The main gist of her article is that girls who are perceived as “thin” (in that they are not visibly overweight) are persecuted if they so much as suggest that they are unhappy with their own bodies — whether it be appearance-related or not. So having the simple goal of wanting to be more fit, or more athletic is somehow not valid, simply because one is not visibly overweight. I’m all for appreciating what Nature’s blessed you with, but single-digit dress size and good health are not the same thing, and that sort of dismissal has always frustrated me. It got to the point where I stopped telling anyone about any change I was trying to make because I grew tired of hearing my efforts laughed off as being unnecessary.
The issue is a sensitive one, no doubt because so much of one’s self-worth can be caught up in personal appearance. [Standard diatribe about the media and celebrities here.] I would like to put it out there, as someone on the receiving end of the “Shut up, you’re thin” treatment, that we’re not all just fishing for compliments on our virtuous lifestyles, or how lucky we are genetically. Some of us do have actual goals we’d like to achieve. The fact that we’ve maybe got less work ahead of us than a heavier person might to achieve the same goals isn’t our fault. It also doesn’t make our goals any less worthy of attainment. The kid from the crappy neighbourhood who makes it into the Ivy League law school gets more glory than the rich kid whose dad graduated there (and rightly so), but they both had to have the grades and pass the LSATs.
I’m no paragon of physical fitness. I am horrifyingly lazy when it comes to taking care of my cardiovascular health. I’m far more likely to try fighting osteoporosis from the couch with a tub of yoghourt than I am by taking up any form of strength-training. I also realize that this is bad, and have recently started doing something about it. What am I working towards? I don’t really have any numbers to aim for, but I do have ideas about what I’d like.
I’d like to be able to carry a 25-lb bag of flour in from the car and something else without my hands going numb from the effort, or having to stop halfway up the lawn to put down the flour. I’d like to not have to make 18 trips to and from the garage every time we go to Costco, because I just can’t carry enough stuff stacked up.
I’d like to be able to run for the bus for more than a 100-meter stretch, if necessary, and catch it. In an ideal world, I’d even be able to do it with a little grace. (Of course, if I really want this to become a reality, I’d probably have to start training myself with my laptop bag full of (heavy!) crap on my back.)
I’d like to know that in any sport I chose to participate in regularly (read: dragonboat), that I would contribute more than I did the previous year because my endurance is higher, I am more fit, because I am stronger.
I’d like to be able to support my entire weight again on any one hand or foot. (No particular reason, although it would make some balancing postures easier.)
I’d like to respectably participate in a half-marathon at some point in the next couple years. I’m not aiming to win, or even join an organized run, just to know that I can do it.
None of these are earth-shattering. I’m not out to win medals or wow anyone with my physical prowess. I want to know that I’m healthy and strong, and that I have the routines in place to stay that way for awhile. I think that’s a healthy attitude to have, and I’m losing the patience to answer politely the next time anyone suggests that I put a sock it in because I “look fine”.
I’m probably more vocal about it right now because I’m irritated that my wedding dress is now mysteriously (and unflatteringly) baggy, but I’m not always that superficial. I’ve been to the doctor because I lost 15 lbs in two weeks for no apparent reason. My jeans will cycle through “just right” to “huh? these are loose now?” and back again without any apparent change of diet or exercise on my part.
I know I’m lucky; I’m not trying to rub it in. That being said, luck alone isn’t going to keep my heart healthy and my arteries unclogged, nor will it prevent my bones from slowly decalcifying. It’s for those reasons that I do what I do, and if I’m talking to you about it, it’s probably because I’m finding it challenging, and value your experience or advice on the topic.
So if you know a “fat-skinny” out there who’s working on self-betterment, be nice, or at least be constructive. Making (hopefully healthier) changes in your lifestyle is hard enough, without adding in a mess of guilt or random cattiness.
And, if you can’t be nice, then heed mom’s adage and keep your trap shut.