Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tolerance for Skinny People Too

My mom never even kept a scale in the house when my sisters and I were teenagers. And if we called ourselves “skinny” she'd say, “You aren't skinny, you're thin. I hate the word 'skinny' its a negative word.” She tried her best to protect us from having negative body images, but still my whole life I've been made to feel bad for being skinny. I'm sure more than half of you have just sarcastically thought in your head, "Oh boo-hoo! What a terrible burden, being able to fit into skinny jeans." So bare with me as I explain.

My parents (although they would argue that they have put on a few lbs over the years) are tall, thin people. My sisters are tall, thin people. Several of my extended family are tall, thin people. So not surprisingly I am a tall, thin person. Yet people seem to be shocked and often offended that I am this way. And many of them assume I manufactured the total that appears on the scale through vomiting, starvation, and exercise, aka Anorexia.

The first time I heard the word "anorexia" I was in elementary school. I was probably about 11 years old. I was walking home from a friend's house when a boy across the street started yelling, "Hey there's the anorexic girl! ANOREXIC GIRL! ANOREXIC GIRL! naa-naa, naa-naa, boo-boo, la-lala-ala-ala..." (OK, I added the "naa-naa's" and "la-la's" but you get my point, he wasn't saying it as a compliment.) I had no idea what the word "anorexic" meant. I had never heard it before but from the way the boy was taunting me I knew it was something bad, something ugly, and apparently something I was.

Over the years I had so many people tell me I was anorexic that by the time I was 18 I started to believe it. People's assumptions would unfold in the strangest ways. At one of my old churches there was a woman who at potlucks would load my plate full of food for me as if I were a child. Then she and her husband would sit next to me and watch me as I ate. Or I'd have concerned friends try and talk to me casually about anorexia as of they were gathering intelligence so they could stage an intervention:

“So I saw this documentary on anorexia the other day, what do you think of that?”

“Of what?” I'd ask.

“Of anorexia?”

Or the more awkward and my personal favourite, “Some times I don't feel like eating, do you ever feel that way?”

And if ever I dared to say that I needed to eat healthier or exercise, people would exclaim, “WHY?! You're not fat! If anything you need to eat a cake.” And then I would have to take time to educate them about health, nutrition, and trans-fat and just because a person is thin doesn't mean they're healthy and can magically digest trans-fat, bad cholesterol, and corn-syrup, or that they have enough energy to run a marathon and climb Mt. Everest.
At times I have actually been followed to the bathroom after a meal, I guess to see if I'd barf or something!

Essentially I was taught that my body wasn't “normal” and that there was something wrong with me. I felt so awkward and ashamed. I tried to gain weight, I wore over-sized clothing to hide my ribs and hip bones, and I rarely went swimming (if I did I was usually fully dressed). I eventually went and told a therapist I had an eating disorder. She asked me to tell her about it and I said, “Well I have always been very skinny and when I get stressed out or depressed I lose my appetite.”

She looked at me kind of strange and asked, “Do you vomit after eating? Do you exercise to excess? Or have you ever taken laxatives or starved yourself to lose weight?”


“Do you weight yourself daily or find yourself counting calories even when you just ate a piece of gum?”


“Do you restrict your diet on purpose to gain a sense of control in your life.”


“Do you think your fat?”


“Then you aren't anorexic. What made you think that you were?”

“The world.”

Beside “anorexic” I have been called a great many other things: bean pole, light-weight, shadow, stick-girl, string bean, bony, malnourished, scraggly, twiggy, skin-and-bone, flat-chested, skateboard, etc. and have had comments thrown at me like, "Hey pick up a fork" and, "Try eating sometime." What's weirder is that people seem to think their comments are OK as if I can help how I look, that this “mild” teasing does no harm, or that they are somehow complimenting me. But often their "compliments" are just sparsely veiled jealousy, concern, repulsion, pity, or bitterness. The first time I realized this was when a massage therapist was giving me a back rub and said, “You are so skinny.” I absentmindedly said, “Thank you” but soon realized as she kept commenting appointment, after appointment, that she was both concerned and jealous and what she really meant was, “You are too skinny and I'm too fat.”

I was never really told I was beautiful by my peers until my late teens when a guy at school told me I was beautiful and dubbed me “Legs”. He sincerely meant it as a compliment and I think I could of slept with him right there in the middle of the hall if he asked me too, that's how grateful I was to finally be approved off. Soon I started getting more compliments and was approached a few times by modelling agencies. And although the negative comments come less often now they still have the same sting. Even when I gained 60lbs during my twin pregnancy I still had a few people say, “You're too small to be having twins” or “All your weight is only baby. You have to fatten up the rest of you.”


