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  • Tanya Mackenzie

Thin Does Not Mean Healthy

Trigger Warnings!: Food, Diet, Weight, Eating Disorders, Body Image

I may be 'thin' but I'm not healthy.

I would first off like to premise this post by saying, no, I don’t think I’m a skinny princess or something. When I say ‘thin’, I just mean that I am deemed to be of a societally 'acceptable' weight (more on why that's bullshirt later) and that my BMI is slap bang in the middle of ‘healthy’ (more on why that's bullshirt later). That’s it.

As will soon become abundantly clear, I don’t even think that this is necessarily a good thing. It really just depends on the person.

I was first prompted to write this upon seeing an analysis of comments various Mukbangers get on their videos, where socially acceptable skinny people are told they are so cool and an inspiration while they eat dozens of doughnuts, and overweight people eating less are told to stop eating and that they’re disgusting. The hypocrisy is clear and, like most things these days, it made me really angry.

The second prompt was the fact that some people I know, friends and acquaintances, tell me often that I look ‘good’ or ‘slim’ in a certain outfit or pose etc, often followed by a phrase such as “I’m so jealous” or “I wish that I could wear something like that.” I don't personally see why people of a certain shape should be 'allowed' to wear certain things and other people of a different shape are not 'allowed' to. It seems rather arbitarary. Again, it sounds as though I’m writing this to tell everyone I’m a freaking skinny princess and how great that is; I’m not, and it is not my intention.

I find this really sad each time one of my lovely and beautiful friends says this because I don’t like to think that a photo or video of mine is making anyone feel bad about themselves, simply because I am, in the modern youth lingo ‘feeling myself’.

The first thing I’d like to say is that, yes, I am relatively thin but I am very far from healthy. I am really not the kind of person who others should desire to be like at all, because I, quite frankly, have a terrible diet and lifestyle. I am very much not a well person. I spend most of my days feeling like I’m moving through treacle, I find it hard to get up in the morning, I am ready for bed by about 7pm, when I'm doing work that moves back to 2pm. I have a terrible relationship with food due to past eating disorders, and also low energy issues possibly linked to CFS/ME. I find it very difficult to eat a lot of the time, especially certain textures and flavours, and even if I am incredibly hungry I could also feel physically repulsed by the thought of putting food into my mouth.

So I very much hope that that is not what anyone actually wants for themselves and their body. That is not to say that all ‘skinny’ people have a terrible diet and lifestyle and are slim just by chance/lack of nutrition/illness. I’m sure there are many people out there who try their very best to keep fit and healthy and look subjectively fantastic. But being slim is not what should be admired here, in either case. They ought to be admired for their healthy lifestyle which makes them feel great, and I…ought not to be admired I guess. Perhaps just for my massive fluffy petticoats and skirts. They are pretty awsome.

The second thing I’d like to say is that our cultural perception of what body looks ‘good’ or ‘bad’, subjectively speaking, varies so much even from decade to decade, never mind century to century, and the rest of human history. Not to mention different cultural perceptions of beauty, where in some countries bigger is better, whereas in others super skinny and ‘fragile’ is the ideal. Frankly, if taken to extremes, neither side is particularly healthy. If you are somewhere in between, give yourself a pat on the back, you're doing fine.

People judging themselves so harshly simply because the era and culture within which we find ourselves right now tells us that we are not the supposed ideal, is quite heartbreaking to see. What is more heartbreaking is the lengths people will go to (fad diets, starvation, bulimia, surgery etc) in order to fit in to an invented impression of beauty.

Unfortunately for me there is no era or culture, as far as I’m aware, that appreciates and idolises acne, funnily enough. Perhaps my time will come but I doubt it.

I find it surprising in this day and age that we as a society still haven’t caught on to the fact that we are all built differently and that all people, in their different shapes and sizes, are beautiful in various individual ways. Perhaps for some reason it’s ingrained into our human psyche that we are always striving for some sort of unattainable ideal, even if it varies decade to decade. But also, perhaps, we can break this cycle and just be happy for once.

