Skinny shaming is rife and real, and it’s time we talked openly about it.
Just a few months ago, I was in the supermarket with my partner Sam doing our weekly food shop, and I went over to the pharmacy counter to ask if they had some eye drops in stock.
The first thing the lady said to me at the desk was, “You’re very thin, aren’t you? What do you eat?” all with a beaming, entitled smile on her face. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I had never met this woman in my life, yet she thought it was acceptable and appropriate to make this comment to a customer.
Often, I find I’m far too polite when on the receiving end of rude or hurtful comments like this; which I think is down to me being in a state of shock at first where I don’t quite comprehend the gravity of what has just been said or done to me.
So, I smiled and laughed sweetly at her and said, “No, I eat lots of things.”
Why is it that people think it’s perfectly acceptable to question and berate women who fall on the thin spectrum; when they wouldn’t dream of making similar comments to a woman who falls into the larger spectrum?
It seems as though skinny shaming is acceptable, because being thin is widely desirable; while fat shaming is frowned upon because apparently those women already have to deal with the fact that they don’t have the figure society thinks they wish they had.
I am naturally slender and bony in certain places, which I didn’t choose, but over time I’ve learned to love this beautiful body that I was birthed in.
At 5”9, I’m taller than most women, which helps immensely in creating a slender silhouette, and also gives me the freedom to eat more than many can get away with.
I’ll be open about the fact that I feel an immense amount of pressure to look healthy (whatever that means) because I know there are girls and women who now look up to me.
It terrifies me to think that they might see a photo of me, and then compare their own body to mine, and start obsessively counting the calories they consume, develop an unhealthy fitness regime, or just feel unhappy and uncomfortable in their own skin.
Here’s the reality of my daily diet: I eat whatever my body wants, whenever it feels like it.
I don’t label foods as good or bad, and I strive for balance. Plenty of fruit and vegetables, but absolutely no scrimping on bread, cheese or chocolate.
I also have a consistently larger appetite than my younger brother, who happens to be built like an NBA athlete (he’s 6″8), and can always be found helping myself to seconds at dinner.
What more can a woman do?
My metabolism is speedy.
I don’t often feel like I’m over-eating, and I never under-eat.
This is me.
I remember receiving some edited photos back after a retreat I hosted in Sri Lanka.
That day, I had chosen to wear a gorgeous, tropical printed green maxi dress, which had a deep plunge at the neckline. The younger me would never have bought such a dress, because the breast bone in the centre of my chest protrudes a little. Not a lot, but enough that I notice it, a few girls commented on it while getting changed for sports at school, and I can’t wear balcony bras without being in huge discomfort (no loss there though – I much prefer going braless).
It’s something I was born with and it isn’t dangerous to my health; so I chose not to have surgery to correct it, and just leave it alone and try my best to love it, which hasn’t always been easy.
I was looking through these beautiful photos with Sam, re-living the incredible week I’d had living with and leading an incredible group of women back to their inner power, and I said to him, “I feel like my body looks really unhealthy in some of these photos… my chest looks bony… I’m worried women will see some of these photos on social media and think I’m sick. I’m not gonna use the ones where my chest is really visible.”
In that moment, I was frustrated with myself for making the outfit choice I made. I loved that dress, but I’ve lived in this body all my life, and I knew the chances of there being photos like this were high.
Why did I do that?
Being the incredible sacred partner he is, Sam responded by saying, “If you decide not to use those photos for that reason, then you wouldn’t be embracing the very thing you teach other women to embrace. This is how your body naturally looks, and you and I both know you’re healthy, so don’t worry about it. You look amazing.”
He’s brilliant like that, and of course, he was absolutely right.
This is my body. If I don’t fully love and embrace mine, how can I expect and teach anybody else to love their own?
I’ll be the first one to say that I am still doing my own inner work when it comes to everything I teach. I don’t believe our work is ever complete; it’s a lifelong journey of exploration and growth.
I remember writing about and sharing my experiences of skinny shaming last year on Instagram.
I spoke about how damaging it was to be consistently told things like, “you need to eat more,” and “you’re too thin,” by total strangers and family alike. I said it was equally as damaging as being told the opposite, but that didn’t sit well with certain people.
Some women felt the need to explain to me why fat shaming is so much worse than the skinny shaming I’ve experienced as a slender woman, and that the term “body positive” only has room for plus size women.
The warrior within me felt the need to fight my corner, and argue my point back.
But less than a year on, I changed my mind.
Here’s what I realised:
We shouldn’t be arguing over which one is worse. Skinny shaming or fat shaming – it’s all shame. Enough with comparing traumas, and ranking them in order of who has been through the most pain. We should know better than to tell someone that their pain doesn’t count, or is somehow less than. Recognising that we have all been through our own share of traumas as women, and using our energy to come together and help each other heal from that pain.
This is my body. I didn’t ask for it; this is simply the one I was given; the one my soul was destined to be birthed in, and I have learned to love her over the years.
You might trick yourself into believing that was easy looking the way I do, but I can tell you it wasn’t. Far from it. But I made it all the way to here, despite the numerous curve balls thrown my way.
No one will ever make me edit, hate, or apologise for my body ever again. Not in this lifetime.
What I’ve realised is it doesn’t matter whether we’re skinny, plus size, black, white, tall, petite, pear shaped, hour-glass shaped, with large boobs or small ones. We are critiqued and criticised as women for our physical appearance, period. It may be somewhat easier for some of us, because the body we were gifted is more socially acceptable, but still we have all been at war with ourselves to a certain extent, and are wearing our own scars today.
I wake up each day doing the sacred work that I do because it hurts my heart thinking of any girl or woman living with those same feelings of not-enoughness; and I’m painfully aware that most of us do.
If you haven’t experienced skinny shaming, then you’ve probably experienced fat shaming. Because we cannot win as women in our current society. They will tell you you’re too much, or not enough.
The pressure you feel as a woman to look a particular way is real; don’t think for a second that it’s self-inflicted. This pressure exists because there are people at work doing everything in their power to ensure it does; and right now, they’re succeeding.
We live in a culture that feeds us insecurity, then profits from our self-hatred; and the only way they can continue this vicious cycle is if we are kept down and away from our power.
We see this every day in the hundreds of ads for weight loss pills, cosmetic surgery, and skin bleaching creams (to name just a few); and the billions of dollars spent by women on all of the above.
But when you understand how and where this pressure is created, and you’re able to step back and witness the damage it’s doing to you and your fellow women, you can start to heal, return to love, and finally set yourself free.