Feminism | Posted by Gina S on 04/2/2012

The Flip Side of the Coin, or Just Because I’m Skinny Doesn’t Mean I Have An Eating Disorder

let's remember that beauty at any size really means beauty at ANY size

It’s a common presumption in our society that if you’re female, tall and skinny, you have it all. You are the perfect woman: you have the attributes of a high fashion model, and you should be extremely self-confident because you have it made. The truth, however, is much different.

When I was younger, I was bullied for five years because of my height and weight. “Oh they’re just jealous because you’re tall and skinny,” my well-meaning family members would say. “They just want to be like you.” But they didn’t want to be like me, because I was miserable beyond belief and the bullying was making me pick out tiny little things about myself that I hated. One by one, I listed off all the many things I hated about my body, and when I attempted to think of something I liked about it I came up empty. You’re a girl, and tall, and that’s wrong was the message I took away from the experience. Even now, years later, the pain and insecurities that resulted from that bullying continues to impact my self-confidence, which has never been anything to write home about anyway.

But although the bullying has (thankfully) stopped, it seems that many people still take issue with my physical appearance. For example, a short time ago I was with my friend visiting her mother at her workplace. Her mother has always been on the large side and, according to my friend’s reports of her constant dieting and general attitude towards her weight, unhappy with her own body image. I was aware of all of these things, but I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of accusations that came spewing out of her mouth upon meeting me.

“You are so skinny!” she exclaimed, eyeing me warily, “How do you stay so thin? I bet you don’t eat anything do you? Do you eat?” She laughed as she continued to ask me exactly what it was that I ate. Shocked that I’d just been accused of basically starving myself by my friend’s mother, I tried to explain that in actuality I eat like a horse and that I just have a very fast metabolism and fairly thin parents. But I could tell her mind had been made up and that she had decided that because I was skinny, I must starve myself.

A similar situation occurred the last time I paid a visit to my doctor. It was just a quick annual check-up to see how the medicine I was on was working, so I wasn’t nervous. I knew the drill — I’d sit down, be asked a few questions then be out of there in five minutes with a renewed prescription. But this particular time my usual doctor was on holiday, so I had an appointment with a doctor I’d never seen before, or, should I say, a doctor who’d never seen me. She seemed to stare curiously at me as I sat down. She asked all the usual questions and I replied that everything was fine. I figured I’d be out of there soon when she said, “I just want to weigh you.” What? I’d never been weighed before, especially not for a simple repeated prescription. Reluctantly, I stepped on to the scale. “Oh, you’re a bit underweight for your ideal BMI,” she tutted, clearly concerned. This was news to me as I never weighed myself. I didn’t want to become one of those obsessive girls who goes into cardiac arrest should she gain a little weight.

“Do you have any problems with eating?”

“No,” I replied. “I actually eat loads. My sister’s really small too. It must be a genetic thing.”

“Do you eat three meals a day?” She asked the same question again with different wording.

“Yes! I eat fine.” I was starting to get irritated. Did this woman think I was stupid or just lying?

“Can I ask your mother?”

So she did think I was lying. She thought I didn’t eat three meals a day, as I’d just assured her several times. Looking back, I should have gotten very angry. I should have stated that I am perfectly capable of judging my own eating habits and telling the truth. In reality, I just sat there gob smacked, as my mum assured her of what I’d just tried to tell her multiple times. The difference was that the doctor was satisfied with my mother’s answer. In retrospect, the doctor was being unprofessional and judgmental by insinuating that I was lying to her. As a naturally thin vegetarian who exercises regularly and eats well I have a better understanding than anyone of my health without any kind of tests or further information. Additionally, my weight had absolutely nothing to do with the reason for my appointment.

What I’m getting at here is just because someone is tall, thin and female, does not make them a happy, respected and confident human being. We’re not all models. We don’t think we’re superior to everyone else. It also seems to be an assumption that our lives must be easier just because of what we look like when in fact we have our fair share of problems, too. The mental scars of bullying due to my appearance will always taunt me, and sometimes I just feel down right awful about my height and weight. The only benefit is that now that I’m older and wiser, I can combat these rigid beliefs about weight and health and help open people’s eyes to the fact that I’m a healthy, tall, skinny, and, most importantly, a normal human being.

