Weighing In.

Growing up, I was always the smallest of all my friends. I was very short and skinny all through elementary and junior high and by the time I started high school, I was only  5’1″ and weighed 85 pounds. All of my (female) friends had their growth spurts in 7th and 8th grade, so they towered over me, and looked more like actual girls than just a stick figure running around the schoolyard.

There were some advantages to being so small and skinny. I was very athletic, so my small stature made it easy to learn flips in gymnastics classes, plus I spent several summers teaching myself crazy tricks off the diving board. It’s easy to whip yourself around when there isn’t much to you.

By the time I was 15, most of the girls I had usually hung out with showed more interest in getting attention from boys than anything else. Since it was the 80′s, these girls cared more about finding the shortest mini skirts to show skin than anything else. I ended up making friends with more guys than girls because I could play sports and goof off with them, and none of them would talk to me about makeup or clothes or gossip about their friends the way girls did.

The boys treated me like one of them most of the time, but occasionally, they’d tease me about being little and light because all the other girls my age were significantly less stick like. I begged my mom to take me to the doctor to get my thyroid and other hormone levels checked because I wasn’t growing much in ANY capacity. The doctor assured her everything was fine and that I was just a “late bloomer” like all of the other women in my family.

By my junior year of high school, I had reached 5’4″ and 92 pounds.  Still small, but showing signs of growth. Kids at school would tell me to eat something because I was so skinny, even though ate ALL the time. I couldn’t help that I was the way I was, and it made me feel bad about myself.  People didn’t like the way I looked, and were trying to tell me how to change it, and it sucked.

I was 5’6″ and 105 pounds when I graduated from high school. Over the next couple of years, I got up to just 5’8″ and 120 pounds, eventually losing most of my stick figure status. My entire adulthood (other than when I was pregnant) I have weighed between 123 and 126 pounds. That’s just the way I am, and that’s ok.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is people still telling me I’m “too skinny and need to eat something.” All I hear when a person says that is “I don’t like the way you look. Please change that” but I can’t. Well, I guess technically I could if I ate a lot of foods that were really bad for me ALL the time but I was raised to eat healthy and when I eat like crap, I feel like crap. I have the occasional indulgences, but I don’t go overboard because I don’t like the way it makes me feel.

I’m not sure if people who say that think it’s a compliment or what, but I hear that comment every single time a full length photo of me is put online. EVERY. TIME. If I respond by saying I do eat, the response is always “Well, not enough!” or “must be a nice problem to have” or the best one, that it’s a “white people problem.”

When someone is thin, people seem to feel they should voice their opinion on how much they should eat. When someone is heavier, the voiced opinion is to eat less. For some of us, it’s just the way we’re made. Just like how tall or short we are. We can’t help it.

I guess in one sense, being treated this way my whole life has made me the kind of person who gets to know someone for who they are on the inside and not what they look like.  My closest friends vary drastically on size and appearance because it’s the person I care about, not how they look. Who cares what someone looks like, we all get old and wrinkly in the end. The awesome person on the inside is all that matters.

 

52 thoughts on “Weighing In.

  1. My boyfriend has a 14-year-old daughter who is beginning to make comments like that and I am VERY quick to call her on it. Nobody likes to be told how they should look, so why do it to somebody else? Thank you for posting this!

  2. A healthy self image and a healthy sense of self esteem is the most important thing young people need to build a good life with. Nice work Anne

  3. Than for posting this. I’ve had the opposite problem then you with people telling me I need to eat less or not at all. I find these people don’t seem to get they are being hurtful. I also like to get to know people for who they are.

  4. I’m exactly the same size with the same late-bloomer boys-for-friends story and nobody has ever said anything like that to me. Is it cultural? When I was in middle school and played French horn people would say “that thing is bigger than you!” but aside from that idiotic remark I don’t remember any comments about my size here in the South. I’m sorry that they made you feel bad. It seems pretty rude to me!

  5. Anne,

    I would guess that people who tell you to eat more do so out of their own frustration that their weight is higher than they want it to be and jealous of how good you look and how thin you are.

    Many people (myself included) have the sort of metabolism that, as Kevin Smith says, “My body knows what to do with sugar. It turns it into fat!”, and it’s a rapid downhill slide as they pass 30 and 40 years old. I’d love to be the weight I was in high school, but the only way to do that would be to seriously starve myself and be miserable all the time, or work out hard for 2 hours a day, and frankly, I don’t want to schedule my life to the degree that requires.

