Skinny Shaming Runners

Lately it seems that everywhere I look on social media, women are embracing and celebrating curvy bodies. The old ideas that one must strive towards achieving a stick-thin supermodel body seems to have become a thing of the past and, though it’s clearly not completely gone, the pressure to meet that unrealistic standard is being taken off of women by women. This is a beautiful thing!

However, Pumpkin’s recent post on the body positivity movement really got me thinking about the downside of the push to accept and empower curvy bodies. Are we trying so hard to accept all bodies that we are in danger of crossing over into encouraging overweight and even obese bodies? Furthermore, are we putting down and skinny shaming those who happen to be thin by way of a lifestyle of intense exercise or merely by genetics?

Social media, and Instagram especially, is overflowing with posts about how so-and-so decided to stop striving for an unnatural super-model body and instead embraced their normal body. The comment sections are always filled with others encouraging, congratulating and celebrating the woman on her body and her bravery because “real bodies” are much more beautiful than skinny bodies. This always leaves me shaking my head a bit.

Why isn’t a skinny body considered a “real body”? I have seen #strongnotskinny more times than I can count and it makes me wonder why it has to be one or the other. Why can’t I be strong AND skinny?

The top US female marathoners are confirmation that strong and skinny can and do belong in the same sentence. Those women have devoted their lives to building incredible amounts of physical and mental strength that never cease to inspire me.

Likewise, many of us aspiring runners are on the thinner side merely by way of a lifestyle of training, not because we made a conscious decision to run to lose weight or to stay thin. I don’t run twice a day because of a compulsive obsession with weight-loss, but rather to become strong and fast enough to crush my running goals! Being a small person is a by-product of pursuing what I love.

Another thing about skinny shaming that never ceases to amaze me is the double standard there is in regards to making weight-related comments to a skinny person as opposed to any other body type. Here at Salty Running, we don’t really think fondly of unsolicited advice, about our running or weight or otherwise, so this really grinds on me. Recently I had an awkward moment in the airport on my way to a race when a man clearly looked me up and down and said, “You must not eat anything! How much do you weigh?”

I wondered to myself what would happen if he were to ask that question to an overweight person. It would undoubtedly be taken as an insult and he would probably receive a less-than-kind response. So why does anything go when it comes to the weight of a thin person?

Shouldn’t all healthy body types be respected and celebrated the same? Shouldn’t we extend the body positivity movement to include both skinny and curvy bodies? I am proud to be part of this Salty Running community where we lift up and support women for who they are and what they do, rather than what they look like.

**Our goal here at Salty Running is to not take the easy way out by riding the coattails of cliche assumptions, but rather to show how we all have complicated relationships with our bodies at some point in our lives. We hope to demonstrate the many ways we can be brave and vulnerable and empowered and STRONG AND SKINNY, because it’s just not as simple as a matter of weight. We will be sharing more stories of body positivity and how complicated that goal can be in the coming weeks.**

Have you been skinny shamed?

I'm an aspiring elite runner from the DC/Northern VA area. I love road racing and am currently training for a half marathon in April. I write about attempting to balance a career with running and enjoying the process of training and improving!

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  1. Yes, I have it was horrible and I felt humiliated for just being who I am. I will never forget the experience and I love that you are talking about it here. 100% HELL YES to this!

  2. I am not skinny enough to be skinny shamed. I do wonder very deeply about our culture’s obsession with women’s bodies. I suspect social media is not anyone’s friend in this regard. Why would anyone comment on anyone else’s body or even spend time thinking about it, beyond a friendly compliment along the lines of “Looking great!”? I’m 48 and I wonder if being a little older simply means I dodged this bullet. It would not occur to me to put a picture of my stomach on instagram or anywhere else no matter what size my stomach happens to be. Why would anyone else care? Why would I feel compelled to share that? I don’t put pictures of my ears or my feet on social media unless I have new earrings or need to show off a cute pedicure. I think the right amount of attention to other women’s bodies might in fact be zero. Nothing positive, nothing negative. Just. Not. Important.

  3. Yes. At work it feels like a constant onslaught – someone is either remarking about me being thin, not eating enough, eating a lot, running too much, drinking too much water, etc. I don’t say a WORD about my weight or my mileage in the office…yet some people just. won’t. shut. up. I am trying to keep my mouth shut, but I’m not sure how much longer I can.

    1. Oh man, yes! The workplace is the WORST about skinny shaming for me too! I’m sorry you have to deal with that! Sometimes I would love to turn the tables and comment on what my coworkers are snacking on or eating for lunch ha

    2. I really believe if it’s a consistent problem with someone particular it’s not a bad idea to talk to them in private and say you don’t like hearing comments about your body size or shape. Maybe you could even frame it as bringing them into your confidence… “Don’t you hate it when people do that to you? It drives me crazy! I really wish people would stop.” It can be really freeing to have someone on your team when you have to put up with stuff like this.

      And sure, sometimes you can’t or don’t want to talk to your coworkers directly about these things. If it’s a real problem that’s when it’s time to go above them and say something to a supervisor about the inappropriate commentary. I suffered through a six month job with someone who was constantly saying things that made me uncomfortable, and it wasn’t until the last day that I opened up to our boss about it. She was completely sympathetic and told me she wished I had come to her earlier so there could have been recourse. If something like that were to happen again I don’t think I would want to wait and put myself through months and months of that misery!

  4. First I must agree all shaming is bad. However, skinny shamming is so different than fat shaming simply because of the ideals ingrained in our society. Thinness is lauded as the goal whereas fatness assumes laziness and sloth. I used to feel the same way you did, but then I read a bunch of articles on Everyday Feminism that opened my eyes to the reality of this situation. Although it may be annoying to be called skinny, it is no where near to level of shame bestowed upon those who are overweight simply because our society is set up to shame those people.

