I have never been fat.
I have never tipped the scale at more than one-forty and I have never lived with the notion that I am chubby. And yet, as I have mentioned before, I am terrified by the prospect of gaining weight.
I do not know where that comes from. I know, through shameless family gossip, that some cousins have either starved themselves or forced themselves to throw up in order to control their weight. I know that other members of my family have struggled with the consequences fad-diets and sedentary lifestyle choices throughout my whole life. But as I already said, this has never been an issue for me. I have never had much to complain about with my body. By most people's standards, I look alright.
I am writing today's post because of something that has been bothering me. About a month ago, a man at work commented that it looked like I was losing weight. He said he noticed that I was drinking Slim Fast in the morning, and it showed, and "congratulations." I was totally taken off guard. I drink Slim Fast in the morning as a breakfast supplement because I am too busy/lazy to make breakfast. About a week passed and he said it to me again, this time just smiling and saying "so skinny!!!" Now I understand this was meant as a compliment, and I will not even get into the many reasons why I felt this was inappropriate, but it bothered me so much. Workplace inappropriateness notwithstanding, I felt self-conscious.
"Should I have been trying to lose weight? Did I look fat before? Do I look too skinny now? Are people talking?"
It makes me wonder why we feel this is the kind of thing that is ever okay to point out. I could just blow the entire incident off as a guy who does not yet know where the line is in the workplace, but then a female co-worker said the same thing to me today. I just smiled to myself and told her "Yeah, I don't know, I've heard that recently..." and trailed off. I started to think how acceptable it would be to say to a woman "Your boobs are looking bigger. New bra?" I could not imagine it going over well.
It also makes me wonder where this insecurity comes from. I looked at myself and tried to convince myself that I am not losing weight, that I do not need to lose weight, and I still think there is a nagging presence in the back of my mind that I can never be too skinny, and I cannot, under any circumstances, gain weight. Did I get this from childhood? I have been in sports for as long as I can remember, I took dance classes and was a high school cheerleader, and I have kept up my active lifestyle with running ever since college, and I remember my whole childhood not having any real issues with weight gain.
Somewhere along the line for me it became a paranoia, though. And I wonder if it was the fact that my weight was a non-issue that made it an issue. Like my mother and friends and ballet instructors all told me I had a good body, and my friends started to complain about their bodies, and suddenly I had this enormous pressure-- and the knowledge of what that pressure did to my family-- that turned into a fear of gaining weight.
That sounds so dramatic, but that is the best I can come up with. And I need to attribute this insecurity to some trauma, right?
In any case, back to my point, I think we need to stop commenting on each others' body types all together, especially with unsolicited remarks, however harmless they are meant to be....
...because there are so many amazing qualities a person can offer the world that have nothing to do with the impermanence of their body type or number on their scale...
...because too much time is wasted in life with the stress over having the perfect body, and perpetuating that obsession is both inconsiderate and ignorant...
...because the circumstance under which someone is either gaining or losing weight may not be positively perceived or in their control...
...and because you never know how your comments affect a person's view of themselves, and what kind of blogging turmoil they will end up in as a result.
Thanks for walking through this raw neurosis with me. Next time I plan on writing about a cool race I am entering next month!