    So people who say things like that are probably trying to pay a compliment, but doing so partially based on their own frustration that they’re not that way, and so it ends up being a back-handed compliment. And aside from your build–it’s frankly difficult to not be jealous of you because you are really quite beautiful, either in makeup or not. You have a lovely face, you have clear skin that’s ageing very well.

    So some people are jealous of your build, and of your appearance, and so out of the perspective of having not-very-nice skin and having had to change out their wardrobe multiple times in their life because their old clothes didn’t fit any more, they’re a bit (probably even unintentionally) snarky as a result.

    Craig

    1. I had several very tall female friends when I was a kid and they always walked hunched, as if to make themselves shorter so they wouldn’t get made fun of. It’s amazing how comments that probably don’t seem like a big deal to the person saying them can affect the people they are being said to.

  6. …Except “old” and “ugly” don’t belong in the same sentence, either. Ageism needs to die, die, die.

    Frankly, I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to use the word “ugly” regarding someone’s appearance. It’s only appropriate regarding their behavior.

  7. I really do think some people used to say this and mean it as a compliment in an odd way…and some folks preen when they hear it (before I am called out..that ain’t me!). I think it was excellent of you to write this up and remind us that door swings both ways.

  8. Thank you for this, and keep being your own awesome self. This is what I tell myself all the time along with “you’re beautiful. Everybody knows it.” Whenever I start hearing negative body image language inside my own head. It’s hard not to listen to what this person or that person says all the time, especially family, but stressing and negativity just make us unwell.

  9. I hope that the next time you hear somebody say that fat people have only themselves to blame (and genetics/biology/metabolism is a minor factor, at best) you’ll step forward and say “Bullshit! I’m the flip side that proves the rule.”

    I’ve always been skinny myself, no matter what I eat, so I’ve also got an appreciation for how much genetics and metabolism can affect your physique/figure.

  10. Funny isn’t. Currently I am 5′ 8″. I was tall early, and have the stretch marks to prove it. Healthy weight for someone our height is between 140-152. I’ve memorized these number! And happy to announce, I’ve reached them! I stopped playing with the boys and now work with them. Legs and ass of steal doing men’s work. I remember being 30 lbs underweight. No doctors panicked. No fault of my own. It was a crazy amount of effort to get myself to a nice respectable 130. The last 10 lbs I think is children and age. I’m great at this weight. The numbers shock people. They can’t believe I weigh in at 140. They figure I should be much less then that. I get told to eat more (not needed)
    We live in a world where people starve themselves to be under weight. Because we have been told that is what is sexy (yet 50 years ago, we would be striving to get weight on those hips and find some curves). People are so busy trying to trim the fat, that they forget that for some people, it’s a challenge to keep any weight on. And they get envous of an effort we don’t have to make. I know, for me, it made me feel guilty. Had what they wanted with no effort. And I didn’t want it.
    Everyone has a natural figure. Mine is tall, slim and curvy. Yours, is tall and thin. As is my husband. Some people are more naturally plump. We need to stop making each other feel so badly for something that just is. Get comfortable being in our own skin.

  11. It is so nice to hear from the other side! Weight is weight,size is size. I am 5’11″ and just under 200lbs. Ian overweight, but I have had two children, my youngest being 9 months and I am still working off the baby weight, a long process for me. Always has been, always will be. I have always been “big” but I eat healthy and I exercise… That is all u can do short of being unhealthy and starving myself.

    So thank you, there needsto be more awareness out there and less focus on what girls (and boys) look like.

  12. I was always a skinny, skinny kid. I was out-muscled by every guy around me. I wondered how biceps happened. Even though I put on 15 lbs/year every year of high school, I felt like the skinny weakling right up through graduation. I am a much different body type now, but no matter how many bicep muscles I get (you can get what, like eight of them, right?) I will always feel like the skinny little kid who lost all his fights.

    1. My youngest son inherited my skinny and my grandpa’s tall. He was 6’2″ and 135 pounds his senior year of high school. The comments on his height and his weight were never-ending. I think that’s why he works so hard to keep muscle on himself now. :-)

  13. I’ve really enjoyed your blog entries Anne. They always make me stop and think and often laugh out loud. This one reminded me of how I still have to check myself and try not to judge or be jealous. It is better for everyone to allow others to be who they are – and accept myself for who I am.

  14. My Dear, You are neither small nor large, you are Anne Wheaton. And you are exactly the size you are supposed to be! Small and Large are sizes of beverages(except at a movie theater where the sizes are Large, Colossal, and Tanker Truck!)

