the magical rewards of being skinny

Today I went to lunch with E and two of his former co-workers. It was a last-minute thing–our breaks tend not to sync up, but I had some free time and I grabbed it and went running out the door, even though I had just eaten lunch at my desk and was stuffed all the way full. But I did not care, because I was very pleased to get to spend a lunch hour with my fellow, and to get out of the office for a few split seconds because my eyes were crossing from looking at white papers and sell sheets and PowerPoint presentations.

This is important: his two former coworkers were both small women; one is petite and pregnant, and the other is the sort of slim that comes from just having a small build, being lanky and long in the limbs. We went to a wonderful, terrifying-looking old-fashioned burger joint. They ordered burgers, fries, onion rings, diet sodas, a chocolate shake, and I was very jealous. They said, “You’re not eating! Oh my God, I ordered so much food!” and they laughed. They said, “You should order onion rings because you can’t just sit there and watch us eat! You have to have some of my fries, because there’s no way I’m going to finish them all.”



Between gossiping about the old guard at the office, and bites of their
hamburgers they snuck looks at me stealing sips of soda from E’s straw.
They said things like “Oh, this is so much food! I’m so hungry though,
because I ate breakfast hours ago. And I didn’t have much. And this is
a late lunch. But there’s no way I can eat all this. This is so much
food!” The pregnant lady ate her chocolate shake apologetically–have you ever seen someone spoon chocolate ice cream in
an apologetic way? It is kind of amazing. She pushed it away, and said
“I can’t be eating this! I’m so fat!” I told her that she had to, for
the sake of the baby and its healthy bones, and she looked at me
suspiciously. They both left a lot of food on their trays, patted their
stomachs, groaned about how they had overstuffed themselves.

And I wanted to shake them. I wanted to say, are you serious? Are you
totally serious about this? I can understand maybe feeling
self-conscious about eating when someone else isn’t, because that’s
fulfilling a bodily function and everyone gets weird about those. And I
felt bad for sitting there without a tray in front of me, but they were so fervent about it, so outsizedly embarrassed and strange. The apologies and the self-consciousness and
the protestations about the act of ingesting calories, the idea that
wanting lunch, enjoying a burger, ingesting the hell out of a bucket of
onion rings was something that had to be explained–it was hard to sit through.

One of the things I have unconsciously enjoyed about not being fat,
anymore, is the internalized idea that I can eat anything I want in
public and not have to apologize for it, or feel like someone was
judging me. I can put things in my grocery cart without someone going
tsk, tsk, order a hot chocolate and beam at the barista when she
suggests whipped cream instead of hemming and hawing or looking
contrite and conscious of my sinful ways because I was guilty of the
great crime of saying yes to whipped cream while fat.

But they sat across from me apologizing for, I guess, not worrying
enough about staying skinny. Apologizing for not being skinny enough,
when any rational, objective person would call them not just normal-sized but plenty thin.
Apologizing for what? Not being as strong as they thought I was being?
Did they think I was skipping lunch and they sucked for not being a
dieting superstar like me? Were they crazy?

They seemed crazy to me. It made me mad because that is supposed to be
one of the benefits of not having weight enough to make people judge
you. You’re supposed to be floating happily, peacefully, in a
no-judgment zone in which you are invisible and private and free to
carry on as you like, not paranoid about what people think of your
choices, because obviously you’re making the Right Choices if you are
Covetously Skinny, right? They didn’t seem to have gotten the memo when
they were inducted into the Thin Club, membership in which grants you
rank and privilege.

When I said goodbye and headed back to my office, one of them said, “You
have to eat next time! You can’t let me feel so self-conscious!” I
can’t understand how she could feel self-conscious.

Of course I understand how she could have felt self-conscious. I
understand how fucked up we are when it comes to food and body issues
and body image and eating, how hard it is no matter what size you are
and what you look like. I understand completely. I dislike that I’m
embroiled enough in the whole mess, the whole disordered eating
nonsense that seems impossible to escape that no matter how far I think
I’ve come, I still assume thin is a synonym of happy.

  20 comments for “the magical rewards of being skinny

  1. October 21, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Oh man I can relate. Women are ALWAYS doing that kind of thing…getting all self-conscious. It’s like “it’s only food!” but I think deep down, all women — skinny, thin, chubby, chunky, fat, obese … have a “fear” of food. Of enjoying it. In fact, now that I’m thinner, sometimes I find myself going out of my way to not be “that girl” and talk about my indulgences much more frequently than when I was fat. Weird, twisted…but it’s reality.

