Featured in Body Talk

My Experience with Skinny Shaming

Life as a Size 0

"tive uma ideia la dee dah." Bruna Schenkle. www.flickr.com. CC by 2.0.

I'm a size zero—the size often referenced as the pinnacle of beauty. The phrase "you don't have to be a size zero to be beautiful" is one common to the body positivity movement, and I wholeheartedly agree. What I'm here to tell you is that not only does beauty come in different sizes, but being a size zero does not inherently mean you're confident and love your body. For me, it's meant quite the opposite. 

I'm 5'9", weigh only 115 pounds, and used to weigh much less (before puberty). This is the natural state of my body. I'm technically considered underweight, and I've always taken that to heart. I considered myself "too skinny" for a long time. My body was the first thing people would notice about me, and they would tell me—that's the thing about being skinny, no one feels uncomfortable bringing it up. "You're so skinny!" would often be the first thing to come out of people's mouths, and even if they didn't mean it as an insult, I took it as one. My fifth grade teacher told me (at only eleven years old) to eat more pizza at our end-of-the-year party, to "put some meat on my bones."

I've seen women assumed to have an eating disorder, not because of their behavior, only because of their body type. To hear someone automatically thinks you're destroying your body because of the way it looks is detrimental to your body image, or at least it was to mine. Anorexia, bulimia, and body dysmorphia are serious issues and are 100 percent not healthy lifestyles. I completely understand that and would neither condone that nor make anyone feel like that’s a viable option. With that being said, I have never struggled with any of those issues. I have a naturally high metabolism and a healthy appetite. I eat when I’m hungry, which is often. Countless people, including my own mother, have thought that I had an eating disorder, although they had seen me eat (and not binge). People like her made me feel like my body wasn’t acceptable. They kept telling me that my body was weird or not right and to keep eating so that it wasn't like that anymore. For a long time, when I looked in the mirror all I saw were my exposed ribs, my extremely small wrists, and my thigh gap—things that I thought people saw when they said I was too skinny. I hated myself . I hated my ribs, my arms, my wrists, my neck, everything. I felt lanky and ugly. 

Luckily, being plus-sized has been more celebrated recently in the media than it has in the past (though we still have a ways to go), which is lovely because the celebration of the female body is beautiful and important. However, the celebration of being plus-sized can sometimes be confused with the crucifixion of being skinny. You may have heard the phrase, “men like meat, dogs like bones." This is such a disgusting phrase for two reasons. One, it insinuates that the value of your body depends on if a man finds it attractive, which is completely and utterly false. Second, it also insinuates that skinny, "bony" people’s bodies aren’t beautiful or of worth. This phrase cut deep when I was young and still believed my beauty lied in male attention. I thought no guy would find me attractive because I was so skinny and that that was the real gauge of my beauty and worth.

I’m happy to say that I have grown up. I don't get insecure when people shame me for my body, I get angry. Angry at the fact that this is what the world is like. That big girls are told they need to be skinnier and skinny girls are told they need to be bigger. No matter what kind of body you have, there is always going to be someone who will tell you, directly or indirectly, that that is not a body you should love. Yes, there are people who overeat or have eating disorders, but the way to solve this issue is not to shame women for their bodies, not to tell them that the way they were made is wrong or gross, but to tell them they’re beautiful and their bodies are worth being treated healthily.  

I know I am skinny. I know that many girls want my body type, but the point of my story is to tell these girls that no matter what shape you are, even the one you currently want to be so desperately, people are going to shit on it. Other people’s opinions don’t reflect your true beauty or worth in any way, shape, or form, because their opinions are always going to be negative, no matter what you look like. My body is beautiful, your body is beautiful, every body is beautiful. We need to stop telling young girls (and boys!) that their bodies need to be any different than what they are and start encouraging self love. 

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