  15. Being disabled with muscular dystrophy, I get guys asking me why I don’t work out to “get better”. They compare me to someone with a completely different disability, such as paralysis, spina bifida, or CP, who is also in a wheelchair. Like the comments made to you, they just want me to be something I’m not or they don’t like me as who I really am.

    We are who we are and if others don’t like it, they can shove it!

    1. I would think that if just working out would be the solution to an illness, everyone would try it. Unbelievable what people say, thinking they’re helping.

  16. I really really hate that other people insist on telling me or anyone how they “should” look. I am the same height and weight since high school. 10+ years, my body has stayed the same despite having a baby. CLEARLY this is how I *should* be.

    Don’t tell me to eat/not eat. Don’t tell me to smile. Don’t tell me to stand up straight. Control your own body and let other people control theirs.

    1. That is awesome. My friend and I talk about how much we love the Fuck Off Fairy now and how we wish she had been around years earlier! She is a welcome visitor in the world of standing up for yourself, that’s for sure.

  17. Oh, Anne, what a great blog piece! I have been on both sides of the weight thing. Up through 6th grade I was the skinny one – short, needed to eat more, etc. Then just before 7th grade my body blossomed and now I was the fat one – still short but needing to stop eating so much! I never could seem to get it right. I am who I am, short, stout, and happy. I actually eat less than most folks I know. When will people accept us for the person we are, and not the body type? Thank you for sharing with us, and for being such a sweet, intelligent person.

  18. Mrs. Wheaton, You are awesome the way you are. I am gay. I know awesome. My people kind of wrote the book on it. Growing up, I was always skinny, sickly, puny, and a little bit of a sissy… and that’s not good when you are growing up in rural Alabama. One thing my mom always told me, though “Pretty is as pretty does, but beauty is only skin deep.” It’s only now that I am in my 40′s that I can truly appreciate that.

  19. I think I love you even more after this. I have dealt with the eat less you will lose weight. I do not tolerate those who food police or size discriminate on either side of the spectrum.

  20. Great blog post! Thank you for sharing this. I think many people say things without any thought beforehand. I’ve had many comments about when I’m going to lose ‘the baby weight’ and I think that will happen when I have spare time. For now I just tell people body by triplets and move on.

  21. I knew this plight. By my freshman year of high school I was 5′-0″ and 95 lbs, junior year 5′-8″ and 105 lbs (<5% body fat) as a male. I was 'too small' for just about anything (in the early 90s). By the time I graduated 5'10", 130 lbs I was still 'too small' and hearing it from everyone but my doctors. It becomes a complex. Any gain becomes a positive gain. By my 2nd year of college, no longer having some sport to play everyday, 7 days a week I was a (still healthy) 150 but no longer <5% fat… and it went on and on until I found myself in my mid 20s at 30% body fat and 200 lbs.

    The negative comments of 'your too skinny' or 'too small' doesn't always lead to bad indulgences or hyper bulking up but, in my case, it lead to an unrealistic acceptance that any gain is good. By 28 I had myself back into a healthy model of daily exercise and still healthy eating and have maintained a sub 15% body fat level ever since.

    Who you are is healthy, not who society wants you to be.

  22. I attended an adult high school recently, and one of my friends has the same problem as you.
    She told me how uncomfortable she felt when people told her she was too skinny. People always told me i was too tall…to me the phrase ‘gee your tall’, is the same. I didn’t go around saying ‘gee your short’.
    When a person says you’re skinny, its just as hurtful as telling someone that they’re fat.
    As you say Anne, a person should not be judged for what they look like, but who they are.

  23. oh my goodness…I say this same thing all the time—why is it ok to tell someone when they don’t weigh a lot but you can’t tell a heavy person nothing!! It’s the same damn insult either way. It’s gotten to the point now that I just say this whenever someone comments about my size—I ask them if I were fat, would they have said anything? I’m 5 feet tall, 40-something, and still weigh the same that I did in high school, which is 100. And, like you, I’ve accepted people for who they are my entire life—-long history how that came to be but I think you already know…..

  24. I was small and scrawny until I was 8. Then I had my tonsils out and I put on the weight since I wasn’t sick all the time. I’ve dealt with being heavy since then. In my family, mom was the only one with ideal body weight. My dad and siblings all were heavy. And as mom has aged,SHE is the one who developed diabetes. She gradually lost weight from 125 to 110, despite supplements. She had a fall a little over a year ago and had lost weight even more rapidly, dropping to 68 pounds. She is bone and tendon with no muscle or fat left.

