“You’re looking really fat these days, you should eat less.” That’s a pretty nasty thing to say to a woman isn’t it? It’s likely the conversation would end in tears, or a slap, or both. But “You’re looking really thin these days, you should eat more” is ok isn’t it? It must be, because two people said this to me last week without batting an eyelid.
Well I have news for you, it’s not. It’s still body shaming and one of you had me in tears. Just as it’s not right to publicly draw attention to someone’s size if they’re overweight, it’s not right to do it if they’re underweight. Which, by the way, I am not. The NHS Healthy Weight Calculator says I am exactly that – a healthy weight.
At the time of ‘insult one’ I felt like ripping my t-shirt off and saying, “Hey, I might be thin, but look how frickin’ strong I am, I’ve got more muscles than your average seafood platter.” Although it seems that would have been a crime as well. For 24 hours after I was lambasted for being too thin, I was on the receiving end of a WhatsApp expressing displeasure at my body changes from crossfit: “Don’t like it. That’s too muscly. Not very feminine.”
All three judgements came from women.
Ladies. Please. Can we stop bullying other women for their appearance?! Come on we’re on the same side, the same team. Can we be nice to each other? Encourage and support each other? Is that really too much to ask?
Yes I am disciplined. I train at least five times a week. I have recently abstained from alcohol, sugar and processed food. I gave up gluten 20-plus years ago when I was diagnosed with coeliac disease. I now choose to lift weights instead of pints. So what? Don’t judge me or criticise me for it. Don’t make me feel ashamed. Don’t make me stand in front of the mirror and feel anxious at the flat-chested hipbone-protruding reflection. Don’t make me cry.
Instead of demeaning me for being lean and having biceps (things that you would happily praise a man for), congratulate me for my dedication, my willpower, for having goals and being up for a challenge. Instead of saying I am too ‘masculine’ to be ‘feminine’, remember how pretty I look in a dress and how much I sob at Love Actually (and every other romcom invented ever). Or just keep your thoughts to yourself. Just like your Mum said – “If you can’t say anything nice then it is better to say nothing at all.”
Let’s focus on health and not body shape. I am thin but I eat well. I am thin but I am agile and strong. And I hope to be like this for a long time. These women are my idols – world’s oldest female bodybuilder 79-year-old Ernestine Shepherd and 77-year-old crossfitter Constance Tillet – these are the ladies who will get back up off the floor if they have a fall. No zimmer frames for them.
You don’t have to choose between ‘feminine’ and ‘strong’ – you can be both.
Whether you are fat, thin, or somewhere in the middle. You are a real woman.
Your worth is not connected to your external appearance.
Your body shape does not affect how kind, generous, compassionate, loyal, intelligent or funny you are. It’s just a shell that transports some really epic organs around – or as anonymous once said, “You’re a ghost driving a meat coated skeleton made from stardust.”
You will never look like the girl in the magazine. The girl in the magazine doesn’t even look like the girl in the magazine.
BUT (and there is a but, there always is) if you are reading this and you think your weight could lead to health issues such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure at one extreme, or fragile bones, anaemia and a weakened immune system at the other, it could be an idea to take some positive action. Have a go at the aforementioned NHS Healthy Weight Calculator and see what it says.