On being “skinny”

Late last week I had a doctor’s appointment where I was told I have a condition that causes my body to hold onto the sugar I ingest instead of metabolizing it (this is in very simplistic terms, I’m sure). In short, it’s easier for me to gain weight and harder for me to lose weight than most people.

This past weekend, I attended a party where a wore a form-fitting dress and received some compliments on how thin I looked. While at first I was flattered by the attention, I quickly started worrying about not getting these compliments and attention if I gained weight, since I learned that it’ll be easy for me to do.

Right now, I have the privilege of time. I have time to going running nearly everyday, I have the time to cook and prepare healthy meals for myself, I have the time to bike places instead of driving or take public transit. When the day comes that I don’t have the time to do all of these things (and I’m sure that day will come) and don’t get complimented on my appearance, will my self esteem suffer as a result?

The sad answer is yes, probably. Because of the emphasis we put on women being thin and in shape and the way I could feel my pride swelling under the compliments I was given. Being told that one looks “skinny” is looked at as something to be proud of.

Never mind any non-physical accomplishments in my life (my impending move to the UK, the books I’ve finished recently) most people wanted to talk about how I looked. From a young age we put a lot of our attention on looks and it undermines everything else that goes into a person and makes that the only (or at least, the main) attribute of their worthiness.

As a personal goal, I’m going to try to focus my compliments on a person’s personality (even something simple like “You have a great sense of style” rather than “You look great in that shirt”) to show that there’s so much more beyond the physical.

In a wonderful coincidence, a friend of mine also posted this link on facebook about talking to little girls. It’s a great start to shifting our culture away from our appearance-based obsession at a young age.