What reaction do you have to the phrase "skinny people like you" - do you immediately start listing why you aren't skinny?

Skinny People Like You

March 10, 2014 by Michelle

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.”

What reaction do you have to the phrase "skinny people like you" - do you immediately start listing why you aren't skinny?

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.

Whether we're skinny or not, we focus on our flaws

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.

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  • Brandie

    So. Lady. You are gorgeous =) I thought that the first time I met you and think so today.
    We are all have our flaws and the parts we don’t like, but we have to embrace ourselves how we are!
    Though I get it. Quite a few of my doctors refer to me as tiny and small. I’ve never thought of myself as tiny and small. Mostly stout and stocky. The first time a doctor said that to me I laughed! Now I’m like, “Can you say that again because it never gets old to hear!” LOL!

  • Sandra

    YES, you are! Every time I’ve seen you lately I do a double take. Then after we part I’m like, she’s lost more weight and I should have said something! You look really good, Michelle, and I’m not just saying that. I need to learn from YOU and give more time and thought to exercising (for health). There, see? You’re an inspiration and you probably didn’t even think it!

  • Angel The Alien

    Your mom sounds a little like mine! My mom didn’t actually say I was fat when I was little, mostly because at the time I was a pretty scrawny little mutt. But now she says it all the time! I am a few pounds overweight, but I swear my mom sees me as a giant blob. 🙁

  • Mimi

    Wow, I could’ve written this verbatim! I was heavier though. Let’s say “chubby”. I’ve been “skinny” for about 7 years. It came from walking around my work. I wasn’t in shape. I just wasn’t chubby. My mom commented quite often through high school about how “we” should go to a gym, but never did. We never ate healthy growing up. My self image has been shot my entire life. Now working from home, I’ve gained 10 lbs and am growing out of my jeans. It’s been a real struggle for me. I’ve had moments of feeling skinny over the past few years, but with the weight I’ve gained, it’s brought me back to my high school views of myself. I’m so glad you were able to type that you’re skinny. So hard to see ourselves as others do! I truly hope you just feel good in your own skin!

  • Lisa - Hannemaniacs

    I’ve never been skinny skinny, but there was a period in my life when I had a lot more time to exercise and I was in fantastic shape… I remember I received comments like that and it seemed so foreign to me. I would always tell people that I ran 20+ miles a week and worked really hard. Hopefully I can get back there soon – not for the comments, but how good I felt.

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