Why I Won’t Call You Skinny

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I remember the first time I heard the words that will stay with me forever. I remember the smile on the woman’s face as she looked at me with envy and I remember the pride that exuded from me that day thinking I had just won a gold metal. What were those words? No they weren’t you are amazing. No they weren’t you are so smart or kind. They weren’t even you are beautiful. Those words which held me in a death trap for over a decade were, “You are so skinny!”

I was ten years old and standing in the school hallway before class. A former teacher looked at me and gushed as she told me how skinny I was, how much weight I had lost, and how incredible I looked. I learned on that day; skinny was to be praised, skinny was noteworthy, skinny made people stop and notice, skinny was what I should strive to be. My heart breaks and I literally feel sick as I think of that young, innocent girl holding her princess backpack as her grasp of beauty begins to slip through her fingers.

I think if only the teacher had known I lost weight because of mental issues that were weighing me down, if she had only known each day at lunch I traded my home packed lunch for half of a subway sandwich (that a girl who’s mom was on the subway diet gave her each day). And if only she knew once I was given that six-inch sandwich I never managed to eat half of it. If only she knew, ironically the same year, I learned about how important skinny was I also learned what eating disorders were. However, I never even dreamed I could have one, because I wasn’t an emaciated Ballerina and I didn’t throw up my food, so how could I have a problem. That same year I would stand outside my Reading Class with a headache so terrible I could barely focus because I had eaten nearly nothing that day. However, the only thought which crossed my mind was “If this is what it takes to be skinny, it is worth it”.

For over a decade I would believe the lie, “skinny was the best thing possible”. Skinny fueled my Ed. I would try to brush off every compliment related to my size. I would deny it when someone said I was smaller than them. Shrug my shoulders when size “x” didn’t fit me. I would laugh when someone asked me for my diet and exercise tips. Inside, I would be thrilled. I was ecstatic of the praise and attention. Proud that my size had earned me this “privilege”.

Secretly though, I was dying physically, mentally and emotionally. I thought in order to be loved, in order to be valued, in order to be praise worthy I needed to stay this skinny. It was a losing game because no matter what the number on the scale said, no matter how small the size got, no matter how many people complimented, it wasn’t enough. And even more, the skinnier I got the more I lost MK. I had no idea what true beauty was and that it had nothing to do with the size you were.

Looking back I don’t blame the woman who stopped me in the hallway, she didn’t cause my eating disorder. My Ed was about so much more than that. That woman merely played the part that society has taught us to play. We are taught from an extremely young age that beauty and (even more) size are important. We are taught that it defines our worth and who we are.

What if I told you it didn’t though? What if I told you striving for skinny and even more perfection won’t get you anywhere but heartache. If you know me today you know no matter how much weight you may have lost or gained, I will never comment on your size. I will never tell you how skinny you are. I will never say you look like you’ve put on weight. Because I don’t believe commenting on people’s sizes is appropriate in any way, shape, or form. Because I don’t believe your view of beautiful should be determined by a comment, or a magazine, or by comparison.

When we take time out to comment on something we are stating what we feel is important to say. Worth is put in our words. I never want someone to think they are valued for their size. Because size doesn’t define worth. Size doesn’t define beauty.

May you know you are beautiful for millions of things but your size should never dictate your beauty. And may we work together to stop using words like skinny or fat or commenting on size in general.

And may you always remember how loved and worth it you are,

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53 thoughts on “Why I Won’t Call You Skinny

  1. It’s amazing and scary the impact a few words can have on us. I am having my daughters read this post. Growing up I struggled with the notion that my weight was an indicator of my worth. Heck, if I’m being honest it still has an impact on me. The way my jeans fit on any given day has the ability to make me happy or bring me down. It’s something I am working on and would love to see this thought process erased completely. It takes time and baby steps. I’m getting there though.

    • Amen sister. Isn’t it crazy how words truly do impact us. My prayer is that girls would learn young that numbers and sizes don’t define them, it truly is never too early to teach that. Prayers that you continue to find peace and know how beautiful you. You have no idea how blessed I feel to get to know you Anne! xoxo MK

  2. This is beautiful. So well written. For me, it was an opposite thing. I hated being called skinny. I have been underweight my entire life and struggled to keep my weight up. Some may call it a “blessing”, but I despised it from a different angle. I try to never comment on anyone’s weight. I try hard to compliment on things that will only bring them up, especially their inner beauty. I would love to share this post!
    ~Liz
    http://www.simpycomplexmom.com

    • Thanks so much for reading Liz! It truly does work both ways and it is so important that we know that it is not our size that defines our beauty. Thank you for your sweet words. Would be honored to have you share!! Have loved reading your blog! xoxo MK

    • Liz,
      Thank you. This is definitely a first for me. I have, for my entire adult life, wished someone else understood how difficult it is to be underweight. I am healthy and eat heartily. I”m SICK of the obsession with weight both in the media and life. My own parents don’t get it. OMG I’m too emotional to type, but will try to reconnect with you later.
      And I appreciate MK and you, Liz.
      Thanks for posting,
      Denise

