12:18 pm - 09/28/2008

The skinny on the word skinny

I know this isn't directly vagina-related, but I think it's something that a lot of women have to deal with: comments about weight.

When I was in high school, I was skinny.  I had to be.  I was a wrestler and couldn't afford to go up a weight class.  The word "skinny" was often used as an insult.  Other wrestlers (who knew that I couldn't put on weight during the wrestling season, which is from November until August) would make comments that I would be so much prettier if I put on ten pounds.  My "friends" used to try to sabotage my wrestling diet, which was hardly extreme, saying that I was too skinny and that cutting weight for wrestling was stupid (standard disclaimer:  99 percent of the time, I maintained my weight safely through a balanced diet and intense workouts.  I wasn't one of the wrestlers who ate only two hard-boiled eggs a day.)

Now that I'm older, no longer wrestling, out of college, I've found that I have problems with people calling me skinny.  Major problems.

I don't think I'm skinny.  I think I'm finally at a good weight for my size (though I could stand some more muscle tone and physical fitness.  Honestly, though, who couldn't?).  I wear a size 6 or 8 and am a healthy weight for my build.

My problem is that people, often coworkers, comment about how I'm so skinny.  The other day, one of them made a comment describing someone as "even skinnier than [thebootyfaerie]," and while it's not an offensive thing to say, I still felt offended because of the use of the word "skinny."  I'm guessing because it was used so much as an insult when I was developing.  A nurse even asked me if I'd had any weight gain while on depo, and I mentioned that it was about 20 pounds, but I had also stopped wrestling during that time.  She commented that she was glad because she thought I was too skinny as it is.

My question is:  What can I say when people say things like "You don't need to worry about what you eat, you're so skinny," and things like that?  I know that my instinct is to go on the defensive (even though I know that they don't mean to offend with it), but I was also raised that you do not comment about someone's weight unless they bring it up first (i.e. if your friend tells you that she's starting a diet, and you notice that she's lost a few, it's okay to let them know it looks like it's working) so it just seems rude.

Feel free to discuss the other side, too.  How do you respond when someone says something intentionally or unintentionally hurtful about your size?
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nyxieflower 28th-Sep-2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
The same thing happens to me often. I have a slight build, but I'm 5'2" and 115 lbs. My doctor has told me that I'm a perfect weight for my body type - yet I get people raving about how skinny I am. I'm a size 5, it's not THAT small.
ends_and_means 28th-Sep-2008 04:54 pm (UTC)
I'm 5'6" and 115 and people get "mad" at me as well. :/
ehtkornkid 28th-Sep-2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I think that with the current obesity problem that anyone who talks about how skinny you are probably thinks that they're giving you a compliment. Maybe try explaining to them that you find it offensive the way they would if someone called them chubby?
ends_and_means 28th-Sep-2008 04:53 pm (UTC)
Yep, it's hard because our society idolizes Thin so much, that people don't realize calling someone skinny can be as detrimental as calling someone fat. I know I myself had some issues in the past with people calling me skinny, because I've had disordered eating and a warped body image. It's just taken me time to get past that and look at the person's true intentions. If someone makes a comment again, I'd just say, "Please don't remark on my size, I find it offensive. I don't mention your size. Thank you."
paperispatient 28th-Sep-2008 05:15 pm (UTC)
I can definitely relate to this. It just makes me profoundly uncomfortable when people talk about how thin or skinny I am. I've had some food and body issues too, and when someone says something like that part of me feels pleased, part of me feels scrutinized and criticized, and depending where my head's at part of me feels upset that part of me was feeling pleased.
kappyjeanne 28th-Sep-2008 04:53 pm (UTC)
I'm relieved to hear someone speak about this, as I'm sure its been an issue for some time. I've always been the other side of the spectrum, a healthy bit of overweight, but I've always seen the term skinny as derogatory.
To be honest I find more offensive qualities in the fact that people are analyzing your body to begin with. That's where my problem lies, they have no right to comment on my body!
Good or bad, its mine!

