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Feb 14

That Girl Needs To Lay Off The Cheeseburgers

Does that title make you uncomfortable?  Good.  It’s supposed to.  It made me uncomfortable to write it.  We’re supposed to be bothered by such derogatory comments, because we all know (or at least, we should know) that they’re unkind and hurtful.  I sincerely hope that if you’re reading this right now, that we can agree – whether you’ve ever said something like that or not – that picking on someone for being a larger size is not a very nice thing to do.

What I’m wondering then, is why on earth it seems to be so socially acceptable to knock someone for being very thin?  When did this become okay?

Hold that thought.

Last Sunday was the Grammy Awards.  I get more excited about awards shows than I rightfully should.  I love them.  I do.  I love music and movies and television and pop culture in general; I love the pomp and circumstance; and I love the revealing of the answer to the scintillating question that’s on everyone’s minds:  What will the stars be wearing??  It’s true.  There’s something strangely thrilling about watching pretty people in dresses that cost more than my car.

My husband, who would rather have extensive elective dental work than sit through more than 3 minutes of an awards show, was beside me in body but not so much in spirit… so I virtually watched it alongside hundreds of other people via Twitter and Facebook.  It was interesting following all the commentary in real-time.

Adele’s wearing color!

Chris Brown and Rhianna are publicly canoodling even after he assaulted her.

Oh. Em. Gee.  It’s Justin Timberlake!

And then came the body-shaming.  “Someone feed Taylor Swift a sandwich.”  “Nicole Kidman needs a cheeseburger.”  “Faith Hill’s gotten way too skinny.”

Again, I have to ask:  When did this become okay?  If we can all agree that it’s not right to negatively point out someone’s larger size, why shouldn’t the same hold true for those on the other side of the spectrum?  Why should we be critiquing others’ bodies at all?

The day after the Grammys, I was looking through a pictorial of the attendees’ dresses on a popular entertainment website.  On the side bar, two previous articles caught my attention:  The first, an article touting celebrities’ best-kept weight-loss secrets.  Right below it?  “The most scary skinny bikini bodies.”  Is it any wonder society is so confused, with that kind of disparity?  Lose weight, lose weight, lose weight!!  Too skinny, too skinny, too skinny!!

I used to be the “too thin” girl.  I’m not anymore  – my 39 year old body has resolutely decided to naturally carry 20 more pounds than my 29 year old body – but once upon a time I was the one being told to “eat a couple sandwiches.”

It’s hurtful, and it’s embarrassing.

I remember being at a holiday party once, all dressed up and feeling festive and pretty.  I was shivering, literally shaking, because it turned out I was coming down with the flu.  A friend of a friend looked at me, and said, loudly enough for the whole roomful of people to look at him, “It’s because you’re so damn skinny.  You need to eat something.  I can practically see right through you!”

15 years later, I can still remember exactly what he said, and exactly how it made me feel.

Dove has an ad campaign called “Real Women” that mostly features women with curves.  Real women have curves, these ads cry.  And you know what?  Sometimes they do.  And sometimes real women have no curves.  Sometimes real women are tall and lanky.  Sometimes real women have big boobs, and sometimes real women have no boobs.  Sometimes real women have no hair, and sometimes they have hair everywhere.  Sometimes real women have flabby thighs and flat butts and muffin tops.  Sometimes real women have big ears and stretch marks and bony knees.  Sometimes real women sit behind a desk all day and wear a size zero.  Sometimes real women spend all day in the gym and never get below an 18.

Sometimes real women laugh when they want to cry.

Can we stop with the body shaming?  I am so, so tired of a culture that fights so hard against a “thin is beautiful” mindset that it’s only succeeded in carving the second side of the same damn coin.

Thin is beautiful.

Big is beautiful.

Healthy is beautiful.

Strong is beautiful.

Vulnerable is beautiful.

Happy and confident and kind are beautiful.

We never know someone’s story just by looking at them.   Can I say that I again, because *I* seem to forever need to reminder?

We never know someone’s story just by looking at them. 

It’s easy and convenient to assume that a diet or a sandwich will cure someone’s supposed “flaws”… but it’s far more kind (and so much more productive) to never see them as flaws to begin with.

