Ask, Don’t Tell

Today, I came across a comic that really hit home for me:

(Image from InkMurder on tumblr)
(Image from InkMurder on tumblr)

This jumped out at me because I’ve been there.

Personally, I tend to lose weight when I’m experiencing stress and anxiety. This isn’t healthy for me. However, I’ve had people tell me how “jealous” they are that I can “lose weight easily” – with no mention or consideration of my overall health.

Several years ago, I became very ill and lost 20+ lbs in a short amount of time. Recovery was very slow, and it took me many, many months to gain back the weight I lost in order to get back to a healthy level. But during that time – during which there were periods where I could literally not walk across a room due to weakness – there were people who commented on my weight. Of all the things to comment on. As I struggled through my illness, I had people (both health professionals and friends) telling me that I looked good (because I was thin), had others telling me to just eat more because I was “too skinny”, and still others telling me I was “fine” when I expressed concern about my rapid weight loss (people who assumed that since I was still proportionally curvy [read: still had larger breasts despite my weight loss], I wasn’t “too thin”). As you might imagine, everything together contributed to a somewhat skewed sense of body image/self.

Today, I am at a healthy weight for my individual self, and I’m working on my overall health by doing the best I can in regards to eating well, getting the right kinds of exercise in, etc. But everyone’s “healthy” looks different. It’s something holistic that’s not determined solely by appearance.

When I created this blog, I decided to use the word “skinny” in my tagline (“skinny, curvy, geeky”) as a way to sort of “re-claim” a word that has been used as an insult by some, and to illustrate that someone can be naturally thin and curvy at the same time. But I want to make it clear that I don’t think that the words “skinny” or “curvy” are some kind of goals to attain; rather, they’re (fairly ambiguous) descriptors for certain body types. No body type is “wrong”.

I wish it was common practice to tell friends “You look so healthy!” or ask “How are you doing?” instead of jumping to comment on someone’s weight. This may require actual conversations and getting to know people – which, admittedly, isn’t as easy as just making quick assumptions and remarks. But I think the aim is to be strong, happy, healthy – words that mean different things for different people. Ask me how I’m doing; don’t tell me about myself based on what my body looks like.

What are your thoughts? Do you think that society tends to focus more on weight and appearance rather than overall, individual health?