my skinny friend and the women who judge her

A version of this piece is up on HuffPost

When I was really skinny, people were always telling me about it.

“You’re so skinny!”

Just in case I’d forgotten.

Sometimes they said it like a compliment. As though if you peeled those words back the words underneath would say “you’re so beautiful.”

Sometimes they said it like they were sort of pissed off at me. Like, who did I think I was, being skinny like that? Just who the hell did I even think I was?

Sometimes they said it and then they said, “You need to eat something. I’m worried.” And looked all worried.

(me, at 16 or 17, not particularly wanting to be thin at all, and wearing annoyingly large pants that would in a few years be too tight to pull past my thighs)

I learned that I was skinny through other girls and women constantly pointing it out. Until I was told what I looked like for the thousandth or so time, I actually hadn’t given my weight any thought. Because I was, what? Thirteen? And homeschooled. And had already decided that I was probably a perfect goddess and had moved on to other things, like practicing piano and cutting the perfect slingshot from a branch and trying to sew just one, please god just ONE, awesome golden elfin gown.

And then it turned out that I was skinny. Which was probably due mostly to my metabolism and partly to the fact that my parents cooked vegetables from my mom’s garden and chicken (always chicken! Unless it was, please, please no, fish. Ugh) for dinner.

It turned out that I was skinny. But more to the point, it turned out that being skinny was important. It said something meaningful about me.


And it continued to say all sorts of important and meaningful things about me, right up into college, when I could eat sugary cereal at ANY TIME, for any meal. It meant “at LEAST you’re skinny” when I didn’t feel pretty. And “skinny IS pretty” when I felt that everything else about me wasn’t that attractive. And “you must be a runner” to the people who attributed it to discipline and activeness, neither of which are words that really describe me at all.  It meant “sexy” sometimes. “Better.” It meant “you’d better not get heavier.” It meant “why are you better than me?” from some women. It meant “you don’t deserve it” from others. It meant “why do you think you’re better than me?” from even more.

And honestly, I don’t think about all of that very much these days, because it’s been years since I was really skinny. It’s been years since someone said those words. “You’re so skinny!” with the squeaky exclamation point. And for the most part, I can’t say that I miss it. I’ve had to figure out that I might be beautiful anyway. I’ve had to figure out that I might not be, and that might be OK, too.

But the other day I saw a friend who I hadn’t seen in a year, and she was really skinny. And I thought those words. I kept my mouth shut, though. Because I should know better.

At brunch she said, suddenly, “I know, I’m really skinny. I’m not doing it on purpose.”

“Oh, god,” I said, awkward, “I wasn’t going to say anything. I mean, you look great. I mean, it doesn’t matter.”

“It’s just that people are always telling me how skinny I am,” she said. “And they act like I’m working at it, but I’m not. And I think they’re a little angry at me.”

She is thin anyway—it’s just the way her body works—and also she just went through a tough breakup. She was starting to feel a little better when we met up. I watched her wolf down a bagel and scrambled eggs and fluffy honey biscuits with plenty of butter. She told me that she’s self-conscious about her skinniness.



So often, the world doesn’t seem to let women have their own opinions about their bodies. Not everyone wants to be really skinny. Not everyone tried really hard to get there. Not everyone is worried that they don’t look thin enough in their wedding gown.

When I tried mine on, the saleswoman kept saying, “Oh, this one makes you look so much thinner!” And I kept thinking, “No, no, I’m not worried about that. I just want it to look good.” But I didn’t say anything and finally my mom, who was standing right there, said, “She doesn’t need to look thinner!” And I was embarrassed. Which reminds me that I never wrote a thank you note to that saleswoman. I think you’re supposed to. This is now officially a tangent.

OK, but anyway: I had been judging my friend. Which is a bad thing to admit, I guess. I mean, my observations relating to her weight weren’t articulate and meaningful, they were  just the blurry backdrop of whatever else I was thinking. They were the strainer through which I drained my impression of her beauty. Or something. Do you know what I mean? Her skinniness registered, impressed upon me in this generic, lightly negative way. But if my thoughts about it had been less abstract they probably would’ve sounded a little like this:

Well, shit. My arms are about twice the bulk of her arms, and I’m wearing a tank top, and she probably feels sorry for me for having my arms. I could never wear that shirt she’s wearing. It would never look good on me. Everything looks so good on her. Maybe she’s trying to be skinny. Well, it’s working. Maybe she thinks I don’t have any discipline. And I guess she’s right. God. Why don’t I have any discipline, ever? Did I actually eat an entire bag of chips the other day, while watching Breaking Bad on Netflix? Yes. I have become this. A person who needs to eat a bag of chips while watching TV. I am a couch potato. Chip.

