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Ask Jono: Being "Unusually" Thin

Ask Jono: Being "Unusually" Thin

After a period of thinking thin was best, the world has finally agreed that it is okay to have a big body shape. And I agree, healthy is good, and people come in all shapes and sizes. However, now skinny girls are on the platforms of shame.

I weigh about 92 lbs. Yes, physically I seem thin. And apparently being myself is not good. People think I'm not eating well, or I'm under a lot of stress, or that I'm anorexic. What they don't know is that both of my parents are also thinner people, and my mom also claims to have been 90 lbs in her 20s. It probably is just hereditary. To everyone who is concerned: I am eating fine. I eat until I'm full, and then I stop. Just like everyone else.

My friend the other day asked me if she could buy me chips. I said no. She says, “Oh but you could use the extra fat!” I was so stunned. But that's not the first time it's happened. Many relatives and friends have been joking about the same subject for years. That I have no meat on my bones. That I look like a stick. The worst reaction are when I reply to the dreaded question: “What pant size do you wear?” When I tell them size 14 in kids, they laugh.

At school one day a girl was talking about a certain TV show, blaming it for having two main characters who are “like toothpicks.” I just stared at her, wondering what she thought about me. Why was it bad that the two young girls on the show were not medium sized? I thought we agreed as a society that ALL shapes and sizes can be beautiful. Why are we just on one side of the spectrum? If it's not okay to call someone fat, then I believe calling someone skinny should be banned too. It is still making fun of someone for a body trait that he/she has no control over.

The good thing I can say about your situation, Sparkler, is that I'm pretty sure most of these people are not actually trying to sound insulting. In a country that's over one-third obese, and two-thirds overweight, I think your friends and relatives are surprised by you, concerned about you, and maybe slightly jealous of you, rather than trying to make fun of you. I have a thin friend who apparently wore her dad's shirts to school, concealing her thinness, and when she finally stopped doing that, people thought she had lost one million pounds and was clearly near death. Her solution was pretty much not to care, and it's been years since she took this as an insult, but I realize that you feel hurt by this and that's kind of an insufficient answer, so I'm going to give you some other things to say (and not say) to these people.

"I'm healthy, and I'm happy with how I look."
Rating: YES
I think (or hope) that people who comment on your weight or throw food at you are doing it either out or concern or confusion—what's normal for them is heavier than what's normal for you, so they figure you must be subsisting on a diet of celery and shame. If they are just concerned/confused, then a response like this is the best way to get them to leave you alone. On top of that, some people will tell you that the simple act of saying a positive thing about yourself ("I am healthy, I am happy") will in fact make you happier, because of brain chemicals or whatever. I personally think this sounds like rainbow unicorn magic, but the person I linked to has a doctorate, and all I have is a really big sandwich, so you should probably believe her over me.

"I can't hear you because your mouth is too fat, Jabba the Hutt!"
Rating: NOES
Some people will suggest responding to an insult with a snappy comeback, but I wouldn't recommend it, especially because I don't think any malice is intended here. When you tell people your pants size and they laugh, I think that laugh actually means, "Oh dear, I am a barge compared to you," not "Ha ha, your thinness is stupid." And even if I'm wrong about that, I still think that returning insults just keeps the insult cycle going, or at least creates friction where there doesn't have to be any.

"Thanks!"
Rating: ALSO YES
I think this is the best response to any generic "You're soooo thin!" comment.

The Roman statesman Cato once got punched by some jerk in the public baths who thought he was someone else. After the guy realized he'd punched an extremely important political figure, he came over to apologize, and Cato essentially said, "Huh? I don't even remember you." The implication was that this guy was just some irrelevant scrub, and Cato was Cato, so why should he even remember the actions of some guy who apparently spent his free time punching dudes in the baths? Obviously I'm not suggesting that you treat your friends like they're irrelevant, but the point is that you'll completely take the bite out of an insult by treating it like it isn't even an insult at all. Take generic comments on your weight as compliments, and suddenly nobody's being snarky; they're all just surprised you can maintain such a trim figure.

There's a lot of other advice out there for dealing with people who are critical of your appearance (ignore them, mentally unfriend them and move on), but I don't think those suggestions apply here, because I don't think these people mean to be critical. "You have the kind of body that fashion models have" is a different sentiment from "Hey ugly! You are ugly." I'm absolutely not discounting the fact that you feel hurt by these comments, and I hope I'm not coming off that way; I just want you to look at this situation in the most positive way possible.

That being said, showing people that you're comfortable with your appearance will only be effective if you are comfortable with your appearance. Body image is a much tougher thing for girls than it is for guys, and I am not even remotely qualified to talk about it, because my only advice is constantly telling people to lift weights, even if they're merely asking me for directions or something. The point is, you have to be confident about how you look, and not compare yourself negatively with how other people look; only after that can you convince these people that you're quite all right and do not require a hamburger rescue. Reassure them that you're healthy and that you like who you are, and eventually this stuff isn't going to bother you anymore.

Topics: Life
Tags: body image, advice, eating, weight, self-esteem, ask jono

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