Browse Front PageShare Your Idea

Skinny shamed and over it.

0 Heart it! Hannah Zeno 9
September 17, 2018
Hannah Zeno
0 Heart it! 9

My plea is to get the word out about body shaming as a whole. I would like to go one day without someone asking me, “Do you eat? ‘Cause, man, you’re so skinny.” It’s not humorous. People obviously think that there is nothing wrong with their one-liners at my expense. I am not a punchline.

 

Thin people can be emotional eaters just like anyone. Personally, I cried into pint after pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and took salsa and chips to bed with me regularly to replace the thoughts of my husband’s affair ten years ago. And, of course, during the divorce there were days I couldn’t even tolerate eating at all.

 

I struggle with shame and guilt associated with being thin and I know I am not the only one. As midlife approaches, I’m determined to entertain far less self-judgment, and I’m on a mission to encourage others to do the same. My goal is to show my daughters and other women in my life that I will celebrate the body I own from now on. I will no longer hide it for fear of shame. When my kids tell me they were genetically slighted in the butt department, I remind them that it’s my butt too, and it’s great! We can thank Kim Kardashian for the recent infatuation with mega-butts. When I was a kid, our television “role models” were a bit different. What comes immediately to mind is the class at Belmont High from “Saved by the Bell” (that hair, though).

 

It all comes down to love. I won’t apologize for my thinness anymore. I will no longer sit clothed on the beach and watch other women enjoy their bodies. I want to enjoy mine, too! I declared no more shame last year after watching a woman on a local beach dance around celebrating her body in her two-piece. She appeared unconcerned with who was looking, and as I sat there I realized the only cage I was in was the one I had built myself.

 

At my core I know one thing for sure, everyone deserves to feel glorious regardless of their scars, stretch marks, or cellulite. I am now heavily invested in nutritionally and emotionally healing from my own journey of an invisible disease and the body shame that followed. I now have a new relationship with food that has been improving my health. I am extending that to help others keep it simple and stop obsessing about trying to lose (or gain) weight, instead learning how to love food and enjoy daily pleasurable moments of self-care and joy.

 

As a child my body would not have been considered chubby, but somehow on the journey of adolescence I managed to accrue quite a few cultural cues that led to body shaming. From a waitress commenting on my “rolls” to getting my youth-filled, cherub-like cheeks pinched. Cut to the awkwardness of junior high school and we have ourselves a veritable humiliation sandwich. I had the shortest of haircuts and tightly bound curly hair, crooked teeth, and I was not small chested to say the least. Peers had no problem telling me what they thought about my body parts, and I felt shame every single day.

 

After getting married and having children shortly after high school, I began to lose weight rapidly. Self-care was not in my wheelhouse of concern at that stage, as I ran around putting my children’s needs first above my own health. Since those early years, I have had to learn about every little thing that I ingest. I have had to work hard on my health because of Lyme disease. At times I have avoided gluten, dairy, grains, nuts, and eggs to avoid reactions.

 

I remember my first nights of waking up soaked at an age too early to coincide with menopause. Then came a midsummer flu for days, and then an inability to eat a regular sized meal without consequences, followed by constant body pain and many other symptoms. Doctors shrugged their shoulders and assumed I had terrible anxiety. I was eventually diagnosed. It’s been about ten years now, and from my own research, I’ve concluded that you do your best to quiet the symptoms and not live consciously in a state of fear on a daily basis. Those who take the CDC’s standard recommendation of a twenty-one day round of antibiotics for chronic symptoms typically find themselves in the same boat, relapsing years if not months down the road if their lifestyle has not changed. What’s been the most valuable for me has been a shift to self-care, sleep, supplements, movement, and hyper-nourishing my body with love and food.

 

Other women, regardless of size, tell me this is similar to what it feels like being on the diet trend rollercoaster. The mind gets fixed on “I can’t have this” and “I can’t have that.” This takes all the fun out of eating, which is supposed to be a daily pleasurable event. For a time, my Lyme disease made food completely unpleasurable; the thought of eating at a restaurant would give me anxiety because I couldn’t eat anything. I have taken a few different philosophies from nutritional healing books and put them together to focus on hyper-nourishing my body with the right kind of food, as well as taking the time to enjoy my food and even celebrate the daily ritual of eating.

