Deep down inside, you know you’re healthy. You may not appear so on the outside. People glance at your body and give you a look of pity or disgust. You’re doing everything you can to be that ‘healthy, normal, fit’ person, whatever that means. Still, no one seems to notice a difference. “Are you ok? What have you been eating? You should visit the gym,” you hear. In desperation, you cry out, “If I could change my body to look more ‘normal’, don’t you think I would?‘”
Sound familiar? This is what many of us, regardless of height, size, or gender go through. Some try so hard to lose weight yet are still seen as fat. Others, like me, try so hard to gain weight yet are still seen as skinny. Continuing on with this week’s National (or International) Eating Disorders Awareness Week theme, today’s topic will be a personal one (and sorry if this topic may not apply to you but perhaps you know someone who’s like me). You’ve heard of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, but what about the opposite of anorexia? Is there even a name for it? Google ‘the opposite of anorexia’ and you’ll find plenty of other lesser-known eating disorders and yet – perhaps it’s because I didn’t go through 100 Google pages – I can’t seem to find something that describes my issue. The closest I could find is bigorexia, but it doesn’t describe me at all (it’s usually those who are already muscular or heavy-set). (I’m 5’7″ and, for the last 7 years or so, I’ve constantly stayed around 50-55kg. If I relied solely on BMI – which, by the way, I find highly unfair and inaccurate – I would be underweight.) When I talk to people about it, they seem to brush my fears away – as if it doesn’t exist at all. It’s all in my head. Or maybe it’s just me?
Look at our family and my brother is the only other one who’s like me, if not skinnier. My parents try to assure us they’d been like us when they were younger. This is definitely hereditary, for some of my grandparents are slim (obviously, particularly since they grew up during WWII!). Looking at old family photos, I noticed that I definitely have my grandmother’s body (pear shape). It’s definitely like the ones you saw in those 1940-1950’s photos. “Why are you complaining,” you ask. Well, let me tell you what I grew up with:
- When I was 2, I moved to a different country and refused to eat their national cuisine. It was too foreign to me so I fed on milk alone. It wasn’t long before the really chubby 2y.o. turned into a skinny toddler.
- In this culture – or at least, for one set of relatives – being skinny is associated with being poor, which is bad luck.
- Until I was around 15, I grew up hearing that I was too skinny like a skeleton.
- Despite my efforts to show that I would eat a lot (didn’t help that I was a picky eater as a child), no one believed that I gained any weight.
- When I checked my weight on the scale, I could see that I was gaining weight. This was surprising to some yet at the end of the day, appearances mattered more than actual weight.
- I asked all my friends how I could gain weight and started eating more junk food (as well as bread).
- I was around 11 or 12 when a classmate told me that people actually want to be skinny like me. This was when I discovered what was going on in the modelling and fashion industry. All this time, I’d thought people wanted to be ‘fat’ (i.e. not be skin-and-bones).
- However, the damage to self-image was already done and I constantly swayed from self-appreciation to self-loathing.
- Didn’t help in my adolescent years when girls poked fun at me for being chestless. 😦
- Certainly, not everyone made fun of me but even hearing, ‘You’re so skinny!’ in admiration made me cringe.
- I admire my friends who look more normal than I do.
So what’s my problem called? Well, for now, I’ll just give it an unattractive name for it: the beanpole disorder.
- You see a skinny person, almost skeletal, in the mirror and look away in disgust (People think this is bigorexia).
- Whenever you feel like you’re too skinny, you’ll start eating more – sometimes more than you can take in (People think you’re bulimic because you’re binge-eating).
- When you discover that it’s high-metabolism you have, you (might) also find yourself eating more unhealthy foods because you know you can digest it (People wonder if you’re going to be obese one day).
- When you’re not too hungry or you decide to eat healthier, people wonder if you’re anorexic.
I cannot tell you how happy and relieved I was when I stumbled upon Zoella‘s blog post: Why are you so skinny? I highly recommend it. Here is someone who went through (maybe still goes through?) what I did. Fear of being made fun of for being so skinny. Seeing high metabolism almost as a curse rather than a blessing. Zoe pointed out a good question: why is it acceptable to ask skinny people about their weight if it’s not acceptable to ask others to lose weight? This reminded me of The Merchant of Venice – the same thing that hurts you, hurts us too. Zoe ends with this: it is never acceptable to comment on people’s weight. What matters is that we should be happy with the way we look. 🙂
Not long ago, I read an article on the BBC called Are thin women the enemy? which pointed out the dangers of focusing on one particular body type as beautiful. First of all, I want to say that I am glad that people are finally starting to move away from the ultra skinny obsession (i.e. one body type). Yet, as this article indicates, how is hating on the naturally slim healthy or better for society? I’ve already mentioned that I have a skewed version of normal – i.e. anyone bigger than me. In recent years, I’m trying to learn to love my body and focus more on being fit and healthy, rather than on appearances.
“There are people who are naturally thin and people who are naturally heavier, and we need to accept a diversity,” Claire Mysko, director of Proud2BeMe says. “That’s the goal: not to define one body type as attractive and another type as unattractive.”
Tune in later this week for my next post on changing the body image! 🙂 xx
- Don’t Hate the Skinny Girl: Beauty of a Woman Blogfest (julieglover.com)
- Stop Press! Women’s Bodies Come in All Shapes and Sizes! (velociriot.org)
Do you have any questions for me? Any suggestions on how you or someone you know dealt with this? I’d love to hear from you!