  25. I have this theory: that people put other people down to make themselves feel better. Their comments about your weight (or the lack thereof) probably have more to do with them than with you (although I realize it probably doesn’t feel that way).

  26. As a 6’1” woman I have to say that walking hunched sometimes is the only way to even understand what people are saying if they talk quietly. They are used to talking to people of their own height. Also, everything has always been too low or too short for us, tables and chairs at school, office furniture, beds, blankets, even lounge chairs. It really doesn’t promote good posture.

  27. Oh Anne, how I wish you would’ve written this blog post without posting your weight. I am trying to gather my thoughts to be clear as to why. I have Eating Disorders. Because of the abuse I suffered as a child I developed PTSD and anxiety which triggered the Eating Disorders when I was an adult. I have worked incredibly hard at my recovery but I am what is known as a “lifer”. I will always struggle and I will always have to fight. Thanks to treatment I have the weapons to put my beast back in it’s cage time and time again. I struggle often with the stigma, shame and misconceptions people have about EDs. I combat this by being open and honest about who I am. Thanks to celebrities like Wil and The Bloggess speaking bravely about their mental illnesses it makes it easier for me to also be brave. There is a flip side to this celebrity as example coin though. Every magazine posts the weight and height of female celebrities. Regardless of the “angle” there is still always a reference to how much she weighs. It becomes an obsession, we compare. We make excuses for our low weight by using the celebrity as an example of health. Knowing the stats of a woman you admire becomes a chant/voice/mantra that you can’t turnoff/make go away/ignore. I don’t tell you this, Anne, to make you feel bad. My illness is not your responsibility. You don’t think of yourself as a celebrity but you are a public figure and the things you say make an impact. I’m sure writing this post was cathartic for you just as writing this reply helps me to silence the voice that now tells me “Anne is taller than you and weighs less than you”. Maybe you don’t. I have been stepping on scales backwards for years. That’s my disease though, I just assume that you do. February is National Eating Disorders Awareness Month so wanting to speak up weighs heavily on me. Thank you for listening. Thank you for hopefully not taking this as a criticism but rather as a further discussion on body image and mental health. Thank you for being an advocate of positivity and health.

    1. I am so sorry to hear you’ve had such a struggle with eating disorders. I won’t even try to comment on that because I’ve never dealt with it, but I’m sure it’s beyond difficult. I rarely step on a scale because I don’t care about the number. I care more about feeling healthy. There is a flip side to saying how much I weigh. I’m grateful that no one said it here, but usually when someone asks and I tell them, the response is “Really? I would have guessed 110.” So even at the number I am, it either comes across as too much or not enough. My intention of posting that was not to be compared to. I hope you understand that. :-)

      1. Thank you for your understanding and kind words. I completely understand that you were not sharing to incite comparison. I was just hoping to continue the discussion and share another example of the hideousness of body shaming, whether it is done by others to us or that we do to ourselves. I am by no means perfect. In my zeal to disappear I body shamed others as a tool to feel better. I constantly remind myself now to be careful when complimenting or commenting on a woman on her appearance. To say things like “That dress really flatters you” instead of “That dress makes you look skinnier”. It is exhausting sometimes walking my walk. We do the best we can and I appreciate your openness and for the chance for all of us to share here.

        1. Having always been on the heavier but mostly healthy side, I have had my own world of struggles. However, one of those things that makes me feel better and balances out my weight consciousness is one of those lovely body shape charts that shows five (or more) women of various heights and shapes, but all of the same weight. To me, this is an amazing reminder that weight is just a number, and health is key. Baybridget, the life of struggles you’ve faced make it amazing for you to be where you are. Life and image may always seem a struggle for you, but know that there is at least one more person cheering in your corner.

  28. I suffered the same skinny problem. In fact, I still do. I often get , “Wow, it must be really nice to be able to stay skinny with no effort.” Or just some off the cuff remark about how I’m so skinny and need to go eat a burger.

    Thing is, I have an autoimmune intestinal disease that makes it hard to gain weight. It also has made it so eating is not something I do except because I have to. These people who say these things to me don’t know what I’ve suffered through for over 20 years because of this disease, or the things I have to do to stay healthy.

    Most of the time I don’t think people say things about my being skinny out of spite or meanness. They just don’t realize how it comes across.

  29. I think you are beautiful and you are exactly perfect to be you. Anyone who says different is just ignorant and should be pitied.