    1. Agree with Salty here, while the 2 aren’t the same that isn’t the point Spearmint is making. The fact is, just because one might be deemed more acceptable than the other doesn’t mean EITHER have a place to be shamed. Telling someone to brush off rude, borderline harassing comments because someone else has it worse out there doesn’t make what is happening to them right or acceptable.

    2. You know, I’ve been on both sides of this argument: skinny and not-at-all-skinny. Honestly, I hadn’t been skinny until I picked up running in my 20s. While I agree there is a difference when societal standards generally favor thinness, from my experience that doesn’t make the situation much better.

      What I noticed is that I get more body shaming as a skinny person that I ever did as a heavy person. While crass people may make comments about a heavy person’s weight, most people won’t say it to their face. When a person is skinny, the comments are from everyone- even those that love them.

      1. Kathy yes! That is a big difference between the two, I feel like people are much more likely to shame you publicly or to your face when smaller because it’s deemed more acceptable way to be. I also mentioned above in my comment how my high school only enforced the dress code with smaller women to avoid shaming the larger ones…which in turn led to an overwhelming amount of shame being directed solely at smaller women. While skinny may be “more acceptable” by societies standards, it’s also led to skinny shaming being deemed more acceptable.

    3. Hmmm being called skinny (other skinny names) is painful,too. During my teens years, I was teased for being skinny. It’s not popular in the African-American community to be thin.I tried to gain weight in high school so bad and was even to a point of wanting to drop out of school. I am so thankful my coach discovered me bc running is what helped me to love my body and not care what people think. Bc of you spearmint I am going to stop using the #strongnotskinny and go with #strongandskinny ……

    4. I recognise that they’re not the same, and that being perceived as thin enables you to move through the world and experience society in a totally different way that someone who’s seen as overweight doesn’t have access to. In that sense it’s a form of privilege. And yet.

      For me personally it’s a minor annoyance to be skinny shamed. But that doesn’t make comments about weight any less rude. And there are instances when assumptions about size are medically dangerous – on both ends of the spectrum. It would be medically dangerous to have a symptom dismissed or overlooked on the basis that it’s improbable in someone of a certain weight (this happens to people who are underweight – think diabetes symptoms, or heart disease) as well as having symptoms dismissed or diminished *because* doctors are focusing on a patient’s weight (this happens to people who are overweight).

    5. Agree with Ellie here– it’s way more socially acceptable to be skinny, and “skinny shaming” is akin “male victimization” (by feminists)– a false equivalence. Ultimately, no one should be commenting on your body in a demeaning manner, but let’s not pretend American women wouldn’t rather be skinny than fat.

      1. I do agree with those statements as well. While shaming on ANY level is NOT okay and incredibly hurtful, one cannot deny that “thin” in our society is equated to privilege. There is a certain social acceptability to it, while “fat” is often equated to “lazy,” “poor,” “not taking care of oneself,” etc.
        I’m not saying I agree with that, but our culture has pretty well ingrained these beliefs in people. I am glad that we can have these conversations in hopes we can evolve from these stereotypes someday.

      2. I don’t think anyone here is pretending that and I think that’s been said many times. Skinny shaming is a DIFFERENT problem than fat shaming. Just like sexism can negatively affect men, pointing that out should in no way minimize the negative effects of sexism on women. Sexism is bad for everyone and body shaming is also bad for everyone, but both of these things affect different people in different ways. I hope that makes sense because I think that because one problem is generally far worse, does not mean the other problem is unworthy of discussion or not helpful to understanding the broader overarching problem better.

  5. I definitely agree with a lot of what you’re talking about- mostly that it’s just really not okay to shame anybody about their weight/ appearance of their body. I hope someday we don’t have to keep having the same conversations about people and their weight, because what another person weighs is 100% none of my business! One quote from this piece that did give me pause, however was:
    “Are we trying so hard to accept all bodies that we are in danger of crossing over into encouraging overweight and even obese bodies?”
    Again, this is none of my business if a person is overweight, and that line could be seen as perpetuating the belief that somehow overweight is not okay. And who’s standards are we using when we make statements like overweight? Certainly if we are going by BMI charts then there are MANY fit, healthy people who are technically overweight. In the end, I think a person’s weight is their own business and if it’s problematic a discussion that could be had between that person and his/her medical professional.
    Just another viewpoint! 🙂

    1. Yeah, being against shaming one kind of body isn’t for shaming the other or being against shaming people’s bodies isn’t about worshiping them either. People have bodies and it’s up to them to decide if they like them or not, not anyone else 🙂

    2. Ooh yeah, that makes total sense! For all I know, the person I call overweight eats extremely healthy and takes care of their body but just has tons of trouble getting the weight to come off.

      1. Definitely possible! Science is learning more and more about fat, and we now know our fat is an organ in itself that works directly with the brain to regulate how much fat stays on your body. Once your body is used to a “baseline” fat level, it’s really really really hard to change that baseline, no matter where it is! Again, the book I mentioned above is a great read to understand how fat works with our brain to protect us from disease, regulate our energy and oftentimes frustrate the sh*t out of us. 🙂

        1. I want to read that book, Cinnamon! It sounds very interesting! I truly believe that my baseline is my baseline and unless I take extreme measures, my body will always default to the same 10 lb range. Only when I was miserable and eating disordered and starving in my 20’s have I ever strayed from my baseline- and even my lowest weight wasn’t off the charts low. The best lesson for me has been to stop fighting my body and accept that this is the body I was given to live in! I know there are definitely some things I *could* do to become more lean and lose a few lbs, but at this point my running goals are not enough to persuade me to fight that fight- because for my body it IS a fight!