  2. October 21, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    OMG, yes. Since having WLS, I’ve completely stopped rationalizing/justifying/apologizing for whatever I happen to be putting into my mouth. I’ve noticed that it irks me when others play that game, too. My mother’s famous for it – after lunch, she’ll tell me that she’s done eating for the *entire day* as if she has to atone for the sin of eating a big sandwich. Um, hello, Mom? Do you wonder why I had food issues, Mom? sheesh.

    I refuse to play that game any more.

  3. Bun
    October 21, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    You hit the nail on the head–because most people, even “skinny” ones, have body-image issues. I’m what many people might call thin, or at least petite; I’m 5’3″, 120-something pounds, a size 4. And guess what? I have days when I feel crappy b/c I’m not a size 2. Because my thighs don’t look like the Victoria’s Secret model’s. Because I don’t have a teensy-weensey waist. It’s stupid. I look good. Sure, I’ve got a wee bit of flab on my stomach and my thighs–going to the gym and getting into shape would take care of that. Which is what I’m focusing on now–trying to combat feeling crappy about not being tiny enough–though I am already “small”–by getting fit, tight, in shape. It probably won’t make me a size 2 either–just a sleeker 4. And I’m determined to be happy with that.

    So yeah, sometimes it sucks no matter what size you are. And I have times when I feel guilty for eating certain things (though you know, I’m not totally f-ed up about food–I enjoy office birthday cake and Monday morning bagels with pride :) )

  4. Kelly
    October 21, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    I’m curious…what did E think? Did he notice? Is all that girlie self-hating angst like white noise to guys, or does it make them uncomfortable, too? Just wondering.

  5. October 21, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    It’s not about calories or weight, it’s just plain awkward when you’re eating really yummy food and other people aren’t. You feel bad because they’re not enjoying the food like you are. At least that’s the way I feel. I KNOW people don’t think I’m fat. Maybe a bit of a piggy, but I am a piggy. I mean, I eat A LOT, because I exercise a lot and I really love food.

    My officemate was fasting for a month and I felt the greatest amount of guilt for eating in front of her. Not because I thought she would think I was fat, but because she didn’t get to eat and here I am stuffing my face and she can smell it and see it and it had to have been driving her crazy.

    I feel equally bad if I go out to dinner with my friends and they don’t order food because they ate at home b/c they’re broke.

  6. October 21, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    That food guilt is a reflection of our own insecurity and issues with our size… NOT a reflection of being fat or thin. It’s a way we “answer” the voice in our heads that is contantly criticizing us for eating. So we apologize and feel ashamed. How loud the voice is doesn’t depend on the size of your ass.

    I am 400lbs. I have an insulin disorder and that number isn’t going to get any smaller. But I have good days, where I like who I am. And on those days, I *do* order whipped cream on my hot chocolate with a big grin, thank you very much; and I *do* enjoy my lunch downtown with friends; and I *do* go grocery shopping without worrying what other people might think about the contents of my cart. It’s not every day, but I am working on making them more and more common!

    Feeling OK with food doesn’t come with being thin. It just comes with shutting up the critical voice in your head. And therapy. Lots and lots of therapy.

  7. Rhiannon
    October 21, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    My roommates are the epitome of this- going on drinking binges because “all they had to eat today” was breakfast and celery.

    It is hard to deal with past disordered eating problems when you’re living with them- two roommates binging on pizza, beer, and chips all weekend and then having meager portions of salad and special k throughout the week.

    I only wish it was okay/acceptable for women to eat these things, realize that being a stick isn’t too attractive to the opposite sex…it makes me sad to know that women are being apologetic for what they are eating.

  8. October 21, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    I am a plus sizer and I have far more confidence than my skinny friends. The ones that are 0,2 and 4 are constantly obsessed about. How sad.

  9. Anonymous
    October 21, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Not being self concious about what you eat is SUCH a perk of being thin. I had a conversation with a coworker who ran into me snagging a huge leftover brownie in the kitchen about how skinny I looked and we compared our respective favorite classses we’ve been taking at the gym. Not once was I embarrassed for having someone walk in on me eating a brownine and thinking I probably shouldn’t be. I used to be embarrased about telling people I worked out a lot because I was afraid they’d think there was no way someone as big as me worked out all the time. And she only knew me 15 pounds ago, not the 80 I’m down totally.

