My Experience with Skinny Shaming

My Experience with Skinny Shaming

By Priyanka

 My Experience with Skinny Shaming

“If a strong wind blows, you’ll fly away!”

“Don’t your parents feed you?”

“You should eat more and gain weight. I can see your entire skeleton!”

I’ve heard some variations of these all my life, mostly from middle-aged aunties and uncles. Altering my pants to fit my waist, size XS still being too loose for me, retail workers laughing at me when i emerged from trial rooms, wearing full sleeves even on the hottest days to hide my skinny arms, never wearing skirts or shorts - this is how I lived for the first 15 years of my life: in shame.

More than that, I saw how people analyzed the bodies of my family too and made comparisons. The taunts they threw at my parents, “ Don’t you feed her?”, “She would be healthy if she stayed with me for a week.” And the disappointed way my parents looked at me afterwards.

But I saw a change as I entered my late teens. My peers started envying my body, very vocally. “I wish I could be as thin as you!”, “You eat so much yet you stay skinny! Teach me your tricks!”, “Take some of my fat!” It was a stark contrast from the skinny shaming I was used to, and still heard from the older people I met.

The desirable Indian body type for women has always been a bit curvy until my generation grew up and super skinny bodies started being perceived as sexy. Mind you, this was way before body positivity became an important topic to discuss. 

I’m in my early 20s now and though the self-shaming lasts, I have learned how to present my body confidently on most days. After several trials and errors, I have figured out which fabrics and silhouettes look good on me and also let my own style and personality shine through.

But I do think many aspects of this personality were created due to the comments I heard about my body through the years. My lack of curves always made me feel less of a woman, so my default style and personality became tom-boyish. Even now I find it difficult to wear dresses, skirts or Indian outfits that look better on curvy women. I still hide my arms under full sleeves.

While I realize I have come a long way from the 12 year old girl that ran away from middle-aged people before the conversations inevitably led to my body or weight; I still have a long way to go in accepting my body as it is and be okay with its changes, or lack thereof.

One of the reasons I never talked about my history of skinny shaming was because I always felt that the people with bigger bodies had it worse with fat shaming. When the body positivity movement gained momentum and I heard their experiences, they were so different from mine yet so fundamentally similar. Too much, too little or even an optimum amount, nothing is ever enough and it never will be.

Now when I get skinny shamed, I let it roll off my back. Other people’s comments no longer hurt, it’s my own traitor brain that is a little too vicious to me. I have to keep reminding myself, “At least this body is healthy! At least these chicken legs can take me wherever I want to go! At least these bony arms are strong enough to do all the required tasks of the day! Be grateful!”

Even in the thick of body positivity movement, I didn’t hear much from my kind. Maybe we all felt too ungrateful to talk about the trauma of our skinny bodies that were now desirable. Either way, I would love to hear experiences like mine and what people with bodies like mine have been doing to overcome the shame.

To know more about Experience with Body Shaming read here

To know more about Dealing with Smile Dysmorphia read here

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