I’ve been debating writing this post for a while now. It’s a difficult one for me as it digs up old emotions but one that I feel I need to write. I’ve always hated the word ‘skinny’ as it’s been directed at me with such venom on many occasions. As a young teenager and throughout my teenage years I was slim, a size 8 with a small frame. I could eat what I wanted and not put on weight. Now I know what most of you will be thinking, what is she moaning about. I was lucky. I didn’t have to worry about putting on weight but that didn’t mean that I didn’t have body confidence issues. I felt like I didn’t have enough curves, I was embarrassed of my so called ‘chicken legs’ and a lot of the time I didn’t feel pretty.
Throughout school I was called skinny. Not in a nice way! The teachers never did anything. I didn’t feel like I could even say that it was happening. “I would love to be skinny but you are so skinny you’re gross” “Wow you are so flat chested no boys ever going to fancy you” The pokes of my legs or body and the giggles “Oh did I just snap you in half” “You are a skinny, ugly rat” and many more still ring in my ears. When I plucked up the courage to tell people, friends, family that it upset me, which of course it would I was being bullied for being thin. The response was always “oh they are just jealous!” I know they were saying it to make me feel better about myself but I couldn’t understand why it was ok for people to behave like that. Getting changed for PE was hell. Nothing was ever done. Teachers witnessed it, some PE teachers even joined in!
I couldn’t and still can’t understand why it was seen as ok. In my eyes it’s exactly the same as bullying someone for being overweight. The effect is the same, the feeling of shame is the same, the burning of your cheeks as people laugh at you is the same, the crying at night in your bed is the same, the not wanting to go to school is the same, the staring at yourself in the mirror and hating what you see is the same.
I developed an unhealthy attitude with food. I knew I needed to eat more to stop the comments. But as I started to eat I would think ‘I need to eat this to put on weight’ which in turn would make me think about the incidents, make me feel sick and so I couldn’t eat. It was a vicious cycle! It’s something that has stayed with me and even now when I am stressed the first thing that goes is my appetite.
Fast forward 15 years and I’m getting comments again. I’m not talking about the “Oh I love your jumper, you are looking great” who wouldn’t love that kind of comment? I’ve lost a lot of weight after having Ava, the restricted diet with breastfeeding and her allergies I think has contributed to it. I get comments about my size and weight almost every day. The comments that get me are the ones that leave me agonising over whether they were actually a compliment at all or an adult who has learnt to disguise their cruelness better than their teenage counterpart “You’re not my friend now, how can you eat that?” In the staff room “Are you really eating them. But you’re so skinny!” “We don’t want her sitting with us do we, skinny cow”, “You’re looking really skinny, you bitch!”
I’ve spoken to friends and family about it and even those closest to me don’t see it as a problem. Maybe it isn’t, maybe I’m so scarred emotionally from before that I take it the wrong way. Or maybe it’s because I’m being called skinny which is a desirable attribute to many. If people were commenting on me being overweight would they think differently?
I find myself looking in the mirror again. Am I too skinny? Am I gross? Am I an ugly rat?
Before you think I don’t understand what it’s like to be called fat I do. I’ve also been on the other end of the scale so I know how much it can hurt too. After my second child I had PND, the medication along with an insatiable appetite from breastfeeding saw me at my heaviest. When Finlay was 14 months I weighed more than I did full term with Ava. I never received any comments from work colleagues, friends or family. The only ones I did were from the person who should have been supportive after all he was the Dad to the baby I had just had. When I started to loose the weight I received positive comments on how good I was looking, never anything negative and there is the difference. It’s not socially acceptable to comment on people’s weight when they are overweight.
Skinny shaming has exactly the same negative emotional affects as fat shaming. Being bullied was the start of a long ongoing battle with hating myself that has caused me many problems over the years, things that are too personal to put on here.
So please if you are one of the many people that makes comments on people’s weight, questions them about their weight and eating habits stop and think. Would you be doing it if the person was overweight? Would you like it if someone said it to you? To your daughter? We all have our own issues even if on the outside it doesn’t look like we do.