    3. That is a really good point and something to think about. As someone who feels very strongly about the obesity epidemic in our country- I realize that it isn’t just about a number though. It isn’t just about size or looks. Focusing more on ALL sizes is a good way to show that healthy can be seen in many ways just as unhealthy can. It’s kind of like how we got to talking behind the scenes about diet, and how we talk to our kids about it. Instead of telling my kid they HAVE to eat their veggies because they’re healthy…I’d rather encourage them to simply eat a wide variety of things and also be active. I don’t want to teach my daughter that skinny=healthy, I want to teach her that healthy is being active, eating a variety of things, getting rest, etc etc. It’s so much less about telling them what healthy looks like, and explaining how we can in general BE healthier or just instill the good habits without even explaining why (after all, if we tell a kid something is good for them they want it less, right?)

  6. I can relate to this. I am in the healthcare field and sadly, a lot of caregivers (doctors, nurses, etc) don’t always take the best care of themselves. I often hear things like, “Well, you can eat that, I can’t!” I feel like it’s a burn every time someone digs at me for running an hour a day (when not pregnant). My MIL will make cookies for us and have me eat several in front of her while she doesn’t eat any and makes comments like “Your body needs this, you ran so much today!” It’s kind of embarrassing, like, I feel ashamed for running and enjoying activity more than others? It’s confusing. Also, along the lines of skinny shaming, I’ve learned that being thin and getting pregnant, people kind of cheer you on to get fat or gain unnecessary weight, too. Even though I’m pregnant and I need to gain a few extra pounds, doesn’t mean that I have the excuse to eat endless amounts of junk food and sit on my butt all day.

    1. Along those lines, It’s so awkward and weird when someone says, “Sure wish I could run like that” or “I guess I need to start running!” as they look me up and down. Creepy.

    2. Wow I never even thought of it from a pregnancy standpoint. I can’t imagine how annoying it must be to be getting comments and unsolicited advice in that area!

      1. I get asked/told I’m pregnant all the time. I’m like, nope just fat…Pisses me off. That is one topic no one should talk about with a stranger EVER!

    3. Yes, Tumeric, the skinny-shaming while you are pregnant, ugh. That was one of my (very few) pet peeves about being pregnant. So much unsolicited advice on my running while pregnant and how much weight I gained (or what some, who were not part of my medical team, thought I should gain). I always appreciated the doctors and nurses who said things like, “That’s really great that you are staying active and eating well during your pregnancy. I wish more patients would adopt that kind of plan.” I never once got shamed by my OBs or nurses who worked with me during my pregnancies. I was thankful for that.

      1. I’m years from being pregnant, and once I had another young woman say to me, “Well you’re gonna have to gain some weight if you ever want to get pregnant.” She said it in such a rude, dry way that she apologized to me later without me even saying anything to provoke an apology. She knew that I love children, and wanted to make me feel bad, I guess. Who knows?! I can’t imagine the comments that pregnant athletes receive.

  7. I’m glad you put this out here, Spearmint, because when we talk about body image, I usually feel too embarrassed to say anything. Who am I to complain? I’m “lean and muscular” according to the Tanita scale at my gym. I put in a lot of work — running and cross-training — to be that way specifically so I can run faster, not so I can fit into a smaller size or whatever else people strive to do. In fact, I’ve run out of sizes to fit into. I’ve got a closet full of work clothes that are too big, and I’ve given up on basically anything other than dresses because all my pants and skirts fall down since I am built with no hips and have literally run my butt off. Woe is me, right? Feel free to eye roll, but to those women out there who can’t find a damn thing that fits in the morning? I feel you. And I write this not to pat myself on the back for being skinny — but because sometimes I look at myself at think, “Whoa. That’s my rib cage! If only I had boobs!” Lanni Marchant talked about this on a podcast recently — the fact elite female runners typically look a lot like a guy. You lose a lot of your physical feminity like this. Some days I wonder what it is, exactly, my husband finds attractive about me.

    And yes, I get the comments, too. “Oh, you’re going to run that cake off later anyway.” “Is that a kids’ shirt?” (Okay, sometimes the answer to that is yes.) “You’re so little!”

    Being skinny is not without its own set of body issues.

  8. When it comes to running, the fact is that, in general, leaner = faster. There is a point where this is not true, of course. Every body has an optimal point of leanness for performance, sanity, health, etc and it is for each person to decide where that point is. I recently saw this somewhere and I love it, because it shows that fat bodies can perform too. So even the conventional wisdom that objective leanness is necessary for athletic performance is not necessarily true for everyone.

  9. I don’t know if it is due to the political and social climate in our country right now, the rise of social media, or maybe a little of both, but it sometimes feels like in order to “clap back” at the haters or defend something we strongly believe in, it must be taken to the extreme which often results in hurting someone else. While I don’t think that the hurt is intentional (most of the time), I don’t think that we, as a society, do a very good job about stopping and thinking about why something we say or do might be offensive to the other party. Celebrating diversity, whether it is body shape/size, race, sex, religion, etc, is so very important and necessary but it is also important and necessary to do it in a way that doesn’t make someone else feel like a lessor person. Thank you Salty Running for celebrating and including all types and encouraging this kind of discussion in a positive way!

    1. Yeah. I was thinking about this. In my experience I sense two things: 1) people think if you’re on the “optimal” end of a spectrum you’re somehow morally superior or magical or something and 2) people take out their own insecurities and jealousy on people who are what they want to be.