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  • Emily @ at 3:28 pm, April 2nd, 2012

    This! I’ve dealt with it for years. It’s truly sad. Before, people who were skinny were fawned over and nobody bothered them, and women with curves got bullied. Nowadays, it’s reversed even though what we really need to say is that EVERYONE, regardless of body type, is beautiful. I’m in recovery for an ED but yes, skinny girls who aren’t/weren’t affected by ED’s do exist. Not to mention that calling every thin girl you meet anorexic/bulimic/EDNOS/etc. is incredibly offensive to those that are actually dealing with the disorders.

  • Dee W. @ at 6:15 pm, April 2nd, 2012

    Hi there! I publish a small, handmade, independent zine out of middle Tennessee and I would LOVE to include this story in our next issue. I believe many more people need to read this wonderful perspective! We would give you full credit of course. :) Please email me at feministzinester@gmail.com to discuss details!
    Thx
    Dee

  • Natalia @ at 6:15 pm, April 2nd, 2012

    I went through my first breakup last summer and then I started my senior year of university, which made me lose 15 pounds. I am now really skinny and I have no ass or boobs. I get sick and tired of people always pointing out how skinny I am because I no longer have curves. Guess what, society, you tell young girls to be skinny, and naturally they will have no boobs or butt.

    Overall I’m sick of being picked on for my body, whether I gain or lose weight…just fuck off, people….and instead of telling me that I look anorexic, maybe ask me why I’ve lost weight and why I’m feeling so stressed in life.

  • Gigi @ at 6:49 pm, April 2nd, 2012

    @Emily thanks, I’m glad the article resonated with you! I agree with you 100% on this. (:

    @Natalia – I’m sorry you’re having such a rough time. I hope you get better soon and stop suffering because of your body type.

  • Pavlov's Cat @ at 8:08 am, April 8th, 2012

    I used to be very underweight, and it was due to not eating properly. People bullied me and I was interrogated about my eating habits by health professionals. None of that helped me in the slightest. It’s not ok that you are bullied for the shape you are, but it wasn’t ok that I was either. It’s not that girls who are actually eating fine need to be left alone. We all do.

  • Gigi @ at 12:42 pm, April 9th, 2012

    @ pavlov’s cat I think if someone generally has an eating disorder or some sort of problem then they do need to seek proper medical help from a professional and non-predjudiced doctor. I agree that bullying is never okay, however, my main issue here is that I was assumed to have an eating disorder due to my natural shape when I don’t have one, therefore girls who are eating fine do need to be left alone aswell, as there is not an actual problem involved.

  • Emily @ at 9:42 pm, April 10th, 2012

    It’s hard to tell, though. I mean, a doctor may not know the difference between a person who’s underweight but eats normally and a person who’s underweight because of an ED. Without all those questions, the person with the ED would go on without getting help. I wish docs would use the actul tests/critera for ED’s on patients rather than interrogating them. (ex. psychological tests, physical exams, things like that). Not to mention that interrogating someone with an ED is an awful idea. It can worsen behaviors/make the person hide them even more, and they probably won’t tell you. It’s useless.

  • Lia @ at 5:42 pm, April 11th, 2012

    Thanks so much for this article, Gina. Though I have never had the problem of being “too” skinny, it always strikes me as hypocritical when people who are sensitive about their weight start attacking someone for being skinny. The sad fact of our society is that all women, no matter their size, tend to be told they should not be happy with their body. If they are happy with their body they are looked at with suspicion. When people say “real women have curves” what I think they mean to say is that real women are healthy, regardless of what that means for their body type. For me it means being a size 10. For you it might mean being a size 0. For all of us it means that we need to learn to be happy with who we are and what we look like, regardless of what magazines, skeptical doctors or insecure friends say.