(can this be the couch to my potato? source)

But I didn’t really think that because we were talking about other, more thoughtful things, and I was glad to see her, and brunch tasted delicious and so on and so forth.

But I almost thought it.

And when she said that thing—about her own body—I felt suddenly guilty. I suddenly suspected that I was very close to becoming one of those women who take the time to care about how skinny other women are.

I had forgotten the particular weirdness of being an accidentally skinny girl.

It’s so easy to think that someone else’s body is a commentary on your own. When it’s definitely not. When it’s definitely just their body.

So, to my lovely and skinny friend, I’m sorry. The years that I spent as a skinny girl and the years that I’ve spent after that have taught me something. I know there’s more to the story. You don’t have to apologize to anyone for the way your body looks. Your body is your own, the rest of us shouldn’t get a say. I don’t think you have an eating disorder. I think you are beautiful now, and if you gain lots of weight later, I will think you are beautiful then, too, in a different but serious way.

And to all the skinny girls reading this—there’s more to your beauty than that one thing. I swear.

And to my arms, you looked fine in that tank top and no one was looking at you anyway, so get over yourselves.

I think that’s it.

Oh, wait. To that bagel with the scrambled eggs and sable, and those honey biscuits (I had the same thing as my friend)—I miss you. I miss you so much. I’m thinking of you even now.

(nothing in the world is better than a good bagel.source)

*   *   *

Have you been judged for being skinny? Have you caught yourself judging someone else for being skinny?

NOTE: I want to point out that of course not all skinniness is accidental. Some of it is very complicated. Some of it is unhealthy and dangerous. Some of it is going to be OK one day, and some of it is already fine and some of it isn’t and never will be. And I’m still not sure what the correct response to that is– there have certainly been times when I wished I could say something to someone who was clearly ill, and times when I said something to a friend because I knew about her eating disorder and saw that she was dieting again and that ended very badly.

Unroast: Today I love the way I look in a tank top under a skimpy summer dress. This is the first time I’ve tried it, and it actually works! I am shocked! It’s the little things!

If you didn’t see it before, think about entering the giveaway to win a cool, innovative bra that you can bravely jog in!

And here are some rousing cake pics from reader Becky, who says, “This is a pic I took at my band’s 10th anniversary party! It was delicious cake, too! :) (We’re Three Quarter Ale, a Celtic band that got our start at a Renaissance Faire, hence the funny costume. We threw ourselves a weekend-long Performing Arts Con to celebrate.)”

I totally want to hear this band. And yum!!


Kate on August 26th 2012 in beauty, body, weight

54 Responses to “my skinny friend and the women who judge her”

  1. Micelle responded on 26 Aug 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    I am constantly being judged for being skinny. I used to have people come up to me and ask: “Why are you so skinny? Do you have anorexia?”. I’m not even joking. I always wanted to ask whether they would go up to a larger woman and ask the same. But I was always too shy.

    Now i don’t get it so much anymore from strangers, but I still feel judged by my friends. Lately, I’ve been gaining weight and I’m really not used to it. I have a belly (which i suppose is a good thing!) but I can’t tell me friends because the response is always: “Are you kidding? You’re so skinny. You’re fine. ” It would be nice for someone to treat me normally and not assume that because I’m thin, I think I’m perfect!

    Because I’m thinner, I’m not allowed to have body issues too?

    I don’t know.

  2. Michelle responded on 26 Aug 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    Also, apparently I can’t type my name properly :D

  3. Amapola responded on 26 Aug 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    Yay! Sorry, just really excited at being the first one to comment. I do catch myself admiring skinny girls for a discipline they don’t necessarily have, and even paying more attention to other stuff they do or say just because they’re skinny. It’s embarrassing to admit– when I realize I’m doing it, I’m always surprised. Where did those thoughts come from?!

  4. Amapola responded on 26 Aug 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    Oh, maybe not the first one to comment after all! hehe

  5. Kristine responded on 26 Aug 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    I hate getting comments about how skinny I am. I did struggle with disordered eating when I was a teenager and ever since then even if I literally eat ice cream every day, I can’t get past a certain weight. In the summer I drop 5 lbs just walking around. I am not comfortable at this weight, I feel like I look bony and strange and that clothing looks weird on me because I don’t have shoulders. But I’m not allowed to have that opinion when talking about my body. I should just be happy about it apparently. I know women have been jealous of my weight and sometimes it’s hard to be like “I dont want to look like this. I look like this because I used to throw up and I’ve probably screwed up my metabolism or something. This is not even my personal aesthetic taste…” it’s good of you to realize you shouldn’t think that of your friend. I wish more people were like you :(

  6. Kristine responded on 26 Aug 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    * hard to not be like

  7. Jen responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 12:18 am #

    I never realized I was particularly skinny until college, where suddenly it was important and people commented on my body and how thin I was. It was very strange. Well, with college came late night waffle house trips and all you can eat ice cream at the cafe; needless to say I gained a few pounds. People stopped calling me “sooo skinny”, and I freaked and watched my weight and calories so carefully. It really messed with my mind, because I was equating skinny with beautiful. I’m not fashionable or good with hair/make-up, so being skinny was all people would comment about. It’s really screws with your mind when you think that is the only worthwhile attribute that you have to offer.