Just so we are all aware, if we all ate and did exactly the same things as each other, we would still all be completely different sizes and shapes, not to mention abilities. Wouldn’t it be super boring if we all looked the same anyway? Personally I find it almost impossible to remember people (including actors) who look ‘normal’, utterly average, which is the majority of Hollywood unfortunately for me. Show me a distinctive face or body and I’ll remember you for a long time.

My hope for the future is simply that people will stop being so damn mean, to others and actually to themselves as well. It’s all based on unrealistic and genuinely arbitrary expectations. If someone doesn’t appreciate you for who you are, and judges you only on these ever-changing societal standards of beauty, then they’re not really worth your time.

Speaking of societal standards, did you know that BMI was invented in the 19th century by a mathematician to measure general population health and weight, not for individual use? Not to mention that it was also based solely on the bodies of white Scottish men, which fairly clearly do not reflect globally. It then only came back into use when insurance companies needed a reason to charge certain people more than others. So can the medical/fitness professionals please stop spouting harmful and outdated nonsense that has been proven to be such time and time again?

I should add now that while BMI and such are bullshirt, I’m not advocating that people just stop caring about their health, fairly obviously. That is frankly a completely separate subject from weight. As I’ve said, you can be unhealthy and thin (case in point: me), or healthy and a larger size. They are two separate things entirely and are not to be conflated.

One reason why they are mixed up so much nowadays, while in the past they were not viewed in the same way, is honestly the utterly toxic…diet industry. Diet plans didn’t used to exist, and I would hypothesise are one of the reasons why so many people feel so shite about themselves today for carrying a few more KG than their friends, or plenty more than the model we are told uses this particular diet (they don’t).

“Each year the US population spends more money on diets than the amount needed to feed all the hungry people in the rest of the world.” – Yuval Noah Harari

When I read this I just had to take note because it really summed up how ridiculous the diet industry has become. It’s an industry that would become completely obsolete if we 1. Taught appropriate nutrition and exercise in schools and beyond, 2. Eliminated poverty and dealt with our mental health crisis which can force people into an unhealthy lifestyle, and 3. Stopped judging and shaming people who aren’t the perfect slim epitome of current cultural standards.

When people have a better relationship with their body as it is, it makes it a lot easier to live well and make good choices based on self-love and care rather than because of a photoshopped bikini model we want to look like (it's not going to happen). Not to mention, eating disorder rates, which far outweigh weight-related health issues, would decrease.

I’m not saying it’s easy to love yourself and ignore the things that uneducated people say. Hell it’s not easy even as a relatively slim person, never mind someone who is generally harshly judged by society at large. I remember several years back I was briefly seeing an American guy, who, upon seeing my naked body commented that I had a great shape, and if I just lost a bit of weight I’d be a ‘10’. And at the time I thought, ‘oh I’d better lose some weight and then he’ll think I’m beautiful.’ But I was both an alcoholic and severely depressed at the time, leading to poor self-esteem. Now I’m recovered I know that my reaction would be more along the lines of, “if I’m not your type then feck off and date someone else. I’m perfectly fine the way I am and there are lots of people who do find me very attractive, so goodbye.”

I believe this to be an appropriate response. It’s really no-one else’s business to tell YOU what you should look like. The purpose of our existence isn’t to make other people want to sleep with us, we are people within our own rights, and are so much more than just a shape. Not to mention that everyone has a different type, if sexual attraction is indeed your primary concern. Everyone is different in both appearance and preference. These are the things that make life exciting. Again, if everyone was the same and everyone liked the same people, life would be so boring.

With this post I wanted to take away those rose-tinted glasses I keep seeing around and show people that being thin is not the be all and end all our society has made us believe it is, and that whatever size or shape you are you are valid.



Sources:

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106268439&t=1616074433092

https://elemental.medium.com/the-bizarre-and-racist-history-of-the-bmi-7d8dc2aa33bb

Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari

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