  • Gigi @ at 9:25 pm, April 11th, 2012

    @ Emily the initial questions are fine, it was the fact that I was asked the same question multiple times and then accused of having lied to my doctor.
    I agree with your test/criteria thing, but that would have to be a follow up of the questions- it’d be really inappropriate to give someone a psychological test for an eating disorder when they deny having one.

  • Emily @ at 6:45 am, April 12th, 2012

    Exactly. I don’t care if people ask me, as long as they accept my answers. Yes, people lie, but it’s usually for the reason that they aren’t comfortable with recovery. Forcing them into it won’t work, so it’s usually just best to leave it (unless, of course, there’s a health complication that seriously needs to be dealt with).

  • Gigi @ at 1:39 pm, April 18th, 2012

    @Lia, no problem, I’m happy that you enjoyed it. (: I totally agree – the whole ‘love all body types’ thing that more and more people are supposedly accepting nowadays, sadly is reserved often only for those who are on the larger side, with skinnier women being ‘the enemy’ for having the body type society attempts to push onto young women as the absolute ideal. Thanks for reading and commenting! (:

  • Favorite Picks: Another Collection Of Good Articles « Ruby Soup with Pearl Juice @ at 12:37 pm, April 24th, 2012

    [...] And since sizeism and pressure is not only aimed at plus-sized people, Gina S at the blog “The F bomb” wrote an essay on people’s negative attitude towards her naturally skinny body. [...]

  • Ariella @ at 10:45 am, July 25th, 2012

    But she was concerned about your health – an anorexic girl would also have said that she did eat 3 meals a day. It might have been uncomfortable, but maybe yesterday she was able to identify and treat someone with an eating disorder with that technique.

  • Taylor @ at 10:49 pm, May 10th, 2013

    Hi i’m Taylor.I’m 15 and i’ve always gotten bullied and i still am. I get bullied because just like you, i’m tall and skinny.People in my school think i’m anorexic or as this one kid said a veggie.This one time a girl really asked me(meaning in a mean way)if I had some type of diseased that made me skinny. This tore me apart. I’ve always gone to my mom with this type of problem but just how your family said to you my mom says to me.I don’t think i’m ever going to be confident.It’s sad to know that some people can be so mean.I just don’t know what to do anymore.

  • Gigi @ at 5:59 pm, June 1st, 2013

    Hi Taylor! I’m not sure if you’ll see this – I’m Gina, the author of the article and I just want to tell you that it gets better! School was an awful time for me – kids were so horrible. I’m now 20 and I can safely say to you that not only has my tough school life made me a stronger person, but I’m much more confident than I was. I’m confident you’ll be just the same and grow up to be proud of your height. Keep your head held high – it gets better! <3

  • Solomiya @ at 5:14 pm, July 21st, 2014

    I’m not sure you’ll see this, but this is what I needed to read today. I just turned 28 last month, and I wish I were as confident as you seem to be, because trust me when I say this does NOT get better. I’m 5’0 small framed, 105 pounds and I’d really like to get up to 150 and stay there. I would much rather be overweight than the weight I am right now. I don’t know what it was that put me over the edge, but I’ve become obsessed with weight only in reverse–I count every calorie, stopped going up and down stairs, don’t exercise, and have spent more money on fast food in the last year than I ever have. Despite all of this, I’ve only been able to put on 10 pounds and none of it is even showing. I wish I had found a way to accept the way I look before I went down this road.

  • Tom @ at 11:24 pm, August 19th, 2014

    I honestly think that I chose the wrong friends because they are constantly bullying me for being skinny and British.

    I was fine in Britain but as soon as I moved to the USA I got people asking if I eat food or if I have a muscle growth problem. I’m 12 in 7th grade and I’m just over 70 pounds so I’m constantly being called lightweight and skin and bones, people always say “I could use you as a dumbbell you’re that skinny!” It really frustrates me. Here is an example of some things people say to me. “Are all British people skinny like you?” or things like whenever I get launch I get people around me asking “would you like some tea and crumpets with that?” Can anyone give me advice on how to live through middle school and high school? I know I’ve only lived through a tiny bit of what’s to come but I really do not like my life right now.

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