  8. Nella responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 8:52 am #

    Thank you for this. I’ve always struggled with what to say to people commenting on my body because it’s a double edged sword. If I tell them this is just genetically how I am they’re mad at me and mark me as “other”. If I tell them I run or whatever, then I’m one of those women who’s unhealthily obsessed with her body and I am once again marked as “other”. In both cases, I’m “other” based on a category that doesn’t matter to ME. If I were ever to point this out I would be even worse because “Boohoo, it must be SO hard being skinny when that’s what everyone wants to be” and “look at her wanting to point out how skinny she is”. I would be wrong to point out that what is being offered as a compliment is being used as a weapon in a fight I’m not interested in.

    It’s also hurtful when two women talk about your body within earshot as if being skinny makes you too dumb to be able to understand what they’re saying if it’s not being shared directly with you. Just because these women wish someone would tell them they’re skinny doesn’t mean that discussing me isn’t objectifying me and couldn’t make me self conscious. Jealousy is not a compliment, it’s a wall you put up between us that I don’t want to be there. Discussing someone’s body isn’t only wrong when the person being discussed is fat. It’s always wrong because it’s reducing a human being down to nothing more than their physical body.

    Thank you Kate, for pointing out that skinny girls hurt too.

  9. Frances responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 10:06 am #

    Funny. I get a weird array of comments on my weight. Most people remark at how in-shape I am, some people remark at the muscle-chunk of my thighs (in an admiring way) and others, like my mom (who is used to me as a bulky swimmer) tell me they’re worried. I appreciate the compliments and my mother’s concern, but none of these things are useful to me. For someone who has struggled with body image issues (and continues to, although I’m a better fighter now), the compliments and/or worry confuse me even more than I already am. Internal dialogue is amped up: she said I’m skinny. Have I lost weight? Am I still healthy? Does it look good? Do I look like a ghost? He said I’m fit. Does that mean I’m looking big? Do my muscles look like fat underneath my clothes? She said she’s worried. Have I lost weight? I’m doing fine. Aren’t I? I haven’t lost weight. I’ve gained weight. What’s going on?

    …and so on.

    I realize people mean to be complimentary, most of the time. Still, being skinny isn’t a virtue. It says nothing about my character. I’d rather someone tell me I wrote something beautiful, or that they’re proud that I could run six miles. My body? Form fits function. I run and bike, and I work an active job. Sometimes I don’t do any of these things and I just sit and eat cookies. It’s not really anything to compliment (or not-compliment).

  10. Samantha Angela responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 10:38 am #

    I have never gotten a comment about “how skinny I am” because I’m not skinny. I’m just average.
    I lost a bunch of weight when I moved away for work. When I came home to visit someone commented that I lost a lot of weight and what was I doing? It was a combination of stress and eating (or not eating) alone and walking all the time because I didn’t have a car. When I did eat it was mostly crap. I felt weird accepting a compliment about my size when I really hadn’t done anything good to make it happen.
    …and then of course those comments make you question what people thought of you before you lost weight.

    Anyway, mostly what I wanted to say here is this -> “It’s so easy to think that someone else’s body is a commentary on your own. When it’s definitely not. When it’s definitely just their body.” is SO true.

  11. Sheryl responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 10:48 am #

    I’ve lost some weight in the past couple of years and it lately it feels like all people want to talk about is the size of my body. “Oh you’re so tiny” or “if you lose anymore weight you’re going to disappear”. It drives me nuts. Because really, I’m still on the high end of a healthy BMI. And I’m happy with my body exactly as it is. I’m not about to disappear.

    Really it just bother me because do people really think that’s the most interesting thing about me right now?

  12. Melanie responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 10:57 am #

    I was unhealthily thin up until my mid-20s, and it was something I worked VERY hard at. If I ate like a normal person, I worked out for two hours that day. Usually I just ate as little as possible. I try not to judge people based on thin or fat. What I do notice a lot of is women who are naturally thin or thick, judging others. I had a person talk about my weight to her friend, while I watched her eat more calories in one meal than I consume in a day. I wanted to say, “Must be nice to have a great metabolism!” But I didn’t. I just felt sorry for her that she was insecure enough to have to notice other people’s weight. On the way out I told her thanks for the ego boost since I was the focus of her conversation and was a complete stranger. She must’ve found me mighty important.

