Today’s post is going to be a little different than my usual training blogs/ random running thoughts. I wanted to write a blog about sizeism because I’ve noticed it happening a lot to me lately and I’ve seen a few articles floating around from various running magazines and blogs.
Sizeism is discriminating against someone based on their size. This goes for any sized person- tall, short, skinny, fat etc. I want to be careful how I handle what I’m trying to express because I don’t want to come off as a victim or as someone who is looking for attention. I just want to make people aware that even when you’re intentions are genuinely good, you might be rubbing people the wrong way.
I should start off by saying that I have always been a girl on the smaller side. I have a small bone structure and am pretty narrow. This was true before I really got into running and exercising regularly. This is a genetic thing that I would never have any control over. That being said, I have weighed anywhere from 110-125 pounds which is in the normal range for my height. No where near being dangerous or sick. Another thing to point out is that I eat like a horse. I have always been like that. I don’t like to limit myself or guilt myself when I feel like I want a larger meal, or a dessert. I just believe that everything should be done in reasonable moderation and it would not totally make or break my health.
Since I’ve started running regularly, I have thinned out a little bit. I have muscular legs and pretty lanky arms. My boyfriend likes to joke that I should be a boxer because I have long arms and no one would be able to hit me but I could hit them; my nickname would be “crazy arms” (thanks Alex). Anyways my point is that I kind of look like what you’d think of when you think of a distance runner, but maybe a little bit less athletic looking. Not to say that all distance runners look the same (that would be sizeism in itself) but the lanky kind of runner. I’m that one.
Here I am:
Ever since I have started my new job, which is going great by the way, I’ve noticed a lot of comments that haven’t been mean in nature but have made me think about this a little more. I work with a lot of middle aged women who have fallen out of the habit of exercise and healthy eating. Not judging them at all, it happens to most people. I’m just trying to paint a picture of the environment. I’ve encountered things like this before from other jobs/ people/ friends too.
Almost all of my co-workers have made a comment on how I am skinny. Some were on the more complimentary side, like “Oh you look so skinny in that dress, very nice”. This is an example of someone with good intentions. A better thing to say is just that my dress looks nice on me, in my opinion. Again, I don’t want to sound like a jerk but I am aware that I am a smaller person. I picked my dress because I liked it, not because of how skinny or fat it makes me look. You would never walk up to someone and say that their outfit made them look “less fat than normal” or something like that so I don’t know why it seems to be appropriate to say the opposite.
Another thing people have been commenting on is what I eat during the day. Again, I love to eat and always eat the right amount of food per day (and sometimes way too much food!). I bring two snacks and a lunch with me so I can have something to eat on every break I take. A lot of the time I will bring a salad or a wrap for lunch because I find it is hard to concentrate after having a large meal for lunch. I have heard people say “Oh that’s why you’re so skinny, you eat salad and fruit”. I actually had to tell someone that the reason why I was skinny was because of how much I run. Eating healthy is just a by-product from running because if you eat crap, you feel like crap when you run. I think there are a lot of people out there looking for a miracle diet to make them instantly fit. Eating a salad won’t make you skinny instantly. It’s a good stepping stone in the right direction but assuming that it’s the reason why someone looks the way they do is wrong. Telling them that is also wrong. They’ve obviously never seen me around a cake.
Now I’m going to start progressing into some of the more off the wall comments I have heard. Yesterday was the celebration for Chinese New Year for the Chinese people who I work with and one lady was sweet enough to come in on her day off to feed us all authentic Chinese food that she spent the whole morning making. It was so yummy!! Anyways, I was saying how I was so stuffed and how good the food was and someone said that I could eat as much of it as I wanted and that it wouldn’t matter. Not true. I gain weight just like everyone else when I overeat. I gained almost 5 pounds over Christmas break from eating so much good food. And when I want to take extra food even when I’m full, I’m not thinking “It won’t matter because I’m skinny”. What I’m thinking is “Shoot those dumplings were delicious. I would like to eat 300 of them even though my insides feel like they are going to explode”. Again I would like to use the example of the opposite scenario. You would never tell someone who is on the heavier side that maybe they shouldn’t eat that donut because it will make them heavier. I think the example is definitely worse than what was said to me, and again the person who said it had a good intention but it’s just something that doesn’t need to be said.
