“You’re so skinny!” I hear it all the time. Friends, family, acquaintances, even strangers feel free to comment on my weight. It makes me cringe every time.
I questioned whether I should even write this piece, because the feedback I receive when I’ve shared my struggles in regards to my weight borders on mockery. Why is the skinny girl complaining? People would kill for your body. These sentiments are problematic and further propagate fatphobic ideologies — that skinny is always good and fat is always bad.
My weight is intertwined with my struggle with anxiety, so bringing it up digs into deep-rooted issues. Prior to becoming a mother, I always had a healthy relationship with food. I never counted calories, I never weighed myself and I never gave into the diet culture that the world pushed on young women. I was athletic throughout high school and had a fast metabolism, so I never struggled with disliking my body and maintained a healthy balance between body neutrality and body positivity.
With the birth of my daughter came the birth of my struggles with anxiety, along with a significant weight drop. At first, I thought what I was feeling was normal, that my worry was a normal response to taking care of a baby and that my extreme hypervigilance came with motherhood. It took years for me to realize that I had postpartum anxiety, and that my mind working in overtime with the worst case scenarios wasn’t just a heightened sense of awareness, but unhealthy and taxing.
My postpartum anxiety was outrunning reality, forcing me to think of possible tragedies that could occur at any given time, taking inventory of my surroundings, ready for seemingly simple tasks to go wrong. It was exhausting taking care of my daughter while also carrying the weight of my anxiety. I had little energy for self-care. My appetite was gone, and for a long time I felt too busy and overwhelmed to address why my physical and emotional health was falling by the wayside.
Additionally, breastfeeding for two years made it difficult to take in more calories than I was losing. Everyone in my life was praising my “snapback” post-baby body, but I was secretly struggling to eat. Still, I stayed silent because I was skinny, which the world made me believe I should be grateful for.
I’ve been told that I’m as “small as my daughter.” I’ve had a friend look at me and tell me I need to eat a cheeseburger. Gee, thanks, I never thought of that. I’ve been praised while out with friends on how good I look in my high-waisted jeans, and I’ve even been asked what size I wear. Most of the time, I uncomfortably laugh it off and quickly change the subject. I hate having my body be the topic of discussion.
My daughter is now 3 and I struggle to stay above 100 pounds. Sometimes I cry when I look in the mirror. So when people comment on my weight, it takes me to a place mentally that I don’t like to be.
In March, when we were suddenly confined to our homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my anxiety was amplified and I was unable to eat as much as I should. I was so exhausted from worry and anxiety that cooking and eating were just too much for me. I tried protein shakes, nutrition bars and snacking, but it was rough for a while.
As people joked about gaining weight while stay-at-home orders were in place, I was praying for an appetite. And my anxiety was exacerbated by the fact that I was scared that when restrictions were lifted, the people I saw would comment on my body.
I’m living proof that health is not synonymous with weight. We have no idea what someone is going through and how it directly affects their weight. From thyroid and health issues to medications that require a curbed appetite to eating disorders, there are countless personal reasons why someone could be losing weight — none of which fall under the category of small talk.
Complimenting someone’s weight loss or smaller body size is toxic and, ultimately, fatphobic. The toxic cycle of judgment based on size needs to be dispelled, and we can do that by letting people live their lives without commenting on their bodies and minding our own business.
I have never asked for anyone’s opinion on my body, so I’m confused why the comments come so freely and unsolicited. What you think of my weight is none of my business, nor do I care. The purpose of our bodies isn’t to be visually consumed and judged by others. Don’t let the world make you forget who you are or make you believe your body isn’t beautiful or good enough. It’s something I am still working on, but as with any personal journey, there should be no stigma placed on how I feel about my body or how other women feel about their bodies.
Stop telling me I’m “so skinny” ― I promise you I know, and I don’t consider it a compliment.
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