  13. Christina responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 11:27 am #

    I don’t find myself so judging people for their size as for their clothes. The way they fit, or don’t fit, and whether or not they’re cut for that persons shape.
    I used to judge people for their size – or at least notice it more than I do now and think “god I wanna look like that” or “god I hope I’m never that big”.
    Yeah, can we guess my size? I’m plus, around 22 prepregnancy. I don’t have as big a problem with my body as other people do tho. I want to get more muscle in my arms, which are flabby and have stgretch marks, and lose some of my tummy. I have love handles that are saggy – so gross. :(
    But I was active and more in shape when I was younger. Just as some people are naturally thin and others seem to appreciate that, my mother appreciated when I was skinnier. I think the fact that you have to buy bigger clothes when your curves start showing up didn’t register to her. After that, I was called fat and lazy. So can we guess what I am now? Thanks, mom. :)
    I know I’m not an ideal size, and quite frankly I think very few women would qualify as ideal sized, no matter how thin, fat, curvy, or straight their bodies are.
    What I do know is that my daughter, who’s four, is SO proud of her strong muscles. She’s got big thighs and strong arms, and more energy than I can even remember having in the last 20 years. So it’s become important to me to not judge womens bodies, simply so my daughter will learn and understand that we’re all different. I compliment her smarts, her strength, her wit, not how her body looks. I tell her she looks good and has pretty hair. When I tell her she’s beautiful or cute or gorgeous, she always reminds me that she’s brave and strong. Why can’t we all be like that?

  14. Stephanie Ivy responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 11:37 am #

    I’m naturally skinny; it’s made worse by the fact that I lose my appetite when stressed. But it’s also just how I’m built.

    I have a lot tied up in it. It’s weird, because by our cultural standards, I do fit closer to the ‘ideal.’ But on an individual level, I feel horribly unattractive. Particularly in a lot of the circles I am part of, a lot is made of how curvy women are attractive, how men want something more than a stick. Yet, there I am. I’m not a total stick, but like many naturally thin women, I am all-around petite, with small breasts, not much of an ass. I know that the societal acceptance of it is supposed to balance, but it doesn’t. Because who doesn’t want to be attracted and wanted?

    It’s especially hard when people get on my case for being too thin, especially if I start working out. I’ve always been in pretty horrible shape, size aside, and working out is a good thing for me. But sometimes I lose a bit of weight, especially at first, before my appetite catches up. It’s hard to deal with the concern and looks if my weight fluctuates. Even when I feel fine. I wish we’d move towards recognizing that many body types can be attractive and that commenting on someone’s perceived health isn’t acceptable.

  15. lik_11 responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    During the past year I’ve lost 40 pounds. Like Sheryl (#11), above, I’m still not stick thin- but a (high) healthy BMI. Two weeks ago, I went to visit my lifetime BFF- who I haven’t seen in over a year. The first thing she said to me “Oh my God, I hate you! You’re so skinny”. Talk about a buzzkill. I didn’t expect a compliment, but I certainly didn’t expect her to use the word “hate”, either. Apparently- my weight is now a point of contention in our relationship. (I was always the fat one.. now I’m not.) Shitty.

  16. Lois responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    I told a friend she looked skinny the other day. I decided I won’t ever do that again. She and I both are plus sized. You think it’s a compliment, but then she (and I do this as well) start saying “no I haven’t lost anything”). That perpetuates a feeling of failure usually, because “of course” we’re always trying, or we’ve hit a plateau, or we just rampaged through the chocolate, and so on.

    I think the bottom line is, let’s stop complimenting people on the size of their bodies in relation to how much they weigh.

  17. teegan responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    First off, I’ll second what Sheryl said – it does really strange things to your idea of yourself when you slim down from “overweight” to “high end of healthy” and people around you say that they’re worried. Even if it took you months of exercise and cutting out soda and paying attention. Even if you’re not actually even down to the ‘average healthy bmi.’ I remember just feeling like I didn’t know, couldn’t know, how I looked, how I was.

    At the moment, I’m still in pregnancy land. I have four weeks until the official due date, and after gaining 8 pounds in the first trimester (when everyone else has morning sickness and loses eight), my weight gain has slowed as time has gone on. I’ve only gained 25 pounds total, even though I’m eating plenty (plenty of veggies and watermelon and healthy things – and plenty of ice cream and chocolate covered almonds and bagels). I’ve never been the girl to whom people said, “but you’re so tiny!”… until now. No one believes I’m eight months along. I see the little flare of envy from women whose whole bodies put on weight so that they could grow and feed a baby. Skimming a book at the library the other day, the author, who was 40, a few months post-pregnant, and unhappy with her post-birth weight loss, went on this tirade about how “we can’t all be 20-somethings who only gain 25 pounds their whole pregnancy!”

