The Skinny on Being Thin in America

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According to the American Sports Data Inc website the number of obese Americans is now over 4 million and the average woman weighs an “unprecedented 163 pounds”.

Subtract anywhere from 40 to 35 pounds and you’ll find me… distinctly very un-average I suppose.

With the increasing desire to be thin in today’s society there is a pendulum swinging out there that makes life very confusing. Starlets are criticized for being too thin (seriously Angelina does need a biscuit or two, I’m worried about her) but that doesn’t stop them from landing major ad campaigns and contracts…I just poured over the May issue of Vogue last night and there were a few spreads that had me wondering how the model had the energy to even make it to the shoot. They must have wheeled some of them in on a Gatorade drip…

Then those that go from obese to thin are held up as heroes and everyone wants to know their secrets and those that say they embrace their fuller curves get photo shopped within an inch of their life so as not to mess with the aesthetic of the magazine cover that has a headline talking about their aforementioned curves. It’s like a bad conditioning experiment from one of those Stanley Milgram psychology films they showed you in college. As women we are criticized for being too thin and for being overweight, so what happens when you fall somewhere in between?

I know as I’ve been the diet dart board most of my whole life. Much to people’s chagrin I was born with a high metabolism and  a small frame. So I used to be one of those people who lost weight too easily if I didn’t eat correctly (at least 2000 calories a day) and I could usually eat anything I wanted whenever I wanted…which is why my cholesterol level is through the roof and also apparently why complete strangers felt that it was perfectly ok to stare, ask me if I ever ate or as one coworker told me years ago when I was shoving a Twix bar in my mouth “I hate you”.

It’s kinda not fair –most people don’t decide they hate me until AFTER they get to know me…

What has always bothered me during this time in my life, up to about 3 years ago, is that in our sometimes overtly politically correct society if I had weighed 200 lbs not many people would question me about my weight, at least not to my face. However, because I was really thin, strangers and even friends thought it was perfectly ok to ask me such inane questions as “so REALLY what do you do to stay thin?”  And I think we all know what the underlying meaning truly is in that question. I used to answer, well I have  a deep breath of air for breakfast, a Marlboro for lunch and another deep breath of air for dinner. Some would laugh at my obvious joke, others would say “really?”.

Really. I figured I would garner more derision and hate if I told them I ate about 6 times a day and still was a size 0 or 2 on my “fat” days.

Now I am fighting a different battle and it’s with myself. About 3 years ago I started gaining weight, not Kirstie Alley weight but 20 lbs which meant I have toppled the scale at 128- this is the biggest I have ever been in my life. It is also the healthiest weight I have ever been, and I have to admit I hate it.

For the first time ever I am adjusting to my new curves and as much as I hate to admit it, worrying that I have gotten “fat”. That’s code for I am still pissed that I can no longer fit into my size 2 pink sequin shorts that I modeled in a Samadahi Fashion Show 4 or so years ago.. or squeeze into jeans that used to fit perfectly. I’ve had to give away some of my designer threads that used to look amazing but now look like casing for a sausage.

Life is funny. When I was uber thin, I was trying to gain weight. Now that I am the normal weight for my height, I am stocking up on Spanx and feeling like those nutri system commercials may hold the secret. The sad part is I know deep down that I have apparently given into the hype around me and I don’t know when it happened.

Despite the fact that when I look in the mirror I see a woman with a not so flat stomach I know I am supposed to like the new me…after years of struggling to put on weight, asking nutritionists what was wrong with me, and looking at calories on the back of items to make sure they were as high as possible, I have finally reached what the experts consider an acceptable weight.

Unfortunately, I find in a weird twist of fate I am struggling with this. When I used to look like a mascara wand, I fielded questions and stares but I won’t lie, I could wear most anything, I never ran from a camera, heck the extra 10 pounds was a bonus, and never having to exercise was a REAL bonus (ok to be fair I don’t really exercise now either).

I finally get how we women can subscribe to body dysmorphia, I look in the mirror and I see this behemoth whale, ok maybe more of chubby sea otter…people will scoff when I claim I am now “fat”, and for every 4 fashion mags I pick up, I will pick up a fitness mag and lament the days of when my hip bones stuck out and I was self conscious…albeit conscious of a very different, skinnier self.

I used to have cheekbones you could cut paper on and now I look like I have just had dental surgery. It doesn’t help that the images that mass media pours out to me daily are no longer the aesthetic I used to have naturally. I feel like I am stuck in some kind of Who-vian time warp where everything is upside down and not as it should be. I don’t know whether to join a gym or shove a doughnut in my mouth.

I think my biggest wake up call was just a week ago when I was working with someone who was super thin and as much as I hate to admit it, I secretly wondered if she was healthy, did she eat..and I realized I was subscribing to the same kind of attention I so hated getting myself. I stopped immediately and realized we just have to find that place where we are happy with ourselves and try and not worry what anyone else thinks.

We are sometimes our own worst critic, judge and jury. I know – as I have been the prosecution and the defense of my own body and it’s a strange place to be.

However, it has taught me this- there is room in this world for the mascara wands and the curves ahead women and we have to view ourselves through better lenses than what mass media is giving us.

If that doesn’t work, buy spanx.

printed in: http://www.camelcitydispatch.com/the-skinny-on-being-thin-in-america/

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About kimthore

Freelance journalist, writer, arts and entertainment guru.. I'm a reviewer, music critic, publicist, columnist, writer, marketer and artist.... In a weird combination I am also a Process Improvement Expert with 15 years experience in Six Sigma, CPI, ISO, etc...so I can tell a corporation how to work more efficiently with Dio playing on my IPod
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