Strive to be clever, strive to be kind, strive to be at peace, but never strive to be thin.
For so many years, I wanted to be thin, skinny, slight. At 11 years old I thought those who were thin were elegant, glamorous and happy. I wanted that too. My obsession with my weight increased in my early teens whilst the number on the scale decreased. By the time I was 16 I was severely underweight and very ill: I had anorexia.
Anorexia, of course, is not simply the desire to be thin but it certainly is a large component. I do not wish this piece to be about the ins and outs of anorexia, but having suffered with this illness for over 5 years I have gained a great deal of insight into the entire notion of ‘thin’.
To be thin bears a number of connotations for all of us, some may associate it with happiness and healthiness, others with wealth and success. It is not just an ideal for those with eating disorders. It affects every one of us.
Thin to the point of emaciation
With my own experience, I can vouch for what ‘thin’ really gets you. Here, I am focusing on extremes but people who go through rapid weight loss (whatever their weight) can experience these symptoms too.
Anyone can look up the effects of being underweight or severe weight loss and if you do you are usually presented a list comprising of: heart palpitations, anemia, headaches, dizziness, loss of concentration, lethargy, loss of period and organ failure.
It’s a pretty grim list but living it is worse. Those lists don’t mention the deterioration in relationships and friendships, or your dropping performance at school, or the inability to get out of bed due to crippling depression, or the muscle pains, or insomnia.
This is strictly a list of symptoms from severe weight loss. Not anorexia. Simply being underweight can cause these things.
But I’m not underweight nor I don’t want to lose weight rapidly, so what’s the problem with wanting to be thin?
It comes down to the fact that you don’t necessarily want to be thin, you just want the emotional, social or physical effects that you associate with being thin.
Thin doesn’t actually mean anything.
Thin is thin. It’s a describing word. It’s a body shape. What’s so great about that? I’ll answer it for you: nothing.
I’m not saying it’s bad to be thin, I’m saying objectively there is nothing good about being thin. In the same way that there is nothing ‘good’ about being an hourglass shape; in the same way that being blonde isn’t pretty and brunette ugly.
You may associate thinness with healthiness but it can be forgotten that they aren’t synonyms. You can be exceptionally muscular and be healthy but not necessarily ‘thin’.
When you say you want to be thin, or you want to lose weight, think about the subtext. What are you really saying?
Do you want to be healthy, more confident, fitter, prettier, happier, brighter, livelier?
Don’t use ‘thin’ as an umbrella term. If you have low self esteem, work on building your confidence, if you want to be happier, look at what you can improve- friendships, life goals, day to day life.
Changing your weight seldom changes your mind.
To lose weight, to hold thin as an ideal may seem like a shortcut to wealth, happiness and love but it’s simply not.
Strive to eat more fruit, strive to make fulfilling friendships, strive to excel at what you enjoy, strive to smile more, strive to be kind, to be caring, to be good.
I have learned recently that there are so many worthwhile things to do, to achieve, to experience outside of your weight and appearance.
Consider who you can help, what you can do, how you can make a difference.
That is far nobler than a reduction in your waist line.