One of the most ironic interactions I have on a weekly basis involves an overweight individual telling me that I’m too thin. I’m scorned for wearing a t-shirt that displays my bony arms, shorts that uncover my nubby knees, or a bathing suit that reveals my ribs. If I order a salad at a restaurant, the judgmental stares ensue. I’m called toothpick, string bean, and twiggy, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told, “Go eat a donut!”
I’ve been left in tears at church by “caring individuals” criticizing my weight in front of entire sections of parishioners, and on numerous occasions, my aunt has taken the opportunity to call me out on my thinness in front of the entire extended family. Meanwhile, her daughters are tipping the scales at over 300 pounds, and no one says a word as they go back for third helpings of Thanksgiving dinner.
I’ve grown increasingly frustrated by the fact that it’s okay to be overweight, but it’s not okay to be thin. It’s commonplace for doctors to casually tell patients that they’re currently in the morbidly obese category and should “try to cut back.” Meanwhile, I’m given a 20-minute lecture and a brochure for an eating disorder clinic because I’m 15 pounds underweight.
This may come as a shock to individuals who believe that I’m safe because our society glorifies thinness, but the reality is that I’m just as vulnerable to being publicly criticized for my physical appearance as my overweight counterparts are. With obesity rates constantly on the rise, being overweight is becoming increasingly common and, therefore, increasingly accepted. No one has ever walked up to my obese father and told him that he’s really “packed it on” or that he should think of ordering a grilled chicken salad instead of the chicken-fried steak. Likewise, no one has ever suggested that my 300-pound cousin not eat that third sleeve of Oreos or that pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
I believe our society has grown too comfortable with the concept that “Big is beautiful” and that “Size doesn’t matter.” And while I’m all for accepting people as they are, I have a huge problem with individuals who are one hamburger away from a heart attack choosing to criticize my thinness. Just as you’re likely concerned about me, I’m worried about you. However, I understand that making a public spectacle of your weight will only further erode your already damaged self-esteem; I just wish that you would grant me that same level of respect.
So, the next time you go to comment on someone’s thinness, please stop for a second and think about what I’ve said. If you wouldn’t tell your morbidly obese friend that she needs to lose some weight, please don’t tell me, a complete stranger, that I need to gain some. My feelings are just as fragile as those of a heavy individual, and just as they may have been struggling for years to lose weight, my battle in the opposite direction has likely been just as difficult.