    It’s strange, after 25 years of being just on the heavier side of things, to learn what it feels like to be accused of some sort of witchcraft because you’re not bigger than you want to be. And will it last? Will I look fine at my brother-in-law’s wedding 3 weeks post-birth? Will breastfeeding and my youth/health melt off all 25 pounds by Christmas? Who knows? Either way, it’s a bizarre place to be visiting.

  18. Claire responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    One thing to worry about is this special awareness to people (women)’s skinnyness or lack of, but I also notice you attached some immediate “she must think I’m fat” kind of thought…the first one you can blame of unhealthy society pressure on women about having to prove their value by looking what is accepted as good, but the second one? I’m so sorry to read you seem so insecure!
    You are loved because of who you are, not what you look like! You have big arms and it’s hot so you wear tank tops? Good! And if some idiot don’t look what they see, they can look the other way! Their problem!
    I use to think badly of very fat women wearing revealing outfits, or girls showing off their cellulite thights, but not any more. They feel pretty like that? Good for them! The fight against the old way of seeing a woman’s value as a decorative element start within each of us, so please Kate, don’t allow yourself to think you musn’t wear such or such thing because you are not thin/pretty enough!!

  19. Mandy responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    Lately, I’ve thought that the only acceptable way to comment on someone’s appearance is to say, “You look good!”–and mean it.

  20. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    All this skinny talk is making me hungry :) Think I’ll join Kate on the couch with a bag of chips…and a beer!

  21. Kate responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    @Kimmy Sue
    There’s always room for you on this couch :-) Beer welcome.

  22. Kate responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t feel that insecure. I feel like this is just the way people learn to think. That’s why I want to write about it!

  23. Kate responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    @Teegan and Sheryl
    These are really interesting perspectives for me to read.
    Teegan, I loved the way you put it– being accused of witchcraft for not being heavier. I know it’s serious, but it was a funny thought and I laughed.

  24. katilda responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    THIS…this phrase is perfect: “It’s so easy to think that someone else’s body is a commentary on your own.” I have so had this on my mind recently, as evidenced in my posts about skinny being the new wrong ( and the danger of basing your self esteem on other people ( That second one is probably one of my favorite posts I’ve written, ever.

  25. Heather responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    My weight is always the first thing people notice (and comment) about me. “You’re so/too skinny!” Sometimes in an postive way, sometimes in a sneer.
    I’ve been told that in spanish too because I don’t look like I understand spanish (esa whetta es demasiado flaca)…(oh and don’t get me started on the comments about how pale I am!)
    A girl I worked with broke out in tears because a large customer berrated her for her petiteness, which she yelled back “How would you like it if I told you you were fat and needed to lose weight! Its rude!”
    Somehow when you are skinny people think its okay to say what they want to you, there are no rules. Skinny people don’t have feelings I guess.
    I don’t know why weight has to be so important.

  26. SolariC responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    I’ve always been a pretty healthy weight, but I did go on a diet in the middle of college, after indulging too much on soft drinks and fast food. I was amazed afterwards because for sure I was visibly thinner, but by no means skinny (I don’t have the ‘skinny’ body type, having rather insistent hips), yet people kept commenting, ‘You’re so skinny!’

    Sometimes they seemed concerned about my health – which was ironic, because at my heavier weight, I’d been eating FAR too much fast food, whereas I went on a diet that was notable for being extremely balanced and also delicious. Sometimes they seemed jealous – which was also ironic, because the jealousy often came from women who were actually thinner than me. I guess that shows the focus is more on losing numbers on the scale, rather than health, and so even these healthy women wanted to see the numbers go down on the scale.

    Anyway, it was an awkward time. I did a lot of smiling and nodding and feeling uncomfortable about something really very ordinary. I’m glad that four years later everybody has just gotten used to the way I look again, and I can pass under the radar.

  27. rowdygirl responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    I’ve never been thin, ever, so I can’t relate. I CAN relate to having strangers judge me by how I look, and I think it’s probably damaging no matter which way it’s coming at you. The main difference, in my opinion, is that when you’re fat, people hate you. They really do. You’re fat AND lazy, undisciplined, stupid, worthless, less than, etc. I think a skinny person probably just gets the envy. We’re all taught that thin is good, and fat is bad. No one is ever jealous of a fat person, but a skinny girl? oh yeah..

  28. Ceci responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    I knew I was skinny when I couldn’t join the “I’m so fat!!” conversations some other people had. But then again, almost all my friends are slim people, so it makes it easier to have clothing tips. I come from a ethnic culture where most people are naturally skinny and we will point it out if you are fat. I really have to watch my self when I am with my over weight friends so that I won’t say something insensitive. Sometimes they say things like “well at least I’m not that fat(points to other people)”. I just keep quiet.

