We live in a society that tells us we’re rude if we tell someone they’re too fat, yet it’s ok to tell someone they’re too skinny. Logical?
When I was 252 pounds, not one person said, “Holly, it’s obvious something is going on. You need a little help. Is there something I can do? How can I help?” Or even, “Snap out of it! You’re only hurting yourself, damn it!”
But now that I’m 162 pounds, I’ve been bombarded with, “Please stop losing weight,” and “Have you been ill?” and the brazen “You are too skinny. Eat something!”
Recently I had a similar discussion with a friend, and she wondered if it was because I’m so tall and the weight loss is even more noticeable. I have always thought it was because everyone that knows me, only knows me as fat or chubby. So when they see me now, it’s weird and unnerving. I don’t quite look like the Holly they’ve always known. But you know what? I’m still that same Holly. I’m still damn sensitive to what you say about me. These comments? Most folks mean well, I know. But they’re killing me. I’ve tried very hard to like what I see when I look in the mirror. It’s never been easy, but I’m working on it. Yet hearing these comments nearly every single day have made me doubt what I see in the mirror.
Here’s the thing. I’ve talked before about body dysmorphia. It sucks. It’s no fun, but I deal with it and have good days and bad days. I’m starting to see the lean woman I’ve become, and mostly I think she looks good. Healthy. But then I keep hearing “skinny” and “sickly” and now I “see” tired and gaunt. Since I know I can’t trust my mirror anymore, I’ve had to ask a few people that I love and trust to tell me the truth. I don’t think they’d ever tell me I was fat, but they sure as hell will tell me if I look emaciated.
When I lost all this weight a few years ago, I liked being called “skinny.” I still do. People are giving me a compliment. I get that and I really am grateful. But these other things? I don’t know. I don’t know what to say to people. I know they’re saying these things because they care, but when you say stuff like that to a person with multiple eating disorders in their past, you’re doing them more harm than good. Then again, not everyone knows that about me…..I think I’m writing about this tonight because of what happened last week. So let me set the scene for you.
I was working at the circulation desk at my library. Sitting at the front of the desk is something called “The Awesome Box.” We place a book or movie in the box that someone thinks is “awesome” and folks should really check out. Inside the box that day was the book, The Big Skinny by Carol Lay. I think I’ve mentioned the book before. It’s a graphic novel about a woman who changes her lifestyle and loses weight by eating healthily, counting calories and exercising. I read it at the right time and it’s how I lost over 40 pounds.
So, a patron that I know and really like comes in. She picks the book up and says to me, “You’re not doing ‘this’ right?” I immediately realize that she means, “You’re not bulimic or anorexic, right?” I don’t know how I know this is what she means, but by the rest of our conversation I do in fact know that is *exactly* what she meant. She thought I looked too thin and was either throwing up my lunch or stopped eating. I was speechless.
Ok. Again, I know she implied this because she cares about me. But….what?
I was hurt. Then I thought, “Christ. What the hell do I *look* like to people?” And that’s when I turned to a few trusty folks to lay it all out for me. The general consensus is that I look lean and healthy and extraordinarily tall and society is a damn mess and doesn’t know what healthy people are supposed to look like anymore.
I like that answer. What do *you* think?