  10. Thank you for this!! I’ve been very small my entire life, and am often told I need to eat more (when I already eat more than most people!! I’m just blessed with a higher metabolism, which my husband doesn’t consider a blessing when I’m hAngry ALL. THE. TIME.) or don’t need to exercise or go to the gym because I’m already “so skinny”. I generally try to educate that the exercise is not to keep me skinny but to keep me healthy, because skinny does not always mean healthy!

    I try my best to eat healthy, but as some of the comments have mentioned, eating some junk food in front of people that just won’t stop with the skinny shaming (looking at you dear MIL) sometimes has to be done just to shut them up- but sometimes can even make it worse, i.e. “how can you eat all that (junk) food and stay so skinny”.. ugh. I can’t win.

    Thanks again for the post, glad to know I have company on the other side of the body shaming epidemic.

    1. “how can you eat all that and stay so skinny” is my least favorite comment. Like, here I am trying to prove that I eat and you are STILL calling me out. ugh.

      1. Don’t you just wanna say “How can you be so rude and still have friends?”

        People don’t think before they open their mouths (speaking from experience with myself). Sometimes it’s okay to just say “I’d prefer you didn’t say things like that to me, it makes me feel bad.”

  11. I love the conversation this is starting!

    As someone who has always been relatively small I’ve certainly had my share of things said or done around me over the years that made me feel uncomfortable. As an athlete, I’ve heard it all from people ASSUMING what I do or do not eat (which to me is funny, as someone who is not very strict about what I eat but even to those who are- what does it matter to you if I drink a beer, eat a burger, or only eat veggies?). Coming from non-runners, its typically the assumption that I overexercise, under-eat and don’t do “normal things”. As a currently pregnant woman, I agree with Turmeric in that I feel some people have been actually excited for me to gain weight. And once again, if I am gaining more or less than someone deems appropriate- I’ll be certain to hear about it. I also had a lab tech shame me early on in pregnancy for going to get bloodwork done in running clothes- because WHY do you need to work out during pregnancy? little did she know, that was basically the only thing that fit me at the time and actually…there are reasons to work out besides getting fit or trying to lose weight.

    We also had an issue in my high school growing up where dress code rules were only enforced on “smaller” women. Administration felt too nervous about running the risk of ” fat shaming” that they in turn made it so everyone else got shamed and in trouble. If I accidentally raised my hand and my shirt lifted where skin could be seen, my parents would get a call and I would get told to go home and change. Where as someone else, who may not be as small…wore a tube top where shoulders (a no-no on dress code) and belly (bigger no-no) were showing- nothing would be said. Having the rules apply only to one group, or only enforcing them further increases the “divide”. Why do we need to pin one against the other, or have separate groups. Your body is your body, the rules are the rules, and my lifestyle and someone elses lifestyle are NOT for you to comment on if it’s not something you would want said to you. The fact that it starts young and during the very tough teen years just makes it harder to change perception as people get older.

    Skinny shaming, just like fat shaming is not just about looks. It opens everyone up to judging your entire lifestyle. Assuming what you do, why you do it, and making you feel like you are inadequate or unacceptable because of it.

  12. Being a Latina, it’s kind of a cultural thing to say stuff about someone being to skinny. I’ve had to deal with it all my life. I’m not a black female but I see it being cultural as well. My neighbors across the street are some kind of eastern European and they always pick on me about weight, so I think it’s a culture thing with them too. The images of voluptuous women and when a skinny person is around they just bring up weight. The older I’ve gotten the less offensive it is. So cultural upbringing and mainly older people are the culprits. I’m not saying it right, but older people aren’t going to change. As long as I feel healthy, an running strong, and get let my body do what I’ve trained it to do, to hell with anyone’s opinion of me.

    1. Hahaha, I love how you start out with one culture and then I started to realize as I kept reading that…just EVERYONE picks on us about our weight and size! I have always found that to be true; wonderbread American white people don’t tend to say anything about my size, but anyone “ethnic” (I don’t like that word but I think it’s the right one-I mean anyone who comes from a strong cultural background, whether that’s race or nationality based) LOVE to talk about my big legs and how sexy they are and compliment my shape and stuff. Ew ew ew ew ew. I know a lot of times people mean it as a compliment, but I don’t want people to talk about that stuff! Leave my body alone!

      I’m with you, to hell with anyone’s opinion of how I look, but at the same time I wish there were a way to tell people I’d prefer they discuss others’ taste or style if they want to talk and keep their opinions about others’ bodies to themselves.

      1. Hispanic ( from my personal experience) love voluptuous women. So I have been called “flaca” all my life. Told I need to eat more “para que te pongas gordita” , so I can get chubby. – lol. I’ve also noticed that city people and suburban people have different views on exercising which may impact the thoughts on body size and shape. But once my “ethnic ” friends know how much I run then I get a “pass” lol. But I still get teased about not wanting to get fat and that’s why I won’t eat todo la comida?

    2. Oh, wow. I get that ENTIRELY. My husband’s very southern family has the belief that women should be bigger/curvier and not as muscular. As a trail runner, I’m simply not that body type at all– my thighs are thick, my arms are muscular, I lift a few times a week to cross train. It’s sometimes annoying how the old-fashioned idea that women should be curvier and more sedentary is being applied today. I run because I love it— not to lose weight. I wish less people would comment on my weight, what I’m eating, or (the absolute worst) how running is bad for me.

