The Land of the Thin

The other day I stumbled upon an article that appeared in the Huffington Post entitled “Stop Making the Thin Girl Ugly.” The article me the strength to begin opening a taboo box that I have kept tightly shut for as long as I can remember. The topic of weight. Weight from the perspective of a naturally thin female. I have felt for years that when it comes to weight I cannot express my opinion, because I am apparently the “ideal”. I have felt guilty if I were to express my thoughts during one of those weight conversations that females are required to listen to on an almost daily basis. And I certainly would never turn the conversation around to make me feel like the victim, because in a world where the journey begins at fat and ends at thin, no one wants to hear from someone who has passed the finish line without even trying.

For as long as I can remember, my doctor always told me “sweetie, you are above average in the height category and below average in the weight category.” I never really thought twice about this fact, I just accepted my body for the way it was. Around sixth grade my age group began developing and determining “pretty” based on numbers that appear on a scale. It was then that I began noticing I was thin and was fed the first of many detrimental comments, “Wow you are so skinny. Are you anorexic or something?” In my twelve-year-old misconstrued head I understood this comment to be something positive. I knew I was not anorexic, but I loved that I could appear anorexic while making my friends jealous and without putting myself in danger. The comments continued well into high school, as my seat on the pedestal rose higher and higher. I was healthy. I really was. I ate three meals a day, and snacked nonstop. However, in the back of my mind I feared the day that my metabolism would betray me and my notorious claim to fame would deflate.

In the middle of my high school career, I went through several events that in the eyes of a seventeen year old were equally as bad as seeing a lone dollar bill in your bank account. I blamed these events on my weight (even though there was absolutely no correlation). “Of course this is all happening to me because I no longer look the way I once did,” my 105 pounds and 5”3 self thought in the hopes of justifying the difficult times I was going through. The solution to this problem was something I was being told for years already- anorexia. I was aware of the dangers of anorexia, so I decided to only be half anorexic. Yes, believe it or not this all made sense to me at the time. I stopped eating that Snickers bar in between classes, the apple on the way home, and my midnight ritual bowl of cereal. I started small, but as the days progressed I noticed I was skipping meals, and then, two weeks later, when I realized how out of hand the situation was getting, it was too late to stop. The damage was done. My appetite disappeared. My skirts fell. My body became weak and bony. And my stomach could not handle even the smallest intake of food. Thankfully, and I really mean it, my parents caught on quickly and within a month, after receiving a strict meal plan from my doctor and weekly check-ups, I not only began to eat properly again, but started maintaing a healthier body image.
To this day whenever I hear a distasteful comment scrutinizing my body (usually done by undermining the seriousness of anorexia), I need to remind myself not to take it to heart. As someone who has come too close to a full-blown eating disorder, I know about the serious ramifications of these disturbing remarks. I blame the “you’re so skinny”, “how do you do it?”, and “the I am so jealous” for causing me to be one small step away from anorexia.

However, this is not a story that ends in “they all lived happily ever after.” These days campaigns such as “big is beautiful”, “zero is not a size”, and “real women have curves” are taking over to compensate the lack of bigger women on the runway. I completely sympathize with these campaigns and really believe that the fashion world has nothing to lose by putting both average-weight women and overweight women on the runway. I am also aware that the aim of these campaigns is to show females that being thin does not equate to being happy. However, I strongly disagree with the means these advertisements are using to get their message across. As an healthy yet thinner female, I have been self-conscious about my underdeveloped body for years. Campaigns such as “big is beautiful”, “zero is not a size” and “real women have curves” only enhance my insecurities. I find that these campaigns lift the spirits of average-weight and overweight women, while simultaneously lowering the spirits of underweight women.
What are we telling underweight yet perfectly healthy females? You are not big, so you are not beautiful? Since you don’t have curves there is no way you can be a real woman? Why is it that our metabolisms dictate whether we are beautiful or real? I am not trying to play victim here, but I find these campaigns upsetting. They are only increasing the endless competition of fat versus thin through encouraging an “us”- the real, voluptuous women versus “them”- the fake, artificial women.

The notion of “zero is not a size” strikes me to the core. Why is it right for people to advertise that a size that fits many healthy, yet slender women is nonexistent? Not only does the slogan increase the fat versus skinny rivalry, but it further proves the constant scrutiny and comments thin girls are subject to far too often. It baffles me why it is acceptable for people to make remarks to thin girls about their weight. This goes from the casual “you are so skinny” to public campaigns that delegitimize the sizes 0-2 (aka “zero is not a size”). It would be inconceivable to approach an overweight woman and begin making overt observations about her body, so why is this ok to do to an underweight woman?!
Weight, body image, body insecurities- it is a private matter. Full stop. Period. End of story.

So as a thin, butt-less, curve-less, bust-less woman, I beg for people to stop with the comments that have put so many underweight women in dangerous situations. I beg for companies to properly think about the slogans they paste on billboards. I beg for people to stop placing underweight women on a pedestal where they are idealized and glorified, because from personal experience this is a detrimental act. I beg for all women to begin realizing it is not about fat versus skinny, underweight versus overweight,extra- small versus extra-large, pretty versus ugly. I did not write this article to receive any “woe is to you, oh thin one”, but rather to show a weight and image obsessed world that it is not all rainbows and butterflies in the land of the thin.

About the Author
Lottie Kestenbaum was born to British parents and grew up in New Jersey. To add to the identity crisis, Lottie made aliyah in August 2012. Hello tri-citizenship! She is currently studying Jewish History and English Literature at Bar Ilan University. Lottie shares more of her aliyah adventures & ongoing thoughts on her blog, Newest Sabra on the Block.