Edited at 2008-09-28 04:54 pm (UTC)
cellar_closet 28th-Sep-2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
I was heavier than I am now when I was in highschool, and while I wasn't made fun of a huge amount (I kept to myself most of the time so people left me alone) I was made fun of sometimes, and that never feels good. I'm what you would call a curvy average now, and I still feel like I'm overweight sometimes. I think it all depends on where you're coming from. Someone saying something like "even skinnier than cellar_closet) would be a good thing for me, where as something like "even fatter than cellar_closet" would be rude. It depends on where your insecurities lie. I don't think these people mean anything by it when they comment on your weight, but if it bothers you, then maybe you could politely point out that your weight isn't something you like to be constantly pointed out, that you know they mean well, but it bothers you. Either that, or you could ignore it when people say things in a non-offensive manner and are simply talking, and say something when people are obviously being rude. There's a fine line sometimes. Jealousy can have a lot to do with it, so when people are feeling like crap about their own weight, they point at someone else's. If it were me, I'd let it roll off of my back, because I generally don't care about what other people think of me (lol) but if you feel genuinely offended, then you should speak up for yourself. You don't need to immediately jump to defense-mode, because they might not have been trying to be rude. But there's nothing wrong with speaking up when you feel singled out or that someone has been rude to you. Sorry if this made no sense, I'm trying to wake up. lol
vivalamusica 28th-Sep-2008 05:14 pm (UTC)
Wow, I can't imagine someone seeing a size 6 or 8 as *too* thin! But I agree, bringing up someone else's weight is absolutely rude. It's just not your business unless they bring it up first or you're their doctor.
frolicnaked 28th-Sep-2008 05:44 pm (UTC)
... or you're their doctor.

I think, sometimes, not even then. I mean, there are definitely reasons why a health care provider should talk to a patient about their body size or weight, but I've also had doctors bring up the subject at times and in ways that weren't relevant, appropriate, or helpful to me. Times that come to mind are when the doctor told me I needed to lose 50 pounds when I went in for a fractured foot (my weight was not a factor in the foot breakage; slipping on my vibrator was) or when a previous NP asked, "Have you ever thought about losing weight?" as she was performing a bimanual pelvic exam. Even inside professional doctor-patient relationships, there's kind of a time and a place for everything.
frolicnaked 28th-Sep-2008 05:15 pm (UTC)
I'm strange, I think, because I get comments from both sides. I'm 5'8" and about 165 pounds, which puts my BMI at 25.1, or just into the "overweight" range. I'm also pretty active and composed of a lot of muscle mass (moreso than most other women I know in person), so I probably don't "look" like I'm at an unhealthy weight to most people. (I actually don't think I am at an unhealthy weight, either, though that may not be totally relevant to this discussion.)

I've had doctors and people involved in sports medicine (I went to a number of clinics at my then-local community college) tell me I need to lose weight based only on my visual appearance and my BMI. While I understand that there is some piece of evidence behind this, I also think it's presumptuous, inaccurate, and unwelcome for anyone to make that claim without first asking me about things like my diet, exercise habits, and general fitness level. I also think it's kind of strange that -- even at a fitness clinic and especially when I've gone into a provider's office for an unrelated issue -- people assume I want to lose weight when I never mentioned anything about it. And I'm not looking to lose; for me, that's not what health is about.

At the same time, I also get people commenting that it must be nice to be able to eat whatever I want, I can't possibly be a size "large," etc. A lot of what they say isn't actually true for me, and I'm not thrilled by the implications. I actually do watch my nutrition reasonably closely and make an effort to eat healthily, and I kind of resent the idea that I'm just "slacking off" or otherwise not doing anything to maintain my healthy body. I also do wear clothing in a larger size than a lot of people think (my hips, thighs, boobs, and shoulders are not getting any smaller, and that's just that). And it's just, I guess, not a lot of fun to have my body worries and insecurities kind of invalidated.

Mostly, though, I just think it's not anybody else's business to comment on my size or my weight unless I initiate that topic of discussion.

I'm still not sure that I have a good way to respond. There have been times, mostly with friends, that I've tried to explain that a particular comment is not helpful to me, maybe because the focus it places on weight or appearance makes me uncomfortable, maybe because it makes inaccurate assumptions about my lifestyle. Honestly, that hasn't yielded particularly good results. At best, I think I confuse people. At worst, I think I may actually hurt their feelings a little -- because their intentions were to compliment, even if the effect is the opposite.