  29. Madeline responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 11:26 pm #

    “It’s so easy to think that someone else’s body is a commentary on your own. When it’s definitely not. When it’s definitely just their body.”

    Love this. It is too easy. So important to remember.

  30. Dianne responded on 28 Aug 2012 at 1:04 am #

    Saw the post on HuffPost but noticed your old pic is still being used as your profile shot. Why not update it to your brushcut shot, its so grand and more there!

  31. Kande responded on 28 Aug 2012 at 7:07 am #

    I was “average” for quite a number of years, then chubby for quite another number of years. Both shapes were due to me not exercising as much as I should, and not eating healthy choices. After my life settled and I had time to devote to paying attention to my own health needs, I was able to get on board the exercise train and make better food choices. I ended up losing some weight – not a ton, as I also toned up. I felt better and happier – not so much from weight loss as due to exercise, as I felt best after just completing a run – my hair sticking out, my face beet red, covered in sweat – feeling great! And for the longest time, my biggest pet peeve was people commenting on how I looked. Why? Because it was ALWAZyS tied to weight loss! Not that they liked my dress, not that I looked happy, not that I had energy, but ” wow! how much weight did you lose?” To which I would flinch, feel a bit ashamed, and with a grimace reply ” actually … not that much …” ( as was only ever 10-15lbs). Then I started to wonder what was wrong with me – how bad had I looked before to only deserve compliments now? How much weight should I have lost? Should I still be losing? What was wrong with me that I still getting compliments yet secretly knew I was at the heavier end of a ‘normal’ BMI? Shameful! What wouldthey think if they knew? I started to not focus on exercise and how I felt but instead to berate myself for exercising but not losing weight. And then one day, I finally realized how fucked up that attitude was – threw out the scale – and started to enjoy exercise again. OK, not exactly. The scale is hard to ignore eh? But I am way less obsessed with my ” number” and way more in tne with my “body feeling” That is a good start.

  32. Kate responded on 28 Aug 2012 at 9:26 am #

    Thanks for reminding me– I never remember to do this sort of thing

  33. Alex responded on 28 Aug 2012 at 10:51 am #

    you are a breath of fresh air…you have the bravery to articulate all of the thoughts I am sometimes afraid to share…I am going to take a cue from you and start to write about the things that are a dark murmur in the corner of my soul…your writing is a complete gift!

  34. em responded on 28 Aug 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    In my adult life my weight has ranged, repeatedly, from 100 lbs to a little over 200 lbs – which at my height is from extremely thin to quite chubby. I feel much more objectified, judged, and harassed at the thin end of things than the heavier. NOBODY, it seems, can let pass making comments about your weight when you are thin – while they seem to understand how to be tactful when you are heavy. I wish I could learn to maintain some kind of “average” looking weight, but health problems leave me alternately starving (not by choice) and then gluttoning back up trying to compensate for being so hungry for half a year.

  35. Aurora responded on 29 Aug 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    I’m envious of skinny folk not because I think skinny is the only way to be attractive, but because I love food and want the power to eat everything I see and still not get fat. I personally do not want to be fat, so I have to watch what I eat, because my family’s genes cling to every drop of fat like we’re about to go into nuclear winter or something.

    I just want to sit and eat a giant piece of chocolate cake, just about every single day of my life. I don’t like moderation much, especially since most of my life was taken up with lots of family- and self-imposed fear of anything with much calories in it. I just want to take a cake and throw it in my own face. And I know people who could do this and be fine. (One of my friends has so much trouble putting on weight that it regularly worries doctors, and even if he deliberately eats very calorie-heavy foods, he gains maybe ten pounds. Ever. It’s…yeah. If I were him, I’d just eat all the time, because food is *wonderful.* Not to say that he doesn’t have medical issues, but it seems so amazing to just be able to eat anything, ever, at any time…)

  36. Kiran responded on 29 Aug 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    I stopped commenting on peoples’ weight a long time ago (was I ever in the habit? I have no memory of doing so, though it’s possible) because there’s simply no way to mention it without it sounding like snark or judgment. Now I only participate if they bring it up, and then proceed very cautiously depending on what they’ve said and what I think the tone is implying.

    Skinny can be very complicated. During one of my partner’s major depressive episodes, she stopped eating almost entirely, and lost 30 pounds in a way-too-short time frame. Other people who saw her would be saying “Oh, you lost weight! You look good!” and I would be screaming at them in my head not to encourage her to starve herself to death. We just can’t know what someone is dealing with or why they might be having weight loss/gain and so it is better to steer clear of those kinds of comments.

