Last year, in Seoul, I lost about 10 pounds. Part of it may have been due to illness (I fought bronchitis for the first few months), part to stress (I worked a lot for the first couple of months), and part to walking or cycling every time I left the house. It was a 20 minute walk or a 10 minute ride to the nearest subway station–which in and of itself required going up and down lots of stairs. Costco? Load up the big pack, a jug of vinegar in one hand and a bag of produce in the other–a walk back to the subway, stairs, subway ride, stairs out, 2o minute walk home… Elevator? Didn’t take it unless I had my bike–that’s four stories of stairs every time I left our apartment. Taxi’s were for desperate situations and midnight walks along the river were common place. Needless to say, I was on the move a lot.
After being in Seoul for a while, people began to comment on how thin I was looking (Mostly my fellow Americans who were looking at pictures on Facebook). Friends expressed concern about my health. I would say things like, “yes, I’ve lost a little weight but I’m trying to put it back on…” or “Yeah, I’ve been sick.” But the truth of the matter was, living in Korea and eating the way I do, just lead to a leaner me. I wasn’t sickly or weak. I hiked and ran on the mountain by our house several times a week. I did strength workouts in our living room. I carried heavy loads of groceries for miles. I was buff and I was thin.
It was during this time, of being questioned about my level of thinness that I began to think about why it is that people feel comfortable commenting when they think someone looks too thin and not when they think someone is too heavy (we leave that to their doctors). I thought maybe these were inappropriate thoughts I was having–maybe they would hurt someone’s feelings if I talked about it so for the most part, I just pondered them within myself and didn’t share them.
Fast forward to moving back to the states (where I’ve successfully gained back the 10 pounds in 2 months with the only thing changing in my lifestyle is that I now drive a car). I went to get a much needed hair cut last week . I went to this cute little place by my house owned by a lovely and super sassy young woman (turns out she lives across the street from us). It was during the snow storm and I rocked up wearing Lulu Lemon tights, boots, and a sweater. The woman, very petite herself, commented several times on how tiny I am (Lulu lemon tights will do that). She asked me if she looked as little as me and I assured her I thought she was smaller (truth). As she was doing her thing on my hair, we got to chatting about how people in her life keep telling her she’s too thin. She is thin, but not “too thin”–she has a pilates instructor/runners body (which she is). I told her I had experienced the same thing and she posed the question I’d been pondering for a few months–Why do people comment when you are too thin but they wouldn’t dream of telling an overweight person they looked too fat?
Is it because being overweight in the norm in America and so what is considered “too thin” has morphed? Is it that people are actually trying to compliment you when they tell you how you look too thin?
What do you think?