(I wrote about this same subject here)


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24 comments

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  1. kate

    I love you for this! :)

    1. pathlesstaken

      :)

  2. www.milestogobefore.wordpress.

    Beautiful thought. Raising daughters the america culture of body image is a real concern. Your thought are kind. The body shaming does need to stop.

  3. Michelle H

    Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I find your posts so uplifting! Thank you for being who you are!!

    1. pathlesstaken

      Thank you for those kind words <3

  4. Alyssa

    Thank you, thank you for writing this! I used to belong to the “go eat a sandwich before you blow away, girl!” category, and now eight months after having my first child I’m finally looking closer to average. Hurtful comments about weight are hurtful no matter if you’re considered too skinny or too large.

  5. Lisa

    Totally agree with you. All body shaming needs to end. It’s simply none of anyone’s business how large or small a person is! I deal with the other end of the spectrum, of course, because I’m a large person. I lost 110 pounds a few years ago and my new body was all anyone could talk about. Now I’ve gained it back and the shame is overwhelming. People usually don’t comment — they just look at me with pity if they knew how my body was before. Unfortunately, when you’re considered too thin, people comment because they think they’re giving you a compliment. So many people are desperate to be thin (even TOO thin) that they think they’ll make you feel good if they tell you how thin you are. When I was a kid, I was “too thin” and I heard about it all the time. Having been on both sides of this particular nonsense, I have to tell you — being fat is the hardest thing I can imagine in our culture. I’m not saying any kind of body shaming is right, but fat shaming is a whole different ballgame.

  6. MT

    I was very slim as a teenager (like, super slim) and that has been a faint memory for the last ten years. At one point I got into great shape and lost a bunch of weight, and when I gained a bit of it back, I was told I looked better because I “had been looking skeletal” for a while. Deeply offensive, as the person who said it clearly had no idea that I was in the best shape of my life, and was disappointed that I couldn’t keep it up.

    Likewise, I once commented on how great an acquaintance looked when I hadn’t seen her in a while. Turns out she’d lost weight because she had a freaking brain tumor and, combined with the stress of a recent breakup, she’d been unable to keep any food down for weeks. She was unhealthy, and I’d chosen that moment to comment on how great she looked. Shame on me.

    I’ve learned never to compliment someone’s physique unless I know for a fact they’ve accomplished a fitness goal. Otherwise, if I feel compelled to comment on something, I stick to complimenting clothing or the like.

    1. pathlesstaken

      Yes. I’ve been on both sides I’ve that as well. I try to follow a general rule of not commenting on someone’s weight loss, etc, at all. If someone looks great, I’ll tell them just that… and leave weight out of it. :)

  7. Julie

    I totally agree that people should not discuss anybody’s body weight or height or anything else about their physical appearance. It’s unkind. But definitely overweight people have it way, way worse. Lots of people still worship the very thin models, and most thin people are not bullied or made fun of. Yes, some are, but many are fine being thin, and most people leave them alone, or like thin people, or aspire to look like them. But fat people are called names, people are disgusted by them, people automatically assume they overeat all the time, etc. It’s really awful. I’m not sure we want to say it’s exactly the same stigma. But I agree…we need to embrace all body types and not have it be discussed at all!

    1. pathlesstaken

      That’s just it… thin people are also called names, and thought of as disgusting, and people assume they starve themselves, or have eating disorders, or exercise obsessively. I see thin people bullied and made fun of *all the time*. There’s a lot of hatred there. That is NOT saying that it doesn’t also exist for those that are overweight, because it does. But both sides hurt.

    2. Erika

      I do not think that overweight people “have it worse”….it hurts just as bad regardless of which side of the coin you’re dealing with. There are stigmas and shames to both. Campaigns are pushing hard right now that athletic is the new thin. Curvy is more beautiful. Thin/flat-chested/no curve women are not “real” women. Slender is considered sexy still, yes, but only to a certain degree; once you hit the arbitrary line in the sand and cross over to the “too thin” range, you are no longer sexy or beautiful. You are assumed to probably have an eating disorder. There’s this mindset of the perfect body….but reality is most women cannot attain it because they are “too” curvy or “too” thin. I think that skinny women’s trials are often overlooked and that society’s stigma is that overweight/obese people have it so much harder…that’s because if you are skinny you aren’t allowed to complain. People scoff, like our feelings don’t matter because we are thin, and have nothing to complain about.