  37. Penny responded on 29 Aug 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    I agree rowdygirl. I can’t relate to being skinny. I’ve never been thin either. No one is ever jealous of how I look. I don’t get compliments. I’ve never heard anyone say “Oh my god you’re so lucky, I wish *I* looked like walking biscuit dough.”
    I’m not quite large enough to have the server at a restaurant silently judge me for ordering desert, but I do have a friend that big. You can see it on people’s faces. Its a look of disdain. They assume she’s worthless and lazy. She’s a champ and doesn’t give a shit about strangers, but when her also overweight mother calls her fat, that’s when it really gets bad.

    I also used to work at a plus size store, and one of the managers had lost about 200 pounds, and she would judge the customers! She would slyly imply that they were too fat for some of the clothes. Once she brought a skirt to work, handed it to me and said “This is WAY to big for me, but I think it will fit you.”
    I don’t know what her deal was, maybe she was getting revenge for her fat days, maybe she was just always a bitch…pretty sure she doesn’t work there anymore…
    …But I digress.

  38. Pretty/Funny – Body Image, Sex & Validation « An Odd Geography responded on 30 Aug 2012 at 3:02 am #

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  39. Women and the BMI Index | MEDINFOPAGES.COM responded on 31 Aug 2012 at 9:32 pm #

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  40. Nat (TheGirlThreeDoorsDown) responded on 01 Sep 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    This was a super insightful post. I, too, was an accidental-skinny preteen girl. I know that more voluptuous women have had to deal with a lot of the societal ‘skinny-phase’ in fashion, and in the media in general, but the messages that I latched onto (being of the Oprah-watching generation) were the ones that proudly declared that “REAL Women have CURVES,” and then I always wondered why I hadn’t ended up with any. Now I’m much more secure in my own body image, even if my elbows and knees still seem to get in the way. What bothers me is that there is still so much tension between these “REAL women” and this imagined army of skinny (presumably “not real”) women. Can’t we all stretch the bounds of this definition of what a real woman is and just accept that we may all look a little different, but darn it we are “probably a perfect goddess” (as Kate says) in our own differently shaped way regardless? (That’s a rhetorical question that’s supposed to be answered with a resounding “Yes! We’re all beautiful in our own way!” ;) ..)

  41. Sarah responded on 02 Sep 2012 at 1:49 am #

    Thank you so much for this post. I have always been naturally skinny and it hasn’t been pleasant. People and friends will randomly come up to me and say

    “Wow! You’re so skinny!”
    and then I try to cope by denying it -
    “No, I’m not – you look really good!”
    … not tactful, but I’m flustered. If I say
    “Thanks! …You too!”
    it just becomes
    “Oh no you’re skinny and I’m not” and is awkward.

    Or people will say
    “How do you stay so skinny?”
    …aaand the truth is I’m a distance runner, but I’ve always been skinny. At least I have an excuse because if you don’t say that right away, expect allusions about eating disorders. Oh God, I have to have an excuse for how my body naturally is?!

    And that’s the worst part. After a life of telling myself “Well, at least I’m skinny” or “Well, at least I don’t have to work hard for my weight” – I’m getting self-conscious about NOT being so skinny any more. I get “food babies” and my arms are wimpy and what if my stomach always looks flabby if I wear a bikini swimsuit- but I should not be thinking that! Argh!

    Oh and I have to say, I first started following your blog after reading an article you wrote about women who exercise and are unnaturally thin and how no one talks about that as an image disorder. SO TRUE. Thank you thank you thank you for proving to me that I was not crazy to be worried (I saw people like that all the time at high school cross country meets and it was unsettling – but no one ever even alluded to it.)

  42. Nobody's Girl responded on 04 Sep 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    Michelle–they would. Read Fat Heffalump about people harassing her in public.

  43. Tuesday Treasure Trove | Dragonflight Dreams responded on 11 Sep 2012 at 11:10 am #

    [...] My Skinny Friend and the Women Who Judge Her. I can relate to this. I used to be super skinny back in the day (not that I’m heavy now, but I have some healthy curves these days), and that fact was always being commented on. “Go eat some ham!” was a favorite from my family. [...]

  44. Pretty/Funny – Body Image, Sex & Validation | An Odd Geography responded on 28 Oct 2012 at 8:11 am #

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  45. Emelia responded on 10 Nov 2012 at 8:04 am #

    I just don’t know… I am currently skinny apparently and people say I’m too thin… but then there are girls who are smaller than me and no one comments on them. I am definitely not big boned but I don’t understand why no one comments on them (and I know they don’t) but openly comment on me. Girls who are smaller than me say “You’re getting a bit thin” and it makes me feel like I’ll never be their size without looking terrible.

