Lightweight

IMG_3880Ah, weight. That thorny issue. I almost didn’t write for this week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt because despite my blog being about body positivity, I couldn’t really think of anything to say about my own weight that didn’t make me sound smug or like an annoying motivational speaker. But actually, I do have something to say about weight. Weight isn’t fat. Fat is fat. Weight is weight and whether you’re slight and androgynous or bountifully buxom you have a weight. And you know what? I kind of think those of us whose weight tips the upper end of the scales have a louder voice in the body positivity conversation and it’s not something I am that comfortable with.

I completely understand why this is and why our right to own and celebrate our beauty and sexiness, whatever our shape or weight, should not be taken away.  And I am in no way questioning the damaging impact promoted ‘ideals’ of beauty that are pedalled by the fashion and beauty industry have on our self-esteem. I just think that in celebrating our big beauty we should be careful not to silence the voices of lighter women who have as much right to form a healthy relationship with their body as we do.

Last summer I had a conversation about this blog with a friend of a friend who is tiny in height and weight. Tears prickled in my eyes when she recounted stories of being dubbed a ‘concentrate camp victim’ at school and how now, as a Mum at the school gates, she feels excluded and judged by women talking about post-baby bodies. Of course a slim woman has as much right to talk about changes in her body as a result of motherhood as one who is trying to shift a few pounds, but do we ever really think about that? Do we think to involve slimmer women in conversations about weight or consider how they may also need a morale boost? That chat was a wakeup call  for me about the dangers of believing that because someone is slim they must be happy with their body.

And when we assume the primary reason a woman is loved is because she is slim we reduce her relationship with her partner to being about her body. We ignore her intelligence, her kindness, her spirit, that she might inspire her partner to be a better person, that they make an awesome team that’s greater than the sum of their parts. I am pretty sure nobody has ever once looked at me and thought ‘I bet he loves hanging out with her because of that big squishy belly’ so why do people so often think a partnership where a woman is slim must be built on the foundation of her body? Of course our relationships need a big dose of mutual ‘wow, you’re hot, I want to fuck you’ but the fact that most of us find a whole range of physical types attractive means chemistry and good partnerships are quite clearly about so much more than the body.

IMG_0173Slimness, also, does not equal healthiness. I sometimes quip ‘I’m fat but fit’ in reference to my ability to happily and slowly plod around 26 miles despite my belly being a homage to the awesomeness of cheese and wine. Jokes aside, I am confident about my fitness levels; I have no question in my mind that I am significantly healthier than an old flatmate who is markedly slimmer than me, yet smokes, frequently goes without meals and barely exercises. A slim but sedentary body will never be as healthy as a big one that moves.

Related to this is the bullshit notion that women exercise primarily as a way to lose weight. I am not saying it isn’t a massive motivator for some. Of course it is and that’s fine. I am currently engaged in a ridiculous programme of high intensity interval training as a way to quickly shift the results of two months of post-marathon partying. I’m cool with this. It’s problem and solution exercising. The exercise that enriches me and makes me feel mentally lighter is the running, the long walks, the quiet weekday swims in an almost empty pool. That exercise is about the whole of me, not my waistline. A slim woman expressing disappointment at not having time for a run or a gym session will often hear ‘oh, don’t worry – you don’t need to exercise’. It is meant to be encouraging but it means her exercise becomes about her weight and not about the headspace it gives her or the endorphin rush she gets or how it improves her energy or reduces stress.

I don’t think anyone who is likely to be reading this blog has ever intentionally made a slim person feel bad. It’s not how this lovely community plays! But I bet many of us have unintentionally said or thought something that assumes a slim person automatically feels good about themselves just because they are slim. One of the things I think is most telling is the relative lack of posts and photographs we see that explore slim issues. I had a conversation with another friend last summer and she mentioned how as a slim woman it’s hard to have a real voice in the body positivity space for fear of being judged. I said then I wanted to explore this with Exposing 40 and I mentioned it again in my Christmas post. But here we are in July and I have done nothing more! So, feel free to hold me to account on this! Let’s widen the conversation. If you have something to add I would love to share your thoughts and photos here. I have written this largely from a woman’s perspective but as ever I am always interested to hear from anyone with anything to say.