When I need a chuckle I think about a friend of mine who told me that her son was already 6 ft by his mid-teens and people often said to him, “You are so tall! Do you play basketball?” (a comment I also got A BILLION TIMES). After awhile her son got so tired of it he would reply with, “Wow, you are short. Do you play mini-golf?” I can only imagine the shock on people's faces if I in turn said, "Yes, I'm skinny. But I can't help but notice how fat you are!" Or if I gave someone a nickname like "chubby-butt face" (and to be honest in my frustration and hurt I am tempted sometimes).

I don't want to give you the impression that I'm some kind of saint and that I'm don't judge others by the way they look. In fact every time I see an obese person in the McDonald's drive thru I want to throw myself on the hood of their car and scream, “DON'T DO IT!” and although I do have a similar reaction to the thin person in the car behind them its not as extreme – which is just crazy because McDonald has the potential to kill both of them. But the point is: its no better to go around saying, “You're unnaturally skinny!” and loading a thin person's plate up with extra food than it is to say to an overweight person, “Wow you are fat aren't you?” and steal their fork. Either way you are tearing the person down. And if ever I have torn anyone down for how they look, I am deeply sorry.

(To gain some understanding and compassion for those struggling with anorexia visit "Anorexia Reflections".)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Woman of the House

Hi. I'm Jeff's wife. I'm sure everyone is eager to hear my opinion on the note he wrote "Man of the House". I will say what comes to mind now, i know that this article is directed towards men, so it does intentionally leave out info on the woman's role in marriage, which is fine, its for men. Here's a little of my opinion.

I, as a woman, and a Christian woman , really struggled with the idea of becoming "submissive" and had several panic-attacks about what would be expected of me when Jeff & I got married. But actually Jeff forbade me from acting brainless, and like a slave. He loves me for my independent, often stubborn, opinionated, free-spirited, artistic, character. If he wanted to marry a bashful, blushing, bride, he would of, but he wanted Me. Just me. At the same time, i must make sure that in my independent, often stubborn, opinionated, free-spirited, artistic, character, that i am not being “bossy-bitch wife”, that i am respecting my husband, and not emasculating him. As women , at least for myself, its easy for me to be controlling, over-bearing, naggy, & think i have to right way of doing things, which may in some (most) cases be true, but i can easily crush my husband’s self-esteem. And marriage is about building each other up.

That being said: Knowledge & Understanding come hand and hand.

First: If you are to love your wife as Christ loved the church, don`t you first have to understand who Christ is and how he loves the church? This is where men fail. Christ wasn't some domineering, wife-beater wearing, and commander-type figure. Let’s face it, no woman is going to willingly, lovingly, submit to that guy!! But a man who is honourable, respectful, integral, humble, gentle, loving, patient, & above all a servant – just as Christ was? – well maybe.

The second part of Knowledge & Understanding comes with marriage; being married i am definitely learning what behaviour, roles, attitudes, and actions work best in strengthening my relationship, than hindering it.

A note on this word “submissive” – it does not have a welcoming tone to it in our every-man-for-himself kind of world. It actually is a poor translation. The best description i got of it was in a sermon my pastor did on Ephesians 5:22-23 “22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.” My pastor said that to “submit” in this context is “to give the best of who you are”.

Why wouldn’t i want to give my best of who i am to my husband? The best of my love, my attention, my care, my forgiveness, my patience, my day, my ideas? You have to understand that Submitting is Giving and Giving is Sharing!

Lets then look at what women get in return: Ephesians 5: 25: “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her” – Willing to give his LIFE up for her? Can you imagine such LOVE?! It’s about sacrifice. Verse 28 reads: “28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.”

Now clearly there are different roles in marriage, different for husbands and wives, because we are different. But different, does not mean unequal. This part of Ephesians begins with “21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” And then ends with: “33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

( Another verse i like is in Proverbs 31: “10 [c] A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”)

You also have to understand that from a Christian perspective: God created us, God created marriage, so doesn’t he know best about how we work & how marriage works? Wouldn’t this world be different if men choose to simply LOVE their wives and be willing to sacrifice themselves in love for them? And if women showed respect towards their husbands, giving everything good to them? Both equally giving of themselves in servitude & honour?

Here is the link to Jeff's "Man of the House" http://jeffreybaker.blogspot.com/2009/02/man-of-house.html