      • Denise,
        You are more than welcome! Believe me, I understand. My parents had a hard time with me gaining weight when I was born and ever since. I have been underweight even through now. I eat lots of small meals and very healthy, and I have a really hard time putting on/keeping on weight. My metabolism has been very high since I was young…and I have been very involved in athletics too. And I feel like people look at me and want to strangle me, but for me, it is an opposite feeling. I try and try.
        My parents know. My mom always buys me little snacks and things, but I have three little ones and work, and I really don’t sit down very often, until later in the evening.
        Even through my first pregnancy, I gained very little weight…like 20lbs, and the doctors were really worried about our daughter’s size. I had an extremely hard time with this, feeling like I was doing something wrong, but I wasn’t :/ She was fine…6.5lbs, but she too was very similar to me with keep on the weight. It is nice to have connected with someone else who has this problem, because I hate it when people look at me and think I am too skinny or this and that, and really, they just haven’t taken the time to get to know.
        Thank you for connecting too!! I’d love to stay connected. My blog is http://www.simplycomplexmom.com. On my previous site: http://www.simplycomplexmom.blogspot.com, I had a post marked “In God’s Image”, and I mentioned this struggle. This might be a good post to go back and share again, and I plan to share Martha’s on FB tonight. Thank you both, sweet friends!!!
        xoxo,
        Liz

  3. Oh Martha Kate you are such a brave, beautiful warrior! You have been through so much and I wish I could wrap you in my arms for a big hug and then a long walk to share life together… but instead, I’ll say I love and appreciate that you are seeking hard after Him to be exactly who He made you to be! Much love to you sweet girl!!

  4. Thank you for sharing. Being someone who has also struggled with weight and eating issues, I understand that inner struggle that few people even realize is there. Thank your for so eloquently expressing what it’s like and why it’s not okay to base your evaluation of someone on his or her outward appearance.

  5. Thank you. I wish it was just to be skinny for me. It was the non-feeling of not eating, the way I could forget how life was. It was learning that I could prioritize and control what was in my life I was ready to seek recovery. It’s not easy but it gets better, and while we all slip, it’s that drive to get back up and keep going that we all need.

  6. Oh my goodness, this is perfect. ED recovery is so difficult and I know what it’s like to be in that position where people gush over how fantastic you are because you’re “skinny”. It’s seriously damaging and people don’t get that. I’m loving this post. 🙂 You go girl!

  7. Jeremiah 30:17
    For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord, because they have called you an outcast: ‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’

  8. So true! I read an article along these lines once that suggested that when we meet other young girls, we don’t comment on their looks at all but ask them questions about their interests, favorite book, grandparents, travel… whatever. Just something to help show you care about their minds and hearts more than their looks. I’m trying hard to change these habits with what I say to my own daughter too so she doesn’t grow up with the same self esteem issues I did!

  9. Absolutely! My daughter is in recovery from anorexia and I have noticed that when I haven’t met someone for a long time they think it’s a compliment to say, “You look great–have you lost weight?!” I respond, “Thanks for saying I look great! I don’t know or care if I’ve lost weight because it just doesn’t matter to me.” I say it with humor and it’s often a chance to discuss HAES and the dangers of our thin-focus culture.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story, so well written and so beautiful. I suffered an ED for many years in my twenties and I remember feeling just like you said, no matter how tiny I got it was never tiny enough and I loved the attention it got me. Thanks for reminding us all that it’s never appropriate to discuss someone’s body.

  11. From what I’ve noticed, Americans actually comment much LESS on size that people from other countries do, so that’s a step in a good direction!. Here in Asia, many, many people will straight out say “You’re so slim!” or “You’re so fat!” (also, “You don’t look good with short hair, you should have long hair.” and “Oh, I thought you were a boy!”–that’s what I got told when I had a pixie haircut!) It’s a very blunt, direct culture…and I can imagine it would be rough to deal with that if ones struggles with eating disorders and self-confidence issues. My parents strongly raised me not to care about what other people say, just to say “Thank you!” , and since I’ve spent a good chunk of my life here, I’m glad that I’m able to take such comment lightly, because I don’t think this excessively blunt culture will change anytime soon…

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  14. What an incredible post, Martha Kate! I’m so glad you introduced yourself so I could find this post, as well as you blog. It’s beautiful.

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  17. Martha Kate, thank you for sharing this. I am blown away by your wisdom and how you have been able to so deeply understand and speak about your struggle-a struggle that affects too many people. I still to this day, although I have progressed tremendously, struggle with not really feeling a sense of worthiness or security in who I am or what I have to offer at times, because much of my life my appearance was affirmed rather than my talents, character, etc… It’s a shame that our society is focused so much on appearance. Your words and your story are truly a blessing and will positively impact the lives of so many!

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