  30. One of my dearest friends in the whole world has never weighed more than 100 lbs. I’ve seen her put food away like nobody’s business, but she’s just naturally thin. And like you’ve talked about, both acquaintances and complete strangers think it’s perfectly okay to say things like, “You’re too skinny, you need to put on weight!” or “You need to eat more!” or “Do you have an eating disorder?” I suppose the same people who think nothing of saying to someone else, “You’re too fat, you need to go on a diet!” or “You need to exercise more!” It’s so weird that people are comfortable telling another person, “I don’t like the way you look, you should change it.” Ugh!

  31. This reminds me of something that I struggle with…teasing.

    I have friends who endlessly tease each other. Whether it is weight, clothes, looks, anything goes. Meanwhile, I am not a big fan of being teased, so I don’t tease back. If the only way that you can be funny is by saying things that may be hurtful, I would rather not be funny. So, I keep my mouth shut.

    I would never tease someone for being too fat or too thin. I have no idea how they feel about it. I might compliment someone that they look great, but otherwise, I wouldn’t comment on appearance at all. It can be a touchy subject.

    Anyway, that has become my m.o. amongst my friends. I am the quiet, serious dude…meanwhile, I don’t think of myself that way AT ALL. I laugh easily when watching movies, reading books, anything really.

    It just needs to actually be funny.

  32. THANK YOU!!

    I too am a late bloomer. Late to get my teeth, late to lose my baby teeth. It took me until senior year of high school to get as tall as all of my friends. If I was 100lbs dripping wet when I graduated high school I’d be surprised. And I could always eat anything I wanted.

    Now in my mid-thirties I’m about 125-130lbs and very happy with that.

    My son is also short and a late bloomer (same late in getting his baby teeth). My mom keeps going on about gluten and maybe there’s something wrong, and I have to remind her that I was always one of the smallest and slowest growing and his father isn’t a big person either. Ugh!

  33. Anne, I just wanted to let you know that I read your blog fairly regularly now, and have become a big fan of your writings/musings. This last blog, though, made me more than a little sad. I like to give folks the benefit of the doubt, as I am a big believer that most people are generally “good people” who could be “awesome people” if they really put their minds to the task.

    Reading about the grief you get, however, reminds me that the world still has its fair share of grossly insensitive jerks. It’s particularly distressing when I read about it happening to people I admire for being genuinely warm, caring, and all around “good people”. I mean, this very forum is full of people who read your blog, because you put into words what is going on inside your mind. We all like you for what you write. Your words speak to us, and we relate, commiserate, and appreciate who you are on the inside.

  34. Thank you for posting this. I spend my life training for my sport yet some people have the gall to tell me how “lucky” I am, how I must not eat, It must be nice to have good genetics ( I REALLY don’t) even though most of my day is spent training. Some even say cruel things like I have too many muscles for a female, that I’m mannish, make jokes about my gender or call me a “skinny bitch”. I’m no body builder and am lean. I don’t think I look manish or badly but the fact that people think it’s okay to speak to anyone about their appearance like that is amazing to me.

  35. Thanks for sharing your perspective – I have the opposite problem right now (the scale is tipping the other direction), but this is a good reminder that people judge you no matter what you look like (“haters gonna hate,” as my [uber-white, zero-street-cred] sister would say) and it can be hurtful, damaging, and/or frustrating regardless of whether you’re tall and thin or short and stout. Kudos to you for not turning around and judging others as shallowly.

  36. “..it’s a white people problem” – Hilarious! I’m African American and have always been small and skinny. I resent the implication that skinny = beautiful/desirable because in my youth, my peers did not treat me as either beautiful or desirable.

    I used to get, ‘how do you stay so thin’? to which I replied, “I have a fast metabolism,” quickly followed by “but it’s slowing as I get older.” I’m close to a mid-life milestone, yet still embarrassed to be my size.

    Thank you for giving me reason to pause, reflect, and remember – I have nothing to be embarrassed about. My weight is what it is.

  37. Thank you for this. I thought I was the only one who felt like crap whenever anyone commented on my body in middle/high school. Also, that I’m not the only adult woman who deals with this either. I get comments almost daily about my “slimness” at work. It does suck, so thanks for reminding me to just be me.

  38. Microaggression;

    “..brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microaggression

    Just a term that I was exposed to while doing some work, but it really makes you think about interactions between folks involving perceptions and identities.

    Even on subjects such as physical ability or body size, which have a tendency to get hammered into us by the peer environment while growing up.

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