Thursday, February 7, 2013

Skinny fat

It’s been made quite clear to me that I’m not allowed to complain. I’m sure you’ll agree that I have no reason to feel the way I do, and I shouldn’t be writing this post. I don’t expect to receive any sympathy cards in the mail.

I know that I’m lucky when it comes to my weight. Neither the number on the scale nor the number on my pants have ever been a real problem for me. I’ve tried to lose a few pounds on occasion, but only because I wanted to and not because I really needed to.

For those reasons, I’m not allowed to feel the way I do about my body. I’m not allowed to see the fat rolls or the muffin top. Because no one else can see them under my clothes, I’m supposed to deny their existence as well. Friends will lament about their post-baby bellies or the tightness of their pants, and I will start to commiserate. The friend will then roll her eyes and say something like, “Oh, shut up. Like you have anything to worry about.” They mean it in the nicest way possible, of course. As nice as anyone can mean “shut up.”

That’s the awesome thing about clothes. They’re sort of magical. They hide my belly rolls and thigh dimples. I go to great lengths to camouflage my flaws, to create an illusion with my clothes and by constantly holding my stomach in. Sucking it in 24/7 has become second nature. If asked to “let it out,” I’m not sure I could physically do it. So I guess I can’t blame people for believing what they see. I suppose I should be happy that my ruse has worked so well all these years.  

But the truth is, I’ve never been comfortable in my body, not even in high school. I’ve always been thin, but a soft thin. “Skinny fat,” if you will. My belly has never been toned, my rear has always been squishy, my thick thighs have always jiggled, even in my youth. I wear a bikini on the beach, but my movements are always strategic. As long as I’m standing up or lying down, I can keep up the façade, and I can switch between the two positions in a blink of an eye. But as soon as I need to sit upright, I throw on a shirt or towel to cover my stomach. If I need to walk across the sand, I put on shorts or a long cover-up so no one sees how much my lower half jiggles as I move.

Today, with my post-baby body and its stretched out skin, I make even more of an effort to create this illusion. Because I’m small, I feel like people expect me to look a certain way under my clothes. So when they see me in a bathing suit, it’s sort of disappointing, like when a teenage boy discovers the girl he’s feeling up is wearing a padded bra.

I know I should be amazed by what my body can do now that I’ve given birth. I’ve read many posts by women who have come to love their bodies and its softness brought on by motherhood. They look at the miracles their bodies can produce, and they see nothing but beauty in the mirror. I know I should feel that way, too, but I don’t. Maybe someday I will, but this is not that post.

Pregnancy has stretched my body in ways I never thought possible, making our already strained relationship even more difficult. And I’m tired of feeling guilty for not being happy about that. It sucks, and I’m done pretending it doesn’t suck.  

So when other women vent about their bodies, I want so badly to exclaim, “Me too! I know how you feel! You’re not alone!” But I know I have to tread those waters carefully. By commiserating, I’m not in any way fishing for compliments. I just want the same validation and camaraderie everyone else is seeking.

Remember that the next time you complain about your body. There are plenty of women who are bigger than you are, women who would give anything to look the way you do, and they wish you would stop complaining. Does that make your feelings less valid? Of course not.

I know the moral of this story should be that we should all love the skin we’re in. But the reality is that we don’t, not all the time. So in those moments (or days or years) when we don’t love our bodies, we should be able to support each other, not further diminish each other by devaluing what another is feeling. Because whether we’re skinny, fat or skinny fat, we’ve all been there. 


  1. I have to thank you for writing this. I am one of those girls that has always been fighting with my weight, goes as far back as 4th grade. Since I had my son 2 1/2 years ago I am the biggest I have ever been in my entire life. I have been so beyond depressed about it since I gave birth and just want to cry every time I look in a mirror. I never had the energy to do something about it, a few weeks ago I got that energy. I now fight with my weight every day and think about it 24/7. It's so hard feeling like I am not as good as someone else I know or just a pretty woman next to me on the train. I have to admit that I have always been that girl saying to a thinner friend who wants to loose weight or get in shape "Oh please" but you are right. She feels the exact way that I do, she might be smaller than I am but when women look in the mirror we all see the same thing.... What we don't like... That's got to change somehow!!! Thank you, I will say those things to a friend again.

    1. Thank you, I will NEVER say those things to a friend again.

  2. Take it from the girl with "D's" since the age of 13, I feel your pain. The "Oh, I wish I had that problem" gets quite old.

  3. I totally get this! There is so much of my body I wish I could change. But the size on the label in my clothes isn't all that high. (higher than it was pre-kids, but still, it's not high) So if I mention anything, I hear that I shouldn't complain. But I would love to get in better shape than I am!

  4. Of course you have every right to complain and to tell those ppl to shut up. Like Beth I was "blessed" with huge jugs and got to sick and tired of hearing "You're so lucky....I would LOVE to have the problem!" You want the googling creepy guys, the back pain, shoulder straps digging into your skin etc. We should all support each other..wherever we are..and wherever we want to be.

  5. I hear you on this--I definitely feel like I'm not allowed to complain about my body shape because I am skinnier than average too. But yes, under the clothes is a different story--it's NOT pretty under there, haha.

    But coming from the other side, I know how painful it is to have someone complain and degrade themselves in front of you about something that is a tiny problem for them and a huge problem for you. TMI here: When I just started college, I had a really bad back acne problem, really bad. And my friends at the time would complain in front of me about the teeniest tiniest barely visible zit on their backs, and say how disgusting they felt, and it made me feel like total shit, because it wasn't hard to imagine what they thought of me. Moral of the story for me is, I just avoid those types of conversations entirely now--too hazardous for someone with my social skills ;-).

  6. I found it.
    I've been on both sides of this coin. I feel sad that so many women feel the need to make it seem like you can't complain along with them just because you wear a different size. We all have body image issues, some of them are just easier to hide under clothes.
    Rar. I'm feeling cranky and like picking fights which is why I posted that on FB today. I guess everyone thinks their problem is worse than someone else's.