      1. Rebecca Horne

        Here’s the thing. It might hurt just as much to be told “eat a burger” or “lay off the burgers,” but thin-shaming is pretty much the only manifestation of thin-hatred which exists, whereas it’s only one small facet of fat hatred. Take for example the “bad doctors” tag on “this is thin privilege:” http://thisisthinprivilege.tumblr.com/tagged/bad%20doctors

        A personal example: if a thin person went to a doctor and said, “I can’t bear to eat. It fills me with shame. I have to enlist other people’s help just to get 900 calories a day into me, and even then, I sometimes need to go vomit because I feel so disgusting for having eaten. I have no energy. I can’t function. I have low blood sugar and I pass out on a regular basis because I’m so weak,” that doctor would probably diagnose that person with an eating disorder and help them with it. Somebody I know went to her doctor with that complaint. He looked her over and said, “Well, maybe you’ll lose some weight.”

        Thin shaming hurts feelings. Fat-hatred is outright fatal. People get denied medical treatment on a regular basis, because a doctor walks into the room, says, “the problem is that you’re fat. Lose weight and you’ll get better,” without examining them or treating the actual problem. Fat people get prescribed wrong doses of medication on a fairly regular basis, because nobody could be bothered to look up whether their particular med depends on body weight or not. For example: certain types of general anesthesia *do* depend on body weight, and fat people require more of it to be functional. What do you think happens when a person who the doctors didn’t value enough to properly medicate shows signs of consciousness during surgery? In at least some cases, they are told to tough it out.

        Fat shaming exists against a backdrop of a culture where everything from seatbelts to hospital gurneys are built to accommodate only thin people. Considering walking through a world, every day, where the physical structure of the world is built to exclude you. Furniture, safety features, basic amenities: none of it is for you.

        Thin bodies aren’t–*couldn’t be*– used as artistic shorthand to
        convey the ideas of laziness, ignorance and irresponsibility, because
        those ideas are deeply connected to the concept of fatness in our
        culture, not to thinness. (for example:
        http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/jfa3303l.jpg)

        Thin people are not forced to watch innumerable TV commercial, see ads on the street, and see magazine covers on the racks *every day* which emphasize how superior fat bodies are to thin ones, and list all manner of ways they can gain weight. Why they *should* gain weight. Why they won’t be able to be happy until they gain weight. Why they owe it to everybody around them to gain weight. Why nobody would ever want to sleep with them until they gain weight. Why they are unloveable because they are thin. Why they *must* be miserable, because they are thin. There are no “what will you gain, when you gain?” slogans, talking about all the great traits you can’t have (like joy and sass) until you gain weight.

        Now, I’m not saying that thin-shaming is ok. I’m as opposed to thin-shaming as I am to fat-shaming, not because I see them as two sides of a coin, but because I see them as the exact same thing: treating people’s bodies as public property is unhealthy in a lot of ways. It starts with “yes, you have to hug your aunt, whether you want to or not,” continues through “she needs a sandwich,” continues through, “she’s my woman, so I can beat/rape her if I want,” and ends somewhere around, “she shamed the family, so she needs to be killed.” All of it is wrong, and it’s all on the same spectrum, and all of it should be avoided.

        But let’s not pretend that our culture harms thin people for being thin the way it harms fat people for being fat.

        1. Ac

          Thank you for your comment, Rebecca. I agree with Jen that we shouldn’t feel free to comment on an individual’s body regardless of size or shape. I’m smack in the middle of my healthy weight range but I think there is a difference between a thin person being embarrassed about a comment to eat something and the outright prejudice overweight people often face. Sort of like a white person comparing hurtful comments she is too fair (which I hear all.the.time.) to skin-color related comments made to a minority. It’s not the same and to say it is minimizes the outright injustice others (may) face.

          1. pathlesstaken

            But thin people face prejudice too. Why is it merely “embarrassment” for a thin person to be ridiculed, and only to be taken seriously if it’s an overweight person being ridiculed? Neither side should be minimized.

