A few months ago I went to the bakery in my lunch break to get some cakes for the office. As I got back to my car after picking up the treats, the owner of the car next to me was walking back to his vehicle. He made a joke about me hitting his car with my door (I didn’t, by the way) and had a little joke and short conversation with me. I thought he seemed friendly until he stopped the conversation, the smile fell from his face, and he looked at me blankly and said ‘I think you’re too thin.’ I was so shocked that I couldn’t even reply. I got back into my car and drove away.
If this was the first time this had happened to me I probably wouldn’t be that bothered. However, this is a regular occurrence for me and for a stranger to say something like that was a big deal. When it’s people you know it’s easier to let go, when randomers start commenting negatively on your appearance you do start to believe that you have a problem.
Skinny shaming has been a real issue for me over the past couple of years. Before I went into marketing I worked as a waitress for a few years so that I could fund my car. I didn’t mind it – it was a sociable job which suited me well: I like to be around people. On a Sunday we used to be given a Sunday roast when we finished work – excellent. Often the plates would be piled high and sometimes, yes, I couldn’t finish it all. One particular Sunday I ate my meal as usual and another member of staff came over to me and said ‘is that all you’re eating? Oh dear.. If I was your mother I would be really worried about your weight.’ Being a smoker, I then went outside for my usual after-dinner cigarette and tried to ignore what had just been said until I was approached by the lady’s husband. ‘You smoke! That’s why you don’t eat!’ Now it was really starting to bother me. Firstly, do you see how much I eat? Secondly, who are you to comment on my appearance in such a horrible way and assume that just because I’m a bit petite that I don’t eat? Thirdly, how would you have reacted if I’d had said to you, or anyone, ‘you’re overweight, you eat too much.‘ I soon left that job and the comments eased off, until it started again in my current job. I had to make a complaint about another colleague who made it very obvious that my weight bothered her. I tried to let it go for a long time until she asked me in front of the whole office ‘do you find it difficult to find clothes in your size?’
I got to the point of being so affected by these people and their opinions that I made myself unwell. Not only did it worsen my already fragile mental state, I became physically ill too. I decided that I was going to try and do something to put on some weight – if not fat, then to build muscle. Because of my fast metabolism I seem to be unable to gain weight regardless of what I eat so I decided that the muscle building route would be best. This involved working out four days a week (weight training) and consumption of protein shakes. After just a week of drinking the shakes I awoke with an awful stomach pain which wouldn’t budge. It lasted a few weeks and I ended up visiting our local A&E when I started being sick – we thought it may have been my appendix. Luckily it wasn’t. After many tests and hours in the hospital it turned out that the shakes I’d been having had blocked my colon – this basically meant that my stomach was clogged up. I was given medication and sent on my way. A couple of weeks ago the pains and vomiting came back, so I’m back on different medication now. Ok it’s not an ideal situation and some days I really do feel rough but I learnt a lot from this. My body will take what it can handle. Including food. When I’m full, I’m full. And if you push yourself too hard you will know about it.
I am not underweight. I am just under 8 stone, size 6-8 – yes this is small, but being only 5″3 I am quite in proportion. I do not have an eating disorder and never have, I am healthy and I adore food. I just happen to have an unusually speedy metabolism. If this offends you, you have a problem.
So if anyone else has problems with their appearance – weight related or not – I think you were made the exact way you’re supposed to be. And you should tell people that if they look so perfect that they can pick on other people’s ‘flaws’ then they have sh*tty personalities, so actually their ‘perfect’ bodies mean sweet F all.