A phrase Mister Man’s teacher used recently has stuck with me.
I had stopped into his classroom after school for something, and I had mentioned a goodie I was making at home. His teacher rubbed his belly and said that it sounded great, so of course I offered to bring some in to share with him. He shook his head. “No, I’m working on cutting down on sweets right now. I’m not lucky the way you are. Skinny people like you have no idea how easy you have it.”
At first I started to shrug off his comment. Skinny people like me? I’m not skinny. When I smile, I have a double chin. My cheeks stick out and not because I have gorgeous cheekbones. My face is round. I can’t wear a bikini. My thighs touch. I could never wear skintight clothing.
My mind immediately flew to all the reasons why I am not a skinny person. But it’s all about perspective. Mister Man’s teacher is a big man. I would never have looked at him and said “fat” but that’s how he was feeling, and he certainly weighs more than I do. For the most part, he fits his frame and his body type.
But to be honest with you, I weigh only about five pounds more than what I want to weigh. That size six clothing I bought? It still fits, and I’ve never in my life been a size six before now. I am strong and fit from the exercise classes I attend five days a week. In fact, my accupuncturist recently asked me what I’ve been doing because my shoulders have so much muscle. Even my arms have definition.
My perspective might be a little bit skewed.
My mom is a size 4. My sister is probably more of a size 2. Granted, they’re both inches shorter than I am, and their bone structure is completely different from mine. But I grew up the “big” child in my family. My mom sat me down when we were on vacation in Florida the summer after 5th grade and told me that I needed to start eating salad for dinner. The reasons why were pretty clearly laid out. I was too fat for her, and she needed her nine year old (I started school early) to lose weight.
That wasn’t the only time my mom gave me that message. Later that school year, my mom signed my sister and I up for a healthy eating class at our local hospital. The class was an eight week long set of meetings designed to teach kids about what healthy foods are and what junk food is. It focused on exercise because truly this was a weight loss class for overweight kids. After the second week, the director approached my mom and told her that my sister and I were making the other children in the class uncomfortable because they truly were overweight, and we were both a normal weight. My mom never saw that we stuck out in that class, and I’ll be honest that I didn’t either.
I’ve always had skinny friends – the truly skinny ones who have that great metabolism and bone structure where they wear a clothing size I don’t even dream of because I know it isn’t an option for me ever. That is my frame of reference, and coupling that with the body image I had ingrained in me – and I’m sure that was unintentional by my mom and that she had my best interests at heart – it’s no surprise that I immediately try to brush off anyone who tells me that I’m skinny.
I know I’m not the only one who had a body image problem. It’s part of the model of perfection that we feel we have to live up to. We have to be the prettiest, the smartest, the best athlete, the richest, the most involved at school, the best cook, the most fit, and more. While it’s good to always strive to be better, the problem comes where we don’t celebrate the success we’ve had. It keeps us from being happy, from accepting who we are and being happy with it, while recognizing that doesn’t mean we give up on making incremental improvements.
So you know what? I am skinny. And wow, is that hard even to type! I’m so grateful to Mister Man’s teacher for his innocent comment and forcing me to think about this and reevaluate it. In my head, I can say I’m skinny, but in my heart, I still have some work to do.