  13. Yeah, I’ve definitely gotten comments from people, strangers and family through the years. That very obvious, critical up-and-down visual inspection, followed by, “Oh, there’s a marathon this morning? That explains the single-digit body fat.” Clearly not a compliment… And my thought too, was no one would ever say that to someone on the other end of the scale. What gets me, are the comments that take away from all hard work that I’ve done… and reinforces the idea that all skinny runners are just genetically blessed. Well, to some extent yes, my genetics started me on the lower side, but I ran 2800 miles last year and did consistent core work with a specific goal in mind, and those lifestyle choices far outweighed (pun-intended) any genetic gift. Sigh. When can we get to the point where we all just live in the body we’re in without the constant inspection of society and others?

    1. People definitely say things to folks on the opposite end of the scale! I never received more judgy looks or nasty comments than when I was a size 22. But you know, it’s actually nice to hear that thin people also have to put up with judgy looks and nasty comments. It makes me feel more like we’re all in this together.

      1. I can’t walk through the Teen Center at the Y to get to the locker room anymore. Last time I did some kids were in there before school and they made zoo animal noises at me as I walked by.

  14. I have been so torn on this body positivity “movement” as of late, and I’m so glad you put this post out there! I see women who are celebrating their bodies through running, through what they wear while running, and it makes me so happy that this sport of ours can help others to achieve a positive body image. On the flip side, though, I now sense that I am being judged for posting a picture in a sports bra, proud of the body that carries me all the miles and yet happens to be thinner than others. What’s with the double standard, yo?!

    First of all – WHAT DOES IT MATTER WHAT I EAT?! I eat 90% foods that optimize my running, 10% foods that may not meet that standard, but they make me happy. If you look me up and down and comment on my eating habits, spend one day with me and see how often and how much I put something in my mouth {note: it’s almost every hour}.

    In general – Have I dropped weight while training? Absolutely. Has my body dramatically changed in the process? Absolutely. I used to be a swimmer – larger shoulders, larger glutes and legs, and a much bigger chest size. I miss those features some days, but I also know that that body would not have been optimized to run the distances and the paces that I dream of running. Like Chicory said above – I have no butt, no boobs, skinnier arms, and yeah, I have killer abs. Not exactly the curvy soft body some/most men are attracted to. But dang it, I will flaunt this body as long as I can, because every day I wake up, I’m proud of who I’ve become and what my body is able to accomplish. I’m not down with the hashtag #strongnotskinny…I don’t even really love #strongandskinny. I really just like strong. Strong as in a reflection of the person I am inside and outside.

  15. I am on the opposite end of this (not that I believe in skinny shaming – I think we agree that body shaming isn’t good – but I am a chronically obese person and am willing to share a perspective that isn’t really out there much. I have been overweight/obese since I was in second grade despite being normal birth weigh and breast fed. I wasn’t an athlete as a kid, but I played one year of softball, took gymnastics, took swim lessons, and took dance lessons. I marched in the high school band. In college and then in my early career (especially when I was working full time and in grad school) I was very sedentary. I put on more weight. I am 5’6″ and by the time I was 30 I was over 230 lbs. People always picked on what I ate and pushed on me to go exercise. I had tried. I felt too uncoordinated in group fitness classes like step aerobics. I felt too weak and fat in the university gyms. I rode my bike a little on the greenway. I loved full contact cardio kickboxing, but after foot surgery I couldn’t move that way. And then we moved and bought a house.

    I have a sister who is 11 years younger than me and four inches taller. She has always been slender. She also eats like crap and knows it. She knows I have probably never eaten as poorly (or as much) as she does.

    I was 32 when I was diagnosed with T2 diabetes. That’s when I cleaned up my diet and started to get active. Over the past 8 years I have finished 61 half marathons, 5 marathons, 2 half Ironman races, and 5 century+ bike rides. I have worked with a dietitian over the past year. All of that and I have only lost 35 lbs from my heaviest. My body fat percentage is still over 40 percent. I don’t use insulin and manage my diabetes with only a moderate dose of an old oral medication.

    I sometimes have “skinny shaming” thoughts, and here’s what comes into my mind and why:
    She is thin and healthy looking, but eating crap – unless I know you just did a kickass workout I am SUPER jealous. I want to be able to eat delicious things. But right now if I have even a single serving of some things I gain FOUR pounds, overnight.

    I get angry when I hear “I started running and lost 100 lbs” stories. I am PISSED that it hasn’t worked that way for me. It’s not for lack of effort or discipline. I am jealous and frustrated and think that people think I just don’t try hard enough and that’s why it hasn’t happened for me.

    I worry that some people are underweight because we put so much focus on being a size zero that sometimes we forget that being underweight has risks too.

    Even if I lost more weight I would still have the excess skin that I have. I don’t want to have surgery, but I am jealous of your toned arms.

    If you are only overweight because you have a butt and boobs and everything else is skinny I don’t want to hear about how fat you are. Stop it.

    Every time I eat anything in the presence of a skinny person I feel like I am being judged. When people talk about fat people or people who eat too much and I hear it, I am sure its about me. And judging me.

    I have been told I am fat my entire life. Even (especially) by people I love. If I ever heard I was skinny it would be the greatest compliment. If I say you are skinny I might not realize you feel the same about it as I feel when someone says I’m fat.

    I forget that skinny people have the same problems shopping for clothes that I have. I just assume that it’s a “fat girl” problem. Triple that for swimsuits.

    So I am sorry if I skinny shame you. Mostly I am jealous and frustrated with my own body.

    1. Rose,

      Thank you so much for posting this. I feel like I just learned so much about the opposite side of the struggle. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to always feel like you are being judged and ridiculed because of your weight. You sound incredibly strong and what you have accomplished running-wise/athletically is amazing no matter what body type you have. Clearly you have worked like crazy to accomplish all that! I am so impressed.
      I’ll definitely be slower to judge other people’s bodies from now on.

