A crime to be thin?

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.

Weak girls don't climb stuff...

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?


11 thoughts on “A crime to be thin?

  1. I would guess that it is a mixture of both. There have been times in my life when people said that I was too thin.

    Nobody is going to tell a person that they are fat. We know all about that story. It’s not only saying that you eat too much it also says that you have no self control and that you are lazy. Ouch.

    Being too thin in Guatemala means that you are poor and don’t have food and there is a good chance that you are malnourished.

    Being thin in the U.S. can be determined by a number of things. 1. Eating Disorder 2. Poor and no food 3. More exercise than food intake 4. Body type 5. Medical condition But, from the last 30 years of watching eating disorders on tv, I would guess that people are predisposed to think that to be the issue.

    Just my thoughts.

    • mjorgey

      I agree, Julie. Telling someone they are fat in the U.S. is loaded–it insults not only their body but their character. In other parts of the world, it is a compliment or just neutral–usually places with a high poverty rate. Conversely, in Korea, I was praised for being thin.

      I suppose this “too thin” thing bothers me partially because who the heck is defining “too thin”? Having a BMI below 18.5? I could have lost another 10 pounds and still been within a healthy BMI range. There’s such a range of “healthy” weight and as long as a person is eating properly, exercising, and enjoying life I say let them be;)

  2. Shawn

    My weight has varied a lot during my adult life due to many factors. At times, people have asked me if I am “too thin”. But they have also asked people around me if I am okay when I am thin (not wanting to approach me with the subject). I really think we should learn to be more tactful – or avoid the topic. I have found that eating disorders can be reinforced by well meaning people who bring up the “too thin” topic. At the moment, when I feel like a one of the balloons in the Macy’s parade, people tell me I look “normal” now. I guess that is their way of saying – “wow, you have gained a lot of weight”.

    But, most importantly, Melissa, where can I get some Lulu Lemon tights?

    • mjorgey

      Shawn, I completely agree with you that bringing up “too thin” with someone who struggles with an eating disorder can reinforce the eating disorder mentality. When I was struggling with disordered eating and major body image stuff and someone commented on my weight, it was torture. Even if they were telling me how thin I was (which I desired when I had an eating disorder), it killed me because then when they didn’t say anything about my weight I figured it was because they no longer thought I was thin. Obviously, this was the craziness in my mind, but discussing weight with someone with an eating disorder is seldom a good idea (in my opinion). Also, even though I no longer have an eating disorder, when people told me I was too thin, my mind started playing tricks on me. One week in Seoul I ate myself sick trying to gain weight. Josh had to have a talk with me about how I shouldn’t worry about what others were saying because I was healthy. I think you’re right, for the most part, we shouldn’t bring up people’s weight.

      Lulu Lemon tights–haha. I almost died of laughter when I read that part. They are rather expensive (I got mine for Christmas) but they are wonderful–comfortable and flattering (nice wide waistbands). There is a Lulu Lemon store at U Village. You can also check them out online:


      Love you, Auntie!

    • mjorgey

      That’s great news! And I agree, happiness is probably a better indicator of health than how thin someone looks. Maybe we should be more concerned with or friends level of happiness than their pant size. I feel my happiest when i’m at my healthiest and I’m healthiest when I’m at my happiest.

  3. Bethany

    Interesting analysis. Thinking of you, you’ve always been very toned, not merely slim. I think I’m reacting in a different way. People have commented on weight I’ve lost, which is nice, but I think back to when I was at my thinnest. I was ridiculously ill–under 100 pounds at 5’5. People told me how great I looked, and I hated it because I was miserable. Looking at pictures from that time, I not only look sick, but I look wrong. It seems with your story we’ve turned 180 degrees from that, and not for the better.

    I love the idea of just being happy, even if you want to change (put on more muscle, lose more fat, whatever). I’ll keep my size 10 skinny jeans, thank you.

    • mjorgey

      Bethany, Ugh–I think it is just as destructive when people tell you how good you look when you know you are sick. Our society has some serious issues with how we view bodies, eh? And with knowing when to shut our traps 🙂

      You keep rockin’ those size size 10 skinny jeans, girl!.

  4. Matthew

    Two and a half years of walking, cycling, and eating a low fat diet in Japan showed me exactly why Americans are so embarrassingly fat compared to the rest of the world, save Canada. It’s all about self-control and education. There are very few people in the US who have any excuse to be fat and unhealthy, especially people in their teens or 20s. Eat your age, eat real food, and be active. It’s so simple. I’ve been called anorexic here and fat in Japan so it’s all relative in some sense. PS Welcome back Mellisa! I know how you feel!

    • mjorgey

      It is a difficult transition back to the states, eh? I’m glad to be home but I truly miss our lifestyle in Korea. We’re trying out best to remake it here but until our cities and neighborhoods are planned better–there’s only so much we can do. It does make a huge different though in people’s weight. Cars contribute to our obesity problem, for sure.

      What part of Japan did you live in? Japan is so beautiful (I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that). Any plans to go back?

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