All of the previous examples have been pretty mild examples but these ones are a little worse. One person has commented on how I look very often and has stared at me while saying these things. My weight has been guessed with a sarcastic undertone. Again, you’d never say these things to a larger person and I’m pretty sure it’s still not appropriate for a smaller person either. Another day, I was saying how I was excited to get home because I was hungry and the conversation proceeded as follows:
Person: Well if you don’t eat, you’ll probably lose another kilo or two
Me: I don’t want to lose weight, why would I want to?
Person: You must shop at children’s stores, I don’t know how you find clothes.
Me: No I don’t, I’m not that small. Plus I’d never be able to find pants that would fit over my calves and thighs there. They’re too muscular.
All I said was that I was hungry and somehow we were discussing my body again. I’d also like to point out as a side note that because of society’s shift towards accepting overweight as the more average person, sizes have been changing in stores. I don’t want to shame larger people or make anyone feel bad about themselves. I have been reading about this lately because I’ve been thinking about it. Why, as a society, are we ok with shifting norms to accommodate unhealthy lifestyles instead of promoting more healthy ones? Why does obesity in children exist? We should be worried about where the future is headed that this is how we deal with people going into more unhealthy norm. It becomes a slippery slope of avoiding the problem to make people feel better about themselves. It’s an extreme but in a small way, we are headed towards being the people in WALL-E who don’t walk anywhere because they don’t have to. I understand that there are people with medical problems who have unavoidable weight control problems. Again, I don’t want to be guilty of sizeism here either because that would be terribly ironic but I swear this is coming full circle. Have any of you noticed in the past few years that you’ve mysteriously gone down a size or two? Clothing companies have been adjusting their sizes to have the same number sizes but with larger measurements. I have trouble finding pants in stores sometimes now because of the accommodation of larger people and not wanting to make people feel bad about the size they have to wear. My question in all of this has always been what the people smaller than me do. I’m by no means a true size 0. Those people very well could have to shop in a children’s store because of sizeism. It’s not intentional, but the very small people have been discriminated against for being small. No one should be excluded from anything based on size – large or small.
Lastly, the worst one I’ve come across lately. I made a mistake last week and someone was speaking to me about it. I was asked if I was eating breakfast in the mornings and if that could be why I did what I did. The tone she said it in was accusatory and I was pretty taken aback. Anyone who knows me knows that if I don’t eat, I’m your worst nightmare. I brushed it off but another comment was made after this incident. I was asked if I had lost weight because I look “so skinny”. Again, the way it was asked was accusatory and concerned. I haven’t lost weight, by the way. There were just comments about how I was potentially not healthy or not eating. I’ll use the opposite scenario one more time, you wouldn’t ask if someone gained weight in a mean tone- not ok. Had the comment been something along the lines of “have you been working out more? You look terrific” it would change the connotations completely. But I don’t think accusing people of not eating is ok. I run, I work out and I eat healthy. There is nothing wrong with that!
Instead of totally focusing on the bad, there have also been some positive experiences! Two co-workers have taken quite an interest in how my running is going. One asked me how I looked so athletic or fit and wants to get more into running. The other is an experienced runner and told me that I should stay exactly as I am and to eat lots! I don’t want to dwell on negative comments. What I wish is that everyone could try and make one small change to aim themselves towards a healthier lifestyle. Don’t chalk someone’s success up to one thing they are doing. It is a process, sometimes you will succeed, sometimes you will slip up and fail. This is ok; it’s a normal part of life.
I’ll leave you all with a few thoughts for being patient and reading a little more into what I’ve been thinking lately. You can go out there and find time to take care of yourself. My favourite quote is “No matter how busy you are, there is always someone busier doing more than you”. You deserve the time for yourself even if it means sacrificing some time elsewhere in your life. Eating healthy can be accomplished by making small changes in your diet. Try cutting down the number of desserts you eat in a week, or how many times you decide you “need” seconds. Lastly, be considerate of others. Never judge someone because of what you think. Sometimes you can mean well but it depends on the delivery of what your saying. I am very comfortable with myself but there are people who aren’t, and they might not be able to brush things off easily.
Runners come in all shapes and forms and no one should be judged for how they look. You can be tall, skinny, short, fat, lanky, stout, whatever. What matters is that you’re doing something for YOU and it doesn’t matter if it makes someone else happy.