    2. I totally get the struggle with being overweight! I’ve always had to fight the battle, and even though I try really hard to not compare myself to others it’s really really hard to not feel jealous and angry when I see people who have the opposite struggle. It’s hard to not think “must be nice!” And it stings to hear someone saying that being thin, this unattainable goal that I only wish and hope and dream of, might be a burden to someone – it sometimes feels like they don’t appreciate what they have, when I would appreciate it so so so much because I know what it’s like to be fat.

      I know these feelings aren’t fair or nice, but they come out when I’m emotionally exhausted with the constant battle against being heavy. And that battle is exhausting, and gets even more exhausting as you realize it’s never going to end. Recently I read The Secret Life of Fat by Sylvia Tara, and it really helped me emotionally to read real science that explained the phenomena behind weight management.

      What I try to remember is that we’re all individuals, and that, while we don’t share the same experiences with body image, weight or size, we all share the frustration with the constant barrage of messages that tell us who we’re supposed to be, how we’re supposed to react to others and what we’re supposed to value in ourselves. I can empathize with anyone who’s sick of being lied to and put in a box!

    3. Rose, you are a badass. When I hear about all the races you run, I am so impressed because there’s no way I could do them all! I’m tired just reading your list. The points you make about jealousy are so valid, because a lot of us probably have those thoughts about other people who have the bodies we wish we had — even when we try to tell ourselves we’re fine the way we are, we don’t always believe that it true.

      1. When I met you at Women’s I thought you were ignoring/hating on me because I was fat (I was pacing so whether or not I’m slow was less of a thought). Took me a while to figure out you’re cool. I am slow to warm to some people (hell, Matt had to earn it). It means a lot that you think I’m a badass. Some day I’ll tell you the stories about how all of my hangups about being fat and slow got tied up (and still sort of are) in the PBT clothing/race kit.

  16. Thank you for posting this! I hear so many comments about how skinny I am. Particularly how quickly I get thin after having my babies. It’s super annoying, and I’ve been saying for years that calling a skinny person skinny can be just as hurtful as calling and overweight person fat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone straight to McDonald’s to get a burger and shake after someone has called me skinny.

    1. Hey, your body just knows its baseline! The amount of fat we carry isn’t nearly as much within our control as most people would like to think. No matter your size you are who you are, and the more comfy you get with yourself the more beautiful you become!

    2. Absolutely get the burger and shake response! My response is usually an internal shaming in which I question – “DO I eat enough? Should I gain weight? How do I gain weight? Where can I fit in another high protein snack? Does my thyroid medication need adjustment? Do I look sickly? Why would someone say that?” It isn’t fun!

      1. I was just talking this week about how people will ask if I’m sick, because I lose weight in my face and get hollows under my eyes. I have actually wondered if I can get some sort of filler injection so that my face looks “healthier.” WHAT?

        1. When the hubs had put on some weight people kept talking about how young he looked. Now people say his face is thin and he looks his age. I don’t think he looks 47, but even if he does…who cares? I’d rather have him be healthy than look young. Fortunately I only get shit about not wearing makeup…which I usually head off before people say anything.

  17. As Mango said, skinny shaming is a minor annoyance in my life. It really pisses me off when it happens, but I do understand that it has a different dynamic than fat shaming. My least favorite part of skinny shaming is being called names that are insulting or meant to be compliments. I remember shopping with my mom when I was a teenager, and I was suffering from an eating disorder at the time. Some other girls in the dressing room commented on my size and called me a “thin mint” very loudly, wishing for my body. Obviously they meant it as a compliment, and my mom even thought it was funny. But I was very sick. Would they have wanted my body if they knew about the war raging in my mind? This clearly made an impact as I remember it almost ten years later. Names like “stick,” “twig,” and “skinny bitch” also really piss me off by likening my appearance to an inanimate object or the ever-popular piece of wood. As many have said before, I wish we could reach a time when people just zip it when it comes to others’ appearances. I feel like I’ve become more sensitive about my compliments to others in the last few years. I hope to keep making progress.

  18. I’m someone who has been on both sides of the spectrum too…I was a heavy kid and was called fat, fatso, etc. a lot. And then I had an eating disorder and received unkind comments similar to Bergie below. I did my student teaching in Australia when I was very sick and a man driving down the street leaned out of his car and yelled “hey, miss, you’ve got no bottom!” My friend thought it was hilarious but I was so hurt that my size offended that man enough to stop his car. It’s very interesting, the way that we all feel we can comment on other people’s body sizes.

  19. Something’s been bugging me – this guy who looks you up and down and then makes a comment about your body. Whether it’s a man or woman, there’s an element of sexual harassment in that and it just grosses me out. Yuck yuck yuck, I just can’t stand the idea of people thinking it’s okay to talk this way to strangers.

  20. This is an interesting discussion. Just the other morning I had a person at the pool where I swim way to me – for the second time – “You are the skinniest person I know – do you eat?!” I don’t even know this person’s first name! The interesting thing was that my immediate response was to feel defensive. The person knows I swim regularly, and run, and basically work to stay fit. Why the commentary about eating?! Just such an odd feeling all around and not something Inwould ever consider saying to anyone, much less a stranger at the gym.