  10. October 21, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    it’s odd how someone else’s eating habits can bring up so much unconscious self reflection on your own. i’m glad you didn’t cave into the peer pressure to be polite and dive in just to keep up appearances. i used to struggle with choosing being 70% raw pescaterian (no egg or dairy) because i felt all eyes would be on me once i went with the food options that made me happy.

  11. fat again
    October 21, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    I grew up fat, always judged.

    Somehow I got really luck and got this great job for a global firm. I was completely different (read: fat and not made of plastic parts) from the perfect Barbie dolls that interviewed me. Honestly, I think they hired me as a joke…or a challenge. I was an outsider given access to a whole new world.

    Every Friday morning the employer provided donuts and bagels. My first Friday on the job I was walking down the hall with 2 donuts on a plate to my new desk – in the hall (btw – the only person with this set up on the “team” (read: outsider)). Behind me, in a condescending voice, someone said “like you need those donuts” loud enough for me to hear. I wanted to run and hide…like I said, desk in the hall…nowhere to hide. I wanted to yell at the jerk behind me. I wanted to know what gave him the right to say something – anything…HE was a principal partner in the firm…HE was an ass.

    Due to numerous life changing events, I Lost 90# very quickly. Suddenly I was an insider, invited into conversations I had never been privy to.

    HE became human to me when I lost the pounds…nice, even. HE offered to give me some work out/training advice since he was a body builder in his spare time (I am telling you, I was hired as a cruel joke).

    Anyway, HE became my boss’s boss…therefore, my boss.

    I started to gain the weight back…people there turned on me (Did I mention I worked with a slew of Barbie dolls?)…HE ignored me, never giving me any of the advice I so needed.

    I became an outsider again. I was fired. I am fat.

  12. Katherine
    October 22, 2008 at 8:09 am

    I want to thank you so much, sometimes it seems I am the only one who has those same thoughts, that just because someone isnt heavy they have no body issues. I think you are great and Im so glad there is someone who can see things from my prespective!!

  13. October 22, 2008 at 10:03 am

    This is a great post! I’m so with you on being irritated by people making such a big deal about what they eat. That kind of thing makes me want to scream!!

  14. October 22, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Oh, how I try and fight this in myself. Honestly, if I have the money to go out and eat, I am going to go out and EAT. None of this small salad or apologizing for my fries! I think not having money really inspired me to stop thinking eating=bad. I’d go out, order a glass of wine and eat the free bread while everyone else had dinner. Often, sweet managers and cooks would take pity on me and send out a little something gratis. No way am I going to feel bad about what is a gift that for so many years I couldn’t enjoy!

  15. October 22, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    One of the nice things about working mostly with men is that no one feels the need to apologize for eating cookies or cake. We’ll go to the Indian buffet and no one feels the need to make an excuse for getting a second helping.

  16. October 24, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Oh goodness isn’t that the worst? I’m skinny and always have been, and on top of it LIKE to eat healthy – it’s the way I was raised. But that doesn’t mean I don’t indulge sometimes, and I refuse to give excuses for it. People love to go “oooh I can’t believe you’re eating that” and I just smile and think to myself – good lord, why do you care? If I eat healthy or not, that is my CHOICE. People just tend to project their own insecurities on people in those type of situations. Good for you for turning a deaf ear!!! :)

  17. October 25, 2008 at 9:10 am

    I can eat anything I want and not gain an ounce! Or so I’ve been told!!

  18. Bethy
    November 2, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Did anyone get confused when you read “I can’t understand how she could feel self-conscious.

    Of course I understand how she could have felt self-conscious.” ?
    I just like to know I’m getting all of what a person writes. I think that this is just another tired story of little-miss-who-ras that want attention. They don’t really feel anything close to self-concious…or not the ones I’ve been around. It’s all about attention, even if it’s not positive attention. It’s rather pathetic actually. Good writing though :)

  19. Bethy
    November 2, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Did anyone get confused when you read “I can’t understand how she could feel self-conscious.

    Of course I understand how she could have felt self-conscious.” ?
    I just like to know I’m getting all of what a person writes. I think that this is just another tired story of little-miss-who-ras that want attention. They don’t really feel anything close to self-concious…or not the ones I’ve been around. It’s all about attention, even if it’s not positive attention. It’s rather pathetic actually. Good writing though :)

  20. December 9, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    This is beautifully written.

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