    If someone thinner than me says “You’re getting a bit too thin” I think well, I’m not as small as you but I am already too small?? Everyone accepts you at your size but when I get down to that size I look ‘sick’ ? “. It really confuses me as to what I look like…

  46. Luiza responded on 16 Nov 2012 at 1:25 am #

    Here are some funny comebacks if someone calls you skinny:

  47. Pam responded on 20 Nov 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    Commenting months late after this was reposted on an Australian website.
    Thanks for this post. I am the freakishly skinny one – even in a family where both sides of my family are naturally thin, I’m the thinnest. And I’ve had all the comments. Including being asked ‘do you eat?’ (No, I’m a breatharian – what do you think, twit?). Or being told ‘one day you’ll hit puberty’ (um, I’m almost 30). But the one that hurt most was a friend. She was complaining about how she was so fat (in reality, she was only nearish the high end of ‘healthy’ BMI) and I simply said that she wasn’t. Her response was to tell me I wasn’t allowed an opinion because I’m skinny. Fortunately she realised how completely stupid and insulting that sounded and apologised (she still wouldn’t believe she wasn’t fat) and she never made any of those comments again.
    Also, there are all sorts of reasons people are the size they are. I have Coeliac Disease, which is definitely part of why I’m so thin because it does limit what I can eat. But I really don’t think people would be jealous of what it’s like if I accidentally eat gluten – it feels like someone’s ripping out my intestines and intermittently stabbing my gut too. So while people might look at me and wish that like me they never put on weight, I look at them and wish I COULD eat that damn cake!

  48. Goodgirl22 responded on 16 Feb 2013 at 4:18 am #

    I’d just like to say that this is really inspirational. I’m anorexic and trying hard to get better. I read about 50 stories just like this about acceptance, eating disorders and skinniness, in the hope that one of them will trigger something in my mind and make me realise that I’m beautiful either way. This is the first thing that hasn’t gone in through one ear and out the other.
    Thank you xox

  49. Eat the Damn Cake » thin women need to be part of the body image conversation responded on 25 Feb 2013 at 9:02 am #

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  50. Kate responded on 25 Feb 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Ugh. This is such a complicated issue – like you said, thin people can be trying to gain weight, and “overweight” people can be perfectly happy and healthy. Just like one diet isn’t right for everyone, neither is one size. Thank you for all you do to keep this conversation at the forefront – my hope is that the more people understand it’s not black and white, the less the judgmental snark will occur. That said – I believe the judgement comes from our own insecurity anyway.

  51. ellie responded on 02 Apr 2013 at 5:20 am #

    A lot of what I want to say has already been said, which was really nice to see, that other people get it. I was a preemie, 1lb 4oz, and because of pre-birth issues my digestion is slow, and I don’t get hungry often. (Both of which become really complicated issues to deal with). I’m only 18 years old, 4’11 and 78lbs.(Although I’ve lost weight (by accident), I’m better-looking and healthier when staying at 84 or so). I’ve always been skinny and always will be, and it’s so incredibly annoying and frustrating that people think they can point out my size to me. It’s been happening my whole life, no matter what I do or say. With some friends I say something right away about how I alreay know I’m skinny, sometimes sarcastic, but with adults I have to just smile and nod. Even my boss makes regular comments about it, and it’s so stupid, because in our society it’s common knowledge that it would be rude to go up to someone who is overweight and point it out, but people still do it to me because skinny is “good”. It seems to only get more frustrating as I get older. Right now I’m pretty uncomfortable with how I look, because I’m skinnier than my normal skinny and I think it just looks gross on me. I do my best to eat 3 meals a day. But it makes me self-concious and people are rude about it. But, it made me happy to see others with the same things going on and the same opinons on it.

  52. A Weighty Issue | Natterings From Nepal responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 9:03 am #

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  53. Mira responded on 08 Jul 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    I’m recovering from an eating disorder, and was never skinny. I was never told that, and spent so much time equating it to beauty. And beauty to worth. It took a company called Herbalife and some amazingly
    patient and insightful friends for me to finally feel like food belonged in my body, stop looking for beauty, and start looking for health. The strange thing is, now I look in the mirror and smile. I respect other people’s shapes and struggles so much more now! Because its their living space!! And how cool is that? It’s about
    Feeding yourself and enjoying it – losing fat and gaining muscle, getting more sleep, staying hydrated, getting all 114 nutrients your trillions of wonderful cells need are both te cause and the side effects of loving yourself. It’s a perpetuating cycle, just like malnourishment (over eating, undereating, and poor nutrition all count) and self-hate. Respect and love for other people’s bodies starts here too. Thank you for bringing this topic to the forefront.

    Ladies, if you need to talk, message me. – sometimes a stranger is better than a sister. We all need to stock together on this one.

  54. The New Body Etiquette | Alt-ternative Autoimmune responded on 02 Jun 2014 at 10:14 pm #

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