  21. wow there’s 61 comments on here already, I haven’t read any yet but I definitely have one to leave. YES, I’ve been skinny shamed pretty much my whole life. “Do you eat”, “Go eat a burger” “I can break you!” etc, etc, etc. As a matter of fact, I was skinny shamed by a 10 year old at Girls on the Run just two weeks ago “You’re Skinny. TOO Skinny” (the next practice I took her aside and told her about my past experiences with people talking about my body and how inappropriate it was for her to make that comment. I told her that she needs to work on kindness towards herself and others in order to grow to be a good person.) I was told in an airport line that I would never get a man because I was too thin. Umm, what? I was told as a kid that I had a “runner’s body” it may be one of the reasons why I started running. Looking back it’s another one of those, why do you think you have a right to say anything about my body? moments.
    Here’s the thing I disagree with in your article. “Are we trying so hard to accept all bodies that we are in danger of crossing over into encouraging overweight and even obese bodies?” I’m going to say no. And the whole looking at “curvy” folks with a lens of are we enabling them to live unhealthy lives? Is pretty much none of anyone’s business. Encouraging people to live their best lives, I believe is key. No matter what size. Don’t talk about my body, don’t talk about anyone else’s body. I think those are fair asks in a civilized world.

    1. I agree with you 100%. Not being critical of others’ bodies or our own is the goal – it’s about encouraging others to accept themselves. Period. But I’m glad Spearmint said that because we’ve been able to discuss that point. It’s been a really positive and growthful chat. Thanks for your contribution 🙂

    2. Look at you helping the next generation learn about how to be kind to themselves and others! I LOVE that!! And I agree, I also think it’s a fair ask for people to keep commentary about things we can’t control, like our body shape or size, to themselves. Unless, of course we ask for their opinion!

      But it does sorta beg the question, where do we draw the line? Is it okay for someone to tell me they don’t like freckles? (I have freckles)? Is it okay for a coworker to comment that I look tired? Is it okay for someone to tell me about a fit problem with my clothes (ie, if something is a little too tight or loose)? Is it okay for someone to tell me I ‘look really good’ in XYZ piece of clothing?

  22. I’ve actually been thinking about this post and the comment thread a lot over the past couple of days, wrestling with my own feelings about the topic. First, of course, shaming anyone at either end of the spectrum is not ok. Making comments about people’s bodies is not ok. People who do this probably make inappropriate comments about lots of other things too, to anyone and everyone. But the thing that is hard for me to grapple with here is that, although we’re talking about it as “shaming,” I suspect that for many of us, there’s at least a small sense of satisfaction when those comments are made on the skinny side of the equation. Its kind of like when you listen to interviews with super models and they lament about how awkward and uncool they were in highschool, and you’re like yeah, whatever… I really feel for ya (not). I’m not saying that the sentiments expressed here aren’t legitimate and aren’t deeply felt in important ways… but if we’re being real, we have to recognize that there’s not going to be a ton of sympathy on this outside a relatively small group of the super fit. Skinny “shaming” almost always has an element of jealousy to it (you gotta ignore the sexual harassers and others who probably make those kinds of comments to anyone and everyone they meet – it isn’t limited to skinny women). Fat shaming almost never does – it is just mean.

    Certainly not my intent to minimize anyone’s experiences, still struggling to wrap my head around this one.

    1. Great point and I’m sure a thought had by others. There is a broader importance about this conversation than who is or is not a victim or who suffers the most because of body shaming. Pointing out this aspect of it more broadly exposes the problem. Cat calling and verbal harassment of women runners is wrong, even if some of the women who get cat called or harassed feel 100% flattered by it. So what? It’s objectively wrong no matter how the “victim” perceives it – right?

      When I go to the gym to get in a run and I’m frazzled and tired and I need an hour to decompress and someone there tells me I’m “crazy” for running so much and going outside when it’s raining or because I’m already thin or whatever, it can get to me. I am proud of being a runner and on one hand it’s kinda funny I guess, but on the other it’s frustrating and sometimes I don’t want to go to the gym because I don’t want to deal with the judgment or the comments. I’m sure the people who say that are insecure about their own exercise habits or bodies, etc. But why slop that on to me? Because they’re insecure and because I’m “better” in the eyes of Self Magazine or The View or whatever dumb thing is setting the standard? That does not mean these comments and judgments are not harmful. It’s harmful to the people who make them and it’s harmful to me.

      Why do people pass judgment on others bodies, exercise habits, or eating? What’s the motivation? How should we handle this broadly or situationally? How can we make it better?

    2. Jen I think that is definitely a good point. I think the biggest thing that I personally take from all of this- is not that one type of shaming is worse than the other (they’re both very different as many have discussed in the comments) but more of an acknowledgement that both exist. Similar to racism, it exists in many ways- very different ways and it’s not about which is worse but trying to wrap our heads around the fact that we sometimes don’t think about how someone else might be affected by what is said. Another example is the speedism comments, and those who take jab “compliments” at faster runners because they are “gifted” which completely undermines the hard work that they put in- and only furthers societies notion that those who are not fast, do not work hard. I think shaming one group, feeds into shaming the opposite group etc.

      If we all take a split second to think before we say something and recognize how even a “compliment” can be hurtful…maybe we can slowly work to eliminate the comments going either direction. I know I have certainly been guilty of making a comment on either end of the spectrum that I probably didn’t think would be taken one way and looking back- the person very well could have felt bad about it. Something I want to be much more mindful about.

      So maybe some people will have a hard time wrapping their heads around this topic, and I 100% get that- but the fact that you’re TRYING to wrap your head around it is the start we need (just like people need to start wrapping their head around all types of shaming comments).

