The other day, my husband sent me an article from Elle magazine last spring about a girl who suddenly lost a large percentage of her body weight. It describes her journey as she adjusts to her new body and struggles with her own and other people’s reactions, which started with her euphoria over being considered conventionally beautiful and ended up with her feeling ugly and guilty over something that was completely out of her control. Turns out that she had a bacterial organism she’d picked up in Belize, but no one (including her doctor) knew that. Instead, everyone assumed she had an eating disorder.

As my husband knew it would, this article really resonated with me. I’ve discussed the subject of my weight loss here before, but she did so in a much more in-depth and sophisticated way. To quote:

People apparently feel it’s appropriate to comment on your weight if it falls toward the low end of the scale. It’s assumed that, as the saying goes, one can never be too thin; telling someone she’s too skinny is like telling her she’s too smart. But that’s not how it felt: It was like being constantly reminded of how sickly I looked. And of course, I hardly need to add that had I instead been gaining weight, not a soul would have dared ask about my dietary habits.

Amen, sister! Now that I have been thin for a couple of years, I get less comments as people get used to the way I look now. But I had to deal with the same questions and comments all over again at my high school reunion last month. One person that I knew all the way through junior high and high school actually drew me aside and asked with concern, “OK I’m worried about you. What did you do???” Um, it’s called exercise and diet, and combining the two to put my metabolism on overdrive. Nothing to see here, move along. I know they are well-meaning, but really — is it appropriate? I think not. And would you say that if I’d gained a lot of weight? I also think not.

I also liked the author’s perspective on men’s attitude towards her new body:

Many men, I quickly learned, really do like frighteningly lean women, whatever they may claim to the contrary. As an average, medium-size young woman, I was unremarkable, innocuous. As a skinny slip of a thing, I was something of a sensation.

It is so true. I got a lot of looks when I was a curvaceous size 14, but now that I’m a 4, it’s a whole different ballgame. Disgustingly so. Once again I was newly reminded of this change at my reunion. Boys who wouldn’t give me the time of day in high school were now ogling me from across the room. One guy, who I was actually friends with in high school, came up to me at the end of the night and said, “So you’re the hot girl standing over here! We’ve all been wondering who you were.” Hey, at least he was honest — I had to give him that much at least.

I can’t imagine how much worse this would all be if I hadn’t had any choice over why I look the way I do. I worked hard to lose the weight that I have, and continue to work hard to keep it off. But the thought of having that kind of weight loss happen completely outside of my control — and then having people judge me for it — is frightening. I’m just glad this woman was brave enough to write about her story, and to share her observations about society and its crazy standards of beauty in such a humorous and human way.

Advertisements