there was some parental pressure growing up. My mom was (apparently, although I don't think so, BiasedMamaIsTheBest glasses off) overweight when she was in high school, because, as she said, no one told her how to control portion sizes, or that she needed to. Her relatives had no problem mocking her mercilessly, so she grew up with a fear of weight gain and now watches my sister and me like a hawk.

    She never promoted eating disorders, but we were taught from very small about healthy eating and exercise and our pediatrician was perfectly fine with it. Admittedly, we got lucky, genetics wise.

    And I don't think there is anything wrong with a parent promoting healthy habits.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree! I try to promote at least some healthy eating habits at home. My kids are not allowed to snack on junk food. If they want a snack, they have yogurt or cheese or fruit. My daughter knows that she gets one treat per day after dinner is over, and that's it. Dinner could be slightly better some days, but I figure if she ever did become overweight, the first thing we'd do would be to quietly change what I provide for dinner.

      Delete
  12. Thank you so much for writing this. While I am no longer super skinny, I am still thinner than many of the people I work with, and I am so tired of hearing concern in their voices when I pass on dessert or eat fruits and vegetables with my lunch, instead of French fries. I never comment on what they are eating, even when they've been in my office 3 days before complaining about their inability to lose weight, and their current lunch has 1200 calories. I think other people's food should be totally off-limits conversationally.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great comments from both sides. Im on the fatty side, but am happy and confident in my size. I just thinks its no one elses business, if you cant say something nice dont say anything. Thanks for a great blog

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've been overweight most of my adult life. Recently (2010), I got a lap band and I am still amazed, shocked, and somewhat embarrassed by how many people around the hospital comment on my weight(loss).

    ReplyDelete
  15. Being someone who struggled with weight, I think it's interesting how my own weight coloured my views of other peoples weight. When I was closer to my ideal BMI I really noticed how many more people were overweight. When I'm heavier, heavier people don't look as overweight to me even when I know they are. It's totally weird. But, what is even more annoying on people commenting on your weight is what people want to talk about if you are losing weight - what magic diet are you following etc.

    What I find most concerning is how the normal BMI kids really stand out as "skinny" in a classroom of high BMI kids. The "fat" kid growing up - not so fat compared to kids today. Skinny = healthy usually in kids.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for a great read. I grew up in a family where people greet me after a few years by saying either one of these: "You look so skinny, how nice *squeeze arms*", or "Wow you look fat *squeeze arms*". Also when I ask about my cousins how they're doing the responses usually have something to do with their weight.

    I hate how obsessed society is with weight. You only have to pick up an issue of a woman's magazine to see my point ("xxx gains xx kg!"). The thing is, I think this weight obsession in the media is getting worse not better.

    This is a little off-topic but I'd like to point out about body shapes. I am very much pear-shaped - flat breasts, relatively bigger legs (but really, to me they're okay). If people saw my upper body only they'd comment on how "skinny" I am. If people saw my lower body only they'd comment on how "chubby" I am.

    I have gained a fair amount of weight before (in proportion to my frame) but my breast size did not increase yet my thighs increased in size much faster. So I feel uncomfortable when people say things like "your breasts are so small, eat more" or "your thighs are quite chubby, eat less" - you can't really beat genetics!

    Last rant: we should opt for waist-to-hip ratio rather than BMI.

    I apologize for my long rant. I've always wanted to say these things.

    ReplyDelete
  17. People asking you how much you weigh or, putting their fingers around your wrists and saying, wow, you are so skinny! I actually had a resident when I was a vet student basically order me to get on the scale in front of him and other students with and without my bulging backpack.

    Would someone *ever* do that to someone who is overweight?

    Oh, and also doctors who immediately assume you are anorexic/bulimic when you see them.

    ReplyDelete