      1. “Similar to racism, it exists in many ways- very different ways and it’s not about which is worse but trying to wrap our heads around the fact that we sometimes don’t think about how someone else might be affected by what is said. ”
        No. Please. NO.
        Fat shaming is different than skinny shaming because one is shameful in our society and the other one actually isn’t (as JenF rightfully points out).
        This comment, I believe is suggesting that “reverse racism” exists. That a. completely misses/contradicts JenF’s point and b. is incredibly offensive to anyone who has ACTUALLY experienced racism (which should not be confused with “prejudice”, which everyone experiences– please educate yourself on the difference).

        1. Yes, I do not think racism is an appropriate analogy for body shaming, but (I can’t speak for Barley, but I can speak of Barley) I think the analogy was not ill-intentioned. And I think – well, I hope no one is saying that “skinny shaming” is the same as or as bad as fat shaming here. The commenters have varying degrees of depth in which they’ve considered this issue, but I do think just about everyone here is listening and seems to have an open mind. I am proud that we’re having a very open mostly nonjudgmental discussion on this sensitive issue that has advanced the conversation and our collective understanding and I think by discussing body shaming from this angle, we’ve gained a better understanding of what people with different shaped bodies than the ones we have might experience.

        2. Foot in mouth for sure here. No excuse..I know what was going through my head and it certainly came out very different than I was thinking. I apologize and did not mean it as such, and know that racism is not even close to being on same level as this, and certainly had no place.

          I will still stand by the fact that no one is saying one type of shaming is worse than the other as Salty said- but having an open conversation about how we may not always see how things affect others even if its thought to be compliment is very very important. Fact is, if someone tells you how a note or comment makes them feel- we don’t get to say otherwise. If a weight comment makes a smaller person feel bad about themselves, and a comment makes a larger person feel bad about themselves- we still have two people who were made to feel bad. Neither of which is deserving, no need to say which is worse or better.

  23. Actually had this discussion with my 12 yr old daughter this week. Those words from her peers do affect her and are not taken as a compliment. She was even wanting to gain weight. I understand as I heard them too (and occasionally still do) so I have to do my best to counter the negative comments and remind her how healthy, strong and active she is. Thanks for writing this. 🙂

    1. Body image is sooooo hard! Even more so with young girls. Fat, skinny or right in between they ALL worry they’re somehow not good enough!

      …I guess just like most grown women.

      I mean, as a woman it just blows. You’re up for inspection all the time. Remember jr. high? Girls would get teased for too fat, too thin, too pretty, too plain, too much boobs, not enough boobs, too tall, too short, too quiet, too loud, too funny, too boring, too bowlegged, too duck-footed, too small ears, too fine hair, too much this or not enough that. You just can’t win if you listen to all the voices telling you what you are and aren’t supposed to be! Better to turn on your jam and stick your earbuds in and go running because it feels good.

      1. No matter what we look like our bodies are up for inspection and comment from others and they’re never good enough even if they’re “good”, which goes to show how stupid the whole thing is really. Because even if we approach whatever is supposedly perfect, we’re still going to be shamed and critiqued.

  24. This really has been a fascinating discussion. Sort of interesting that what it seems all can agree on is that there is something fundamentally troublesome – and in many cases very hurtful – about the way we are all so quick to judge and make assumptions about each other without taking the time to connect and understand each other as humans. Sad on so many levels.

  25. -I’ve read through a lot but not all of these comments.
    -Just wanted to add one thing that I’ve noticed through personal observation.
    -I have a lot of runner friends who I believe have an eating disorder or significant disordered eating habits. And to be honest, these are the ones I hear most frequently complaining about being “skinny shamed.” Eating disorders are a big problem in running circles and I think we as a whole need to acknowledge that. I understand that someone in the thick of an eating issue are not likely to recognize or admit they have a problem, so it makes sense to me that someone in that situation would be upset by skinny comments (and possibly secretly pleased by them). However, I think everyone else needs to acknowledge this issue before blankly defending all the skinny-ness. The eating disorders are the thing I truly hate about the sport and I don’t always think it portrays distance runners so great to people outside of running circles.
    -That being said, I don’t think unsolicited, insensitive comments about ANYONE’S body, fat or skinny or whatever are appropriate or justifiable. If someone truly has a concern about someone else’s weight/health, then they should address it in a sensitive and non confrontational manner with offers of support and help.
    -As someone whose BMI consistently hovers right around 18.5, I’ve somehow gotten skinny shamed and had people comment on my big butt, big hips, and thick legs lol. It just doesn’t really bother me. I’ve come to realize that basically I can’t please everyone, and who the F cares what others think as long as I know I am healthy. My body is a combination of my genetics, my diet, and my activity. And within the running community, I really strive to be a role model by action in terms of what I eat and how I approach food and body image.

    1. I’m curious about your personal observations. Are they subjective or objective? Do you know these runners on a personal level in which you would address them in the sensitive manner you describe? I’m sure you saw that many of our comments (including my own) described situations in which we were made fun of, skinny-shamed, or bullied in the heights of our disorders, and those moments were deeply upsetting. When you have an illness that is visible, it really hurts when you are being taunted and not helped. I think that’s a natural response to become upset about it. I also don’t think there is any “secretive liking” of these comments, hence the point of addressing it in the post. We would not have these anecdotes if they did not hurt our feelings. On that note, many of us have acknowledged that skinny-shaming has a different dynamic than fat-shaming because being fat in our society is not as acceptable as being thin. But that doesn’t mean that we tolerate or even appreciate this negative attention.

      I also don’t see Spearmint defending skinny-ness. She is saying, “Hey, this is a result of this. What can I do? Don’t taunt me or judge me for how I look.”

      I’m glad you’re trying to be a good role model in body image for the running community!