***This post is focusing on increasing the awareness of people who struggle to gain weight. I understand that this might not apply to everyone but regardless, please take time to read this post and at least try understand it from someone else’s point of view.***
All my life I’ve struggled to gain weight. Yes, gain weight, not lose it. Most people would do anything for that ability to be skinny all the time, and not have to worry about what they eat. But trust me, it’s just as bad as struggling to lose it. I get told a lot of times that ‘you need some meat on your bones‘ or ‘you need a good Sunday dinner to fill you up‘ or ‘you must not eat much to be that skinny‘. Truth is, I eat 3 meals a day; breakfast, lunch and dinner and I snack throughout the day (in-between those meals), so it’s not a problem with my diet.
Now, I am one of those “lucky” people out there that can eat whatever they want and never put on a pound of weight, but that my friend is my metabolism (not luck). I am and always have been, a very active person, from a very young age I took up dancing and gymnastics, and as I grew up they both became more intense. I was attending more classes and entering more competitions in both, this was a lot of activity for a young person, which meant my metabolism was incredibly high and still increasing. When I eventually stopped gymnastics to pursue my love for dance, this didn’t however have anything to do with my weight. I remained very thin and active into my teenage years.
Throughout school (mainly high school), I got a lot of “comments” about my weight and they weren’t all that positive. Being called “anorexic” or “the skinny b****” or just general comments and questions on my weight which were completely unnecessary. People just loved to be nosy, which was ironic because there was nothing to be nosy about. I didn’t have an eating disorder, I wasn’t skipping meals, I wasn’t trying to be skinny, I just was. This, with the added stress of high school (and bullying for my pre-brace teeth), knocked my body confidence quite a lot, and the only “compliment” I ever got was something along the lines of “I wish I was that skinny”, which in my mind I never took as a positive.
As of today I have weighed myself at 8 stone, and I am so happy for finally reaching and maintaining that weight (I am not saying everything should be based on numbers. I, however, did set myself a small goal of reaching this weight) but it has and will continue to take a lot of mental power as much as it has food and exercise. Most people would tell me to stop complaining because I’m ‘lucky’ but there are people at the opposite end of the weight scale that complain about not being able to lose weight and no one tells them the ‘stop complaining’. In our society there is a lot of talk about weight loss, calorie counting and getting this ideal body size, shape and weight that it puts an insane amount of stress on people to try lose or gain weight and fit into this ‘norm’. It needs to stop.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
is a calculation that the National Institute of Health (NIH) use to determine whether you are underweight, healthy or overweight based on your gender, age, height and weight, this gives you a number and places you on a scale. However, it is a very flawed calculation, not taking into account people with different lifestyles or body types. For example; a bodybuilder who has worked hard to achieve large muscles (meaning a heavier muscle mass) but is still perfectly healthy, could be considered overweight to the NIH because all it uses to determine this is their height and weight.
The definition of the word ‘Underweight’ according to Wikipedia is: “Underweight is a term describing a person whose body weight is considered too low to be healthy. This usually refers to people with a body mass index (BMI) of under 18.5 or a weight 15% to 20% below that normal for their age and height group.“
Please let me clear this up. My ‘BMI’ is 17 and I am healthy. Not the healthiest of people, but I dance and workout every week, I don’t eat salads every single day but I also don’t eat chocolate, crisps and sweets everyday either. But I am in no means “unhealthy”.
Labeling people ‘underweight’ or ‘overweight’ or even ‘healthy’ can be so detrimental to people’s body confidence and self-esteem and most importantly their mental health! Yet people still feel it’s okay to do it. If you’re not happy with the way you look, ask yourself why? Most of the time the answer will be ‘because I’m not skinny’ or ‘because I have too much flab’ or something along the lines of this ideal figure, but who was it that created this ideal image of a beautiful skinny toned, size 6 ‘no fat’ model? There may be a few out there but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world has to be that too.
Body Image: “is the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings resulting from that perception” – Notice how it’s a perception, it’s that feeling that you NEED to look like something that isn’t always real. You don’t need to do anything!
Self Esteem: “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect” “sense of self-worth and confidence” – This is badly effected by people’s PERCEPTION of the ‘ideal’ body image.
There are plenty of incredible role models (I’ll list below) out there that deal a lot better with this subject and have much more of professional outlook but I am very passionate about it because of my situation.
YOU DON’T NEED SOCIETY OR ANYONE ELSE TELLING YOU WHAT YOU NEED TO LOOK LIKE OR WEIGH. IT’S YOUR BODY. YOU CHOOSE.
Stay Positive, Aim for Healthy!