My first thought is to wonder who they are talking too when I hear “Oh you’re skinny now?” lauded in my general direction since they are making eye contact with me. As I register that this confused coworker/family member/classmate/friend is talking to me, my second response is bewilderment.
I’m not in denial. I have certainly lost weight and some inches. It’s the result of eating more veggies and less college menu take out. It is also putting forth some serious effort to work out a couple times per week. Not to underscore my progress, but it’s only the difference in one dress size. What a difference one size seems to make! Already, I feel better and of course, my clothes fit differently. It is a reminder that life is truly in the details. It doesn’t take a lot to make a substantive change. Every step forward is a giant leap of momentum in the right direction. But skinny? Like the girls used to say on the playground at recess,
The reality is that it’s simply not true. I am not skinny. And being skinny is not even a part of my vision for a healthy life. Like many of us, I need to lose weight so that as I age, I can maintain my health. I am healthy today but I want to be healthy for everyday that follows this one. Of course, I want my clothes to fit better, but I need to lose weight so that my bones do not decrease significantly in their function any time soon. I can buy another outfit to make anything fit, but I only get this one body. I have to carry my body around with me everywhere that I go. My goals include getting stronger, having more discipline to make healthier decisions every day, and live governed by the way I feel, not by my weight. Not one of my goals even remotely begins with the action item “get skinny.” I love my curves and want to enhance them, not hide them. I am all for healthy living, but it must be holistic if it is to matter at all. Being healthy must include a sense of purpose in my life, an agreement with myself that I am amazingly “all that” no matter what my dress size, and that I make healthy changes in my life for love, joy, and peace; not hate, fear, or anxiety. I want the energy to enjoy life and life more abundantly!
But it seems like others may only see the change in weight. I feel as though I have been put on notice that the public gaze is upon me, like I am now going to have before-and-after pictures worthy of a Jenny Craig commercial where I start singing Nina Simone next to Jennifer Hudson and Jessica Simpson! It almost seems premature using that term as a pat on the back, encouraging me to pursue being skinny. “You’re not skinny, but you could be. Keep up the good work!”
Other similar comments made with this frame of mind, I think are said as a compliment. Instead of a high-five, it comes off as more of a side-eye: “You are not nearly as fat as you were before!” Thanks, I think. Why is being skinny a compliment anyway? These comments come from women of all body types. Are we still that narrow minded as a collective in Black American society that skinny is the “it” even from women whose bodies don’t conform to that standard? I have even heard from close family and friends who maintained a low weight most of their lives that they do not prefer to be called skinny either. This makes me further confused as to why skinny is used so often as some sort of compliment.
If this has ever been your experience, did you get used to it? What did people say when you started making visibly healthy changes with your life and body? When someone gives you a “skinny compliment,” did you give them the side-eye or a high-five?