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43 thoughts on “Lightweight

    • Yeah, but my whole point is that just because an overweight person thinks that it doesn’t mean a slim person doesn’t have the right to also want to make changes to their body or in the case of the one of the examples (not the photograph) want to put on weight but be unable to.

      Like

      • I do get what you’re saying. And I support you. Sadly, we are so conditioned to thinking THIN is right (blame media, magazines, women’s magazines, parents, I could go on..) that no matter the content, we look at the pic and think – OOOOH, THIN. Nice. It’s a hard one to get past.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. This is such a great post! My only sister (who is also my best friend) is small and slim and your post has definitely made me think about the way we interact with each other around our body sizes. I’m definitely keeping this in mind next time we talk.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you Exposing 40. I’m relatively small, but that doesn’t stop my belly from being wobbly and out of proportion to the rest of me having had a child. In fact, it’s all the more obvious because I AM small – I have the look of a cat who’s had one too many litters!

    I hide it well by dressing appropriately!

    I also find some of my larger colleagues scrutinise my lunch – negatively judging me when I eat healthily and offering nods of approval when I return with fish n chips! I’m scalded for trying to eat well because I ‘don’t need to’. It seems to be OK to want to live a long and disease-free life – unless, of course, you’re small. I have a son I’d like to see grow up and a family history of heart disease. I have every bit as much right to look after my body than anyone else. Thank you once again Exposing 40 for championing all bodies, whatever their shape or size.

    Finally, to violetonlineisoine: when a skinny girl looks at a picture of a voluptuous woman, she looks at her boobs and thinks: I wish! Xx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I am so glad you wrote this. I have all the things for a post calling out the exclusion of slim people from the body positive community. I just need to find the right way and right tone. I called someone out at work over this and the next day, I had a bunch of flowers from the woman I had been standing up for. She hasn’t been in the room when the comments were made, but she was approached later and apologised to by the commenter who had suddenly realised how often they said the wrong thing. We can all make assumptions that others have it easy if they don’t have the same struggles as us. That’s bollocks though. Weight is completely different to body positivity, self esteem and how wonderful people are. Nobody should have their character or compatibility judged by the number on the scales or the clothing size they wear.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes! I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for a while but it’s so big that I’ve had a hard time sorting out my thoughts. I’m short, slim and fairly toned but my cardio is not great. I walk a fair amount, but jogging? Nope. Health comprises too many elements to consider it as a linear spectrum from unhealthy to healthy.

    It’s true, strangers on the street don’t shout their judgments at me, but it I share my insecurities with women who are bigger than me, I’m scorned: if my body type is what they wish they had, what right do I have to complain? But issues with body image involve perfectionism. No one can attain the goal because there isn’t one uniform goal, and it moves out of reach as you approach it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. At my work I have two ladies who are thin and can eat anything they want, but they never gain weight. Both of them wish they could, but no matter what they try, it doesn’t work. They have issues with their weight as much as I have with mine, which always makes me keep in the back of my mind that being thin is not always ideal. I absolutely love this post… I agree, we should give EVERYONE a voice, not only the ‘bigger’ people.

    Thanks for taking the time to join in this week.

    Rebel xox

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Stunning image, intelligent, sensitive words.

    Having never been slim, I have to disagree with the comments above that the reaction here is “I wish”. I wish for my body to be strong and beautiful and to carry me through to old age and it’s my responsibility to do what I can to achieve that. I don’t wish for others’ bodies because we all have challenges.
    The truth is, no matter an individual’s weight/build is, as women, we all face crippling ideals that literally no one measures up to. Even the models in magazines aren’t real, they are illustrated photographs that are sculpted and toned by photoshop. It’s so disheartening to see the positive movement to include bigger, less “magazine” body types in the discourse of beauty eclipsing the arguably greater issue: that all women face impossible standards and in some cases, it is killing them. Fat, thin, tall or small, society and media say we can’t win. But we can: by accepting ourselves and then accepting others.

    Thank you for taking the plunge here and writing this week. As a fat fan, I applaud you for asking us to look at the full spectrum of bodies, all unique, all beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was once that thin person who couldn’t put on weight but my opinion didn’t matter because I wasn’t fat. Thank you for writing this so much, weight is a body positivity issue not a fat issue!

    Liked by 1 person

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