Why "Skinny" Is Not A Compliment

Written by Taynua Page

For anyone who has struggled with weight issues, being called "skinny" can be just as uncomfortable as being called chubby. I have been naturally thin all my life and have dealt with anxiety about whether or not there was something wrong with me. I ate, but couldn't put on weight, and constantly was confronted with acerbic comments like, “Do you eat?”

In other words, people didn’t know why I was thin, and neither did I ... until a few years ago. Finally, after seeing multiple medical specialists, I learned that I have an auto-immune disease called psoriasis, and was also diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Along with that I had adrenal fatigue and leaky gut, which was leaving me malnourished. So no matter how much or what I ate I couldn’t gain weight. My body was not getting the nutrients it needed to stay healthy.

Of course, because our culture looks unfavorably upon being overweight (e.g. "fat shaming"), it is completely uncool to make a comment about someone who is overweight. Most of us know that this kind of gesture is alienating, offensive, and insecurity-inducing. But what about the opposite? Calling someone "skinny," or making a comment about someone's thinness. Is that a compliment?

No. But for whatever reason, this second kind of comment about someone's weight has become socially acceptable. But to make those same comments to someone who looks underweight is socially acceptable. Why?

Regardless of your natural weight, or whatever your relationship is to your weight, the problem here is our focus on weight itself. To comment upon someone's thinness — even if it is socially acceptable — makes a tremendous number of assumptions about how this person feels about themselves and about the way our culture thinks about body image ... along with many other things.

My family went camping one year and as we arrived we saw a friend across the parking lot waving. As I got out of the car, he came up to us and the first words out of his mouth were, “You are SO skinny. I didn't realize it!" Whatever he intended with this comment was irrelevant to me. I felt embarrassed, hurt and frustrated. I didn't have a response because I never knew how to respond to those comments. I usually just shrugged and looked away.

If and when I ever did make a comment back, which was very rare, I was told in response that it is much worse to be called fat. But once again, the issue here is the focus on weight above all else, the glorification of thinness above being overweight, the assumptions being made about someone else's emotions. Whether you are overweight or underweight, we all have feelings, we all feel pain, we all just want to be accepted and loved. There is absolutely no case where you should body shame someone else because they are different than you or different than what society says is perfect.

Because of my conditions, I have spent the last few years healing my body and mind holistically and truly starting to love and accept myself for the way that God created me! I have made changes in my lifestyle and diet, and I am now healthier and happier than I have ever been. My life’s goal is to help others feel that vibrant health and happiness, too.

There is one major thing that we can do to make each other feel loved and accepted no matter what body type we have: to STOP listening to what society says is the perfect body and start loving ourselves for who we are. Only then will we ever truly be able to love and accept each other.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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