I have very few problems telling off people who tell me to lose weight, though. I think this is because: a) they're almost always based on inaccurate assumptions when they really should have taken the time to get more facts from me; b) when I'm in a professional relationship with them, and I think they're not really doing their jobs as professionals, at least not completely, I'm less concerned about hurting their feelings when I call them on it. ;)
thebootyfaerie 28th-Sep-2008 07:01 pm (UTC)
Height-weight BMI is so inaccurate for anyone with any muscle I'm amazed that anyone uses it ever.

Definitely agree that you shouldn't comment on someone's height or weight unless they initiate it, and, even then, tread carefully.
shellazure 28th-Sep-2008 05:27 pm (UTC)
I come from a family of tiny women. My mother finally broke 100 lbs when she was pregnant with me at age 21. In high school I was 5'4" and under 100 lbs until my junior year and I constantly had people talking to me about how skinny I was, and I even had people asking me if I was anorexic. My mother even freaked on me once when I had a half-sandwich for lunch bc I just wasn't hungry at the moment. I couldn't get my thighs to touch for the life of me and I had a 23" waist, and no boobs. So I definitely get the annoyance of being called skinny.

Now I'm 5'6" and fluctuate between 118 and 123, and my waist goes between 25" and 26". The tops of my thighs are in constant contact with eachother and no amount of exercise will change that. I sometimes get "tiny" comments but they're usually in the context of something else, like a guy saying,"I can drink 4 beers and still be under the legal limit, but someone like shellazure could probably drink one and be illegal to drive because she's tiny." I hardly ever get someone coming up to me and commenting on my weight anymore, and to be honest, I sometimes miss it. I guess it's a body issue I have.

In short, when it was happening all the time and people were being derogatory about it, it bothered me, but now that I don't get it at all, it makes me ponder a little. I like my body much better now than I did in HS, because it's a woman's body, but it's MY body. I'm not saying I don't notice the body shapes and sizes of other women, but I don't tell them about it. Their body is their business, as mine is mine.
inflight 28th-Sep-2008 05:35 pm (UTC)
i completely understand. i'm a 00 in jeans and i have had to deal with so so many comments from people over the years. every now and then i even get into altercations with girls who try to start with me over my weight!

i guess i can say i'm used to the attention for the most part, but i'd still like gain maybe 10-15 pounds. i never really talk about it though, because people assume you're just trying to show off or something. they don't realize that too skinny can be a problem too!
sin_aesthetic 28th-Sep-2008 05:41 pm (UTC)
I've had trouble with this in the past. I personally, made a really big effort not to take "weight" so seriously. I realize that that may not work for a lot of people, so I think discussing it nicely with the person who made the comment is the best course of action.
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steppinrazor 28th-Sep-2008 06:41 pm (UTC)
I don't think you can say that people are okay with skinny guys. Ask any particularly skinny guy, or any particularly overweight guy, and I'd wager they've had the same bullshit thrown at them that women do, they just deal with it in "guy-ways". Hell, most guys I've known have taken more open, blatant ribbing about their weight or appearance than I or any girl I know has. If it gets under their skin, you'll very rarely know it, though.

Just like I, as a fat girl, can't discount any thin person's weight-related experiences, neither can I discount any guy's.
otherrootbeer 28th-Sep-2008 05:51 pm (UTC)
Maybe just say "Thank you" and move on? Don't let it get to you.

To me, (and probably a lot of others) a size 6-8 is skinny, thus why they comment on it. I'm a 16, I'd kill to have your waist size.

If it bothers you that they mention your weight, just ask them politely not to. "I don't really feel that's an appropriate topic." is one way of phrasing it.
otherrootbeer 28th-Sep-2008 06:01 pm (UTC)
Oh, and for my mom, who just lost like 80 pounds... (she's now a size 10), if someone calls her "skinny" she just beams.