          2. Ac

            I think we are in agreement that neither should be minimized and it isn’t fair or appropriate for either to be embarrassed by rude comments. Where I think we may have divergent views is that while I think thin comments are hurtful to the individual, I don’t think thin people suffer actual discrimination as a result of being thin. If anything, thin is viewed as highly prized in our society (US in particular). Research has shown again and again that there is an actual, measurable bias against individuals who are overweight – passed over in job interviews, doctors may not truly investigate health problems assuming their weight is their issue, even jurors (male in particular) have shown bias in trials. I haven’t seen a lot (okay, any) research showing that thin people are being discriminated against because they are thin.

          3. Ac

            I walked away from my computer and thought, I wish I hadn’t posted that last comment. Your post is about your heart hurt when comments are made about your weight/size. The net net is that I agree, it’s hurtful and people shouldn’t make comments. Regardless of size. I’m sorry you’ve been hurt.

          4. pathlesstaken

            Thank you for that. :) But it’s okay. I haven’t been in the situation of being overweight (at least not to the extent that I felt any prejudice for it) so I truly can’t say that I have experienced that side of it. My point was that we need to be more empathetic to *all* sides and all people, and I need to be mindful of doing that myself. So thank you for your honesty and your perspective.

  8. kaimalino

    Good stuff! You’d appreciate this post, too, and the one that inspired it, about the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. The woman behind Fit Mama Training often says you can hate yourself thin, but you can only love yourself healthy, and women ought to love each other.
    http://fitmamatraining.com/a-recovering-anorexic-responds-to-model-bashing/

    1. pathlesstaken

      Excellent article, thanks for sharing it!

  9. Paige Stannard

    I used to use the term “Real women have curves” a lot. I’m fat. When I said it I mean “real” as in “not photoshoped” however I’ve stopped saying it since I realized it was demeaning to thin women. I haven’t found something to replace it. Natural makes anyone with prosthetics or cosmetic surgery feel bad. Untouched? Plus now they are adding curves to some skinny models. Ugh!

  10. Geoffreyallan

    So, would it be appropriate for a bloke to comment on this post? I hope so, cause I’m going to. Blokes are supposed to be big and muscly and strong, and if you’re not, then you’re the “too skinny” one. I get publicly mocked on almost a daily basis, by people I know and people I don’t know alike. “Your legs are so skinny I don’t know how you can stand up.” “Do you want a medal or a chest to pin it on?” Do I feel self-conscious? Hell yeah. Does it make me feel weak and less of a man? Hell yeah.

    On top of that I’m bald which is another reason to publicly ridicule me constantly. I totally hear what you’re saying, only from a man’s perspective. Why the hell can’t people just shut up and let people be who they are without judgement or comment?

    The other day a morbidly obese colleague of mine who I barely know started making jokes about my lack of a muscly physique and my lack of hair. I was so humiliated. She begun by walking in to a room full of professionals and greeting me with, “Hey baldy.” I felt like saying, “Hey fat arse.” But I restrained.

    My manager who has been on 8 weeks leave walked in to our morning staff meeting this morning and said, “Oh my god, you’re fading away, have you stopped eating?” No, I’ve been exercising and looking after myself, but thanks for embarrassing me. I’m so over it.

    Thanks for a great post.

    1. pathlesstaken

      Thank you for that perspective, and absolutely…. the same applies to both men and women. It’s hurtful and humiliating when people make disparaging remarks about your appearance, period. I would guess that an obese person making fun of you was coming from a place of hurt herself. But it doesn’t make it right. Somebody’s gotta break the cycle.

      And, for what it’s worth, I happen to like bald guys. :)

  11. Abbie

    THANK YOU for posting this. I’ve been trying to figure out how to post something similar without others thinking “oh wahhhh, smaller girl lamenting people’s comments about her weight”. I particularly love the line “we never know someone’s story by looking at them”. I have my own story, and it’s long and not pretty. I finally feel I’ve reached a healthy point where I love and respect my body- but I still hear all the comments that float around via friends/family/etc about smaller or larger women and it’s sad. I will be reposting this article for all to see.

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