To my skinny friends who want to get in shape: I’m sorry.
I remember chatting with a dear (and VERY petite) friend once, and hearing her say “I know I need to get back to working out when I can’t see my abs anymore.” With all love to her, I remember thinking that without anatomy class TELLING ME I have abs, I wouldn’t even know that I do because I’ve literally never see them in my whole life. As a curvy woman, the idea that you have seen your abs AT SOME POINT IN YOUR LIFE is a weird pipe dream. You must be Victoria’s Secret model material, or the world’s fittest woman or something, because who in the heck can SEE THEIR ABS?
I’ve realized that without consciously choosing to feel this way, I often find myself weirdly judgmental when I see someone who I perceive as smaller than me mention their need to lose weight or get in shape. It’s like there’s a rule I’ve created that only people who are my size and larger have a “claim” to getting in shape or improving their physical health. I imagine my inner self as one of those angry people with road rage yelling from their car “GET OFF THE WEIGHT LOSS ROAD!!!” to skinny people as they whiz by on their stylish motorized scooters.
Up until recently, I thought this was a fair way to view the world – after all, do people who I believe are in shape need to get MORE in shape? If I think they look good and I’d trade them physiques, they need to just be happy because they’re in better shape than I am…right?
No, not so much.
I was hit with a dose of reality the other night when I was scrolling through people’s stories on the Weight Watcher app, and saw a woman who was looking to lose upwards of 250 pounds. She was hardly mobile, and her weight had made it hard to do simple tasks or buy clothes. I thought about her story, and then thought about my own…wouldn’t she feel the same way about me that I do about the “skinny” people in my life?
I’m relatively sure if she heard me complaining about how I’d like to look better in a swimsuit or be able to run a faster mile, she would roll her eyes, and she’d have every right to. Through her eyes, her monumental struggle would make my weight loss look like an exercise in vanity.
This isn’t to say that only people who have life-threatening health problems due to their weight should be able to judge whose weight loss efforts are important; this is instead to say that no one should judge anyone at all.
There’s a weird thing that happens when you grow up curvy; I think you adopt a strange “us-vs-them” mentality. There are the people who can eat ice cream and chips on the reg and never gain a pound, and then there’s us. There are the people who have never experienced what it’s like to not be able to find jeans that fit, and then there’s us. This mentality creates a sense that only we can be unhappy with our bodies or want to improve our physical health. Skinny people don’t “get” to feel unhappy with themselves – they don’t even know how bad it could be.
Judging “skinny” people for wanting to get in better shape is just as bad as judging curvy people for not wanting to change a thing about themselves. I’m all about body positivity and women supporting women, but I realized that my subconscious belief that only certain people have a legitimate claim to improve their bodies was undermining everything I believe about body positivity.
Being a better woman to other women means believing that other women’s pursuits are just as valid and important as my own, instead of getting on my nonsensical “I’m heavier than you” high horse. From now on, I’m making a more concerted effort to cheer on anyone I see who’s pursuing a healthy goal and working to improve themselves. For anyone I know who’s looking to lose weight, whether it’s 20 or 200 pounds, it’s not easy, and I’m proud of you. If you are pursuing healthy goals and doing it in a safe way, you’ve got my support, no matter how fit I think you look (even if you can see your abs :) ).