It can go both ways. I think you have to listen to the tone of the person saying it to really determine if it's meant as a compliment or an insult... and a lot of the times, it's meant as a compliment...
urban_faerie_ 28th-Sep-2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
I can understand how you feel. I was a chubby kid and developed an eating dissorder as a teenager because I had no idea how to go on a healthy diet. At my low point I weighed 103 pounds which was way too small for my frame and I looked like a refugee. People who hadn't seen me in months would tell me how "great" I looked because I was so "thin" and it made me feel so conflicted and ashamed. Couldn't they see that I was ill? Why was looking sickly a compliment?

Now every time somebody tells me I'm thin I think they are trying to tell me I look anorexic. Plus, I think sometimes people just tell you you're thin to give you a cpmliment. They never tell you you look beautiful or healthy or althletic, just THIN like that's the be all end all!

Now I'm an adult with a healthy relationship with food. I'm very into organic eating, whole grains, protein, etc. I eat a lot of veggies, granola, tofu, sushi, beans and generally fun adventurous stuff. I'm not one to pass up a beer or a tasty dessert either, but I avoid junk food and fast food as much as I can.

Occasionally I get snide comments such as, "Why do you eat all that bird food? You don't have to watch your weight, you're thin!" Or I've had friends say snide things like, "I would go out for a hot dog with you but I know it doesn't fit into your 'diet'." I never preach to people about what they eat so why do people feel free to comment that they think my sushi lunch is "disgusting" when I don't make fun of their roast beef sandwich and garbage bag sized serving of potato chips? That would be considered mean and snotty.

Never mind that I don't know what to say when people tell me I don't have to eat healthy because I'm already thin. Why can't people understand that I actually ENJOY eating healthy, and that natural food tastes really good to me? Also, I'd sound like a real bitch if I retorted to the "you're so thin" comment (I'm not, I'm 138 lbs/ size 6/8 which isn't overly thin to me!) with, "Well the reason why I am this size is because I eat healthy." I get the same comments from people when I talk about going to yoga and kickboxing regularly. I like the gym, just like I like healthy food. I feel good when I eat well and exercise. That's all there is to it.

thebootyfaerie 28th-Sep-2008 06:27 pm (UTC)
Good on you for eating healthy! I love eating healthy, I just don't usually have the time to make the healthy foods that I like.

I also hate the assumption that everyone who is a healthy weight is like that naturally. It's like... "well, maybe I'm a healthy weight because I eat healthy food and go to the gym."

As much as I'd love to say that sometimes, judging from the other comments here, the Dear Abby response of "I'd rather not discuss my weight" is probably the most diplomatic answer.
hurtmemore 28th-Sep-2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
They are not being rude. You are taking it in a way it is most likely not meant to be taken. That means there is a problem within yourself. YOU need to get to the point where you are comfortable enough with yourself that when someone mentions your body size in a way that is not negative you don't go into defensive attack mode. If you are a size 6-8 you are not too thin. But anyone is entitled to an opinion about anyone else. Its silly to think that its not going to happen and its silly to try to come up with something to say or do to get them to censor their feelings.

Just be comfortable in your own skin and what other people say won't change that.
atalanta0jess 28th-Sep-2008 06:01 pm (UTC)
I think that the OP already acknowledged that they aren't being rude, so I'm not sure why you feel the need to point that out to her. In a safe space like VP, its not really appropriate to tell someone that their concerns are "silly." If you think its silly, just don't reply! You don't have to come in here and demean her post. :(
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atalanta0jess 28th-Sep-2008 06:07 pm (UTC)
Weight is such a tricky issue. I've always, my whole life, been "skinny" and had people comment on it. In the last few years though, I've collected a bit more junk in the trunk. And just recently for the first time ever, someone commented that I looked like I had lost weight and they meant it in a positive or at least a non-worried way (as opposed to in the past when it was usually my momma saying "are you losing weight? Those jeans look awfully loose! Are you eating enough?")

I was really shocked at the little spasm of irritation I felt when that happened. Even though I have wanted to be a little bigger, and I'm happy to have a fuller shape, it still kind of hurt to think that maybe she thought my supposed weight loss was a good thing.

No advice for you really, heh. But I really think that people just shouldn't comment on each other's weight unless they know for sure that an effort has been made to lose or gain. Its just too messy.
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