 

In my career as an aesthetician, the heart of my work is to help others feel beautiful. That is also where my passion lies. I help women with skincare, makeup, hair removal and so much more. My favorite services include women over the age of 40 coming in with their dusty makeup bag and showing them new techniques to emphasize their features. The longer I have spent time one on one with women, the deeper the relationships and stories of wanting to feel beautiful have emerged from their hearts. From them I have discovered much of our beauty originates on the inside, where I’m now starting to place emphasis in my own life.

 

I have spent time spinning circles in the mall wondering if I should be buying clothes from Ann Taylor or Forever21. No more! I realize the women who set the greatest example are those who wear what feels physically comfortable and who meet objectification face to face. For a long time I have been quiet and covered in the face of daily sexual objectification from both genders. What is going on in the life of a thin person is comment after comment about our bodies. And not only when we are in our bathing suits, it’s at work, at the PTO meeting, at the gas pump and anywhere we take our bodies. We are seen as a sexual objects just because we are living and thin. And that is a problem. We are thin for myriad reasons, none of which are anyone’s beeswax. I now, very graciously, ask people to talk to ME and leave my body out of the conversation. I realize some people are trying to compliment my physique, but honestly, I am more than my body and sometimes that is all people choose to see and they can’t know the layers of shame and guilt associated with my body and, honestly, I don’t care to share my story with each and every individual who mentions I should eat more or asks me if I am seeing a nutritionist.

 

It’s time for some people to zip it I say! Simply put, when you come across someone who looks different than you, the age-old rule applies, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. Better yet, keep all comments about someone else’s body to yourself. I am more than my body; please comment on my work or something that emanated from my mind.

 

The pain and shame of being a woman of any size takes its toll. I imagine my self-esteem can run just as low when someone tells me I need to put on weight as when someone overweight is told to lose weight. Anytime our weight and appearance is called out it strikes at a core level. The journey to body positivity has been a long one. A lifetime of shaming can take its toll on any woman. I remember at a county fair one time as I held the hand of my child, someone said within earshot, “I don’t think she eats.” If he meant to say it quietly, he failed. And what message did this send to my daughter?

 

Another time as I reached into the frozen food cooler at the local grocery store, I spotted a former coworker who had her teenage daughter with her. I heard her gasp (thinking that maybe I couldn’t hear her), “She’s too skinny!” But I did hear her, and I felt shame.

 

I felt like my presence in these instances was offensive. Being skinny sometimes carries with it stereotypes of having an eating disorder or being a drug user. Little do people realize we are all individuals battling individual problems. I have been battling Lyme disease for almost a decade now, which has completely affected my digestion and eating.

 

I was apprehensive about writing this article because when you’re not overweight, you aren’t allowed to complain about anything regarding your body in our culture it seems. Not even in your very own circles. For example, I have found that pitching in a gripe about cellulite is frowned upon. “Who cares, you’re skinny,” they say. Saying you’re cold during the winter also gets a quick rebuttal: “Just put more meat on your bones, you’ll be fine,” I am told. And do you know that people literally watch me eat at social gatherings? All eyes on me. Why? My favorite is when a man told my husband to start feeding me and elbowed him in the arm with a chuckle. Clearly, I’m incapable of feeding myself. My eating habits should not be at the forefront of any event or discussion. Why am I on display like this and why do people feel it’s socially acceptable to scrutinize my body and my behaviors? A physical therapist told me years ago that I’m an ectomorph and I won’t ever have muscle. My goal is to debunk that myth but I certainly don’t want to be shamed into it.

 

My plea is to get the word out about body shaming as a whole. I would like to go one day without someone asking me, “Do you eat? ‘Cause, man, you’re so skinny.” It’s not humorous. People obviously think that there is nothing wrong with their one-liners at my expense. I am not a punchline. And this has nothing to do with me wanting to flaunt my thinness as some might people claim. I can hear it now, “poor little thin girl. Boo hoo!” I want to highlight here how others might be feeling about this phenomenon that swirls around everyone who is thin and to bring awareness to huge misconceptions and the blatant body shaming of some of us skinny people. Care to weigh in? Contact me at [email protected] or visit my website at www.HannahZeno.com.

Browse Front PageShare Your Idea
0 Heart it! Hannah Zeno 9
0 Heart it! 9

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.