The Flip Side of the Coin, or Just Because I'm Skinny Doesn't Mean I Have An Eating Disorder
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.
More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Body image and body standards, Feminism, Media
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Gender bias, Women's leadership, Discrimination, Sexism