Skinny Friend Complains About her Weight

Dear Robin:

I have been overweight for many years by between 10-20 pounds depending upon job stress, the holidays, or whatever. Usually I’d say I’m a good 15 pounds heavier than my ideal weight.  Many of my friends are in the same boat.

Not “Jenny,” though.  Jenny is very, very thin, almost bordering on anorexic.  Jenny has a very annoying habit of constantly referring to her weight and complaining that she feels fat or bloated or huge.

I’m sick of it, and so are her friends.  I know she knows she isn’t fat so I’m starting to think this is passive-aggressive needling or some such shit.  How about a script from the “Robin Tells It Like It Is?” vault of treasures?  I bet you’ve seen this one before…

Callie 

Dear Callie:

Yes, I’ve seen this before.  Yes, I’ve been annoyed by this before.  But it was reading your email that reminded me I’ve been guilty of this behavior as well.  Thanks a lot for making me feel sheepish and lousy, Callie!

Anyone who’s seen my picture or knows me can attest to the fact I’ve never been “skinny” like your friend Jenny. Thanks for sending me her picture so I could confirm she is roughly a size minus-4.  I hate that bitch.

In my younger, darker days I prayed I’d fall victim to the eating disorder that actually made you thin, not the stupid ugly stepsister Bulimia which doesn’t usually result in weight loss and makes you bloated and stinky besides, not to mention broke.  Binging and purging 7 times a day gets expensive, you know!

Anorexia takes willpower and hard work: two concepts with which I only recently became familiar.  

Bulimia simply requires a longer-than-average index finger, a voracious appetite fueled by an empty soul, and a certain lack of squeamishness that cannot be overstated.

Although I have never flirted with being exceptionally thin like Jenny, my weight has fluctuated over the years and I do admit an unhealthy obsession with it in the past.  I was at my thinnest while suffering from severe postpartum depression and my new figure was the only thing besides my son that gave me the rare twinge of happiness.

It’s a lot easier to ignore what’s going on inside you and focus on your outward appearance than it is to seek understanding of why you are unhappy and unsatisfied.

Even though I was not able to maintain that weight loss I have kept myself in decent shape over the years, so thinking about your email I asked myself: have I complained about being fat around people heavier than me? 

Yeah, I’ve done that.  I think everyone has, especially American women.

We came of age in a culture which labeled us worthless if we didn’t look a certain way and which places women especially thin and beautiful upon a pedestal so high that they become trapped there, never motivated to develop a challenging and intelligent personality but rather told to just stand up there and be perfect.

Those of us not meeting those ideals tend to complain about it and forget the audience around us.

Wow – I’m really off track.  Apologies for the digression.

Back to Jenny:

I’m pegging Jenny as falling into one of two categories:

1. Angry, thin, competitive bitch.

Jenny knows she is thinner than everyone and she doesn’t care much for the women around her.  Therefore, she takes pleasure in calling her friends porchetta-loving, exercise-hating, lazy-ass word-hole stuffers in an indirect manner that still gets the message across while making her look insecure and imperfect.  

She also is a fan of fishing for compliments, which she probably doesn’t get much of at home because her husband is sick to death of telling her:

No honey, you aren’t fat!  You look great!

-OR-

2. Woman suffering from an illness.

Under this scenario, Jenny actually has an eating disorder and cannot see in the mirror what you see.  Here’s a link that can help explain this phenomenon: Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

Individuals with anorexia nervosa usually display a pronounced fear of weight gain and a dread of becoming fat even though they are markedly underweight. Concerns about their weight and about how they believe they look have a powerful influence on the individual's self-evaluation. The seriousness of the weight loss and its health implications is usually minimized, if not denied, by the individual. Individuals with bulimia nervosa regularly engage in discrete periods of overeating, which are followed by attempts to compensate for overeating and to avoid weight gain. Binge eating is followed by attempts to "undo" the consequences of eating too much though behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, enemas, diuretics, severe caloric restriction, or excessive  exercising.

Eating disorders amongst women our age aren’t terribly common but they do exist, especially in women who suffered from such disorders in their youth.  

If Jenny has an eating disorder she truly is insecure and sees herself as fat, and therefore she wouldn’t recognize that her comments to you and others in your group could be seen as tone-deaf and insensitive.  Looking at her photo I’m just not sure, not to mention diagnosing people is beyond my pay grade and probably illegal.

Luckily for you, today’s advice is one-size-fits-all!  Also luckily for you, it comes with a script.  I’ve been getting more and more requests for these lately which is great because it tells me I’m not only good at advice-giving but so damn good that people literally want me to put words in their mouths.  LITERALLY!

Jenny, it’s no secret I’ve battled a few pounds over the years, as have many of our mutual friends.  I wanted to be very direct with you and let you know how some of us feel when you complain about your weight, which is often.

You are very thin both objectively and compared to the other women you spend time with, so when you make announcements about feeling fat it creates tension and feelings of embarrassment for others who actually do struggle with their weight.

If you actually see yourself as being too heavy, I urge you to find a counselor who can talk to you about this issue, because in my opinion your self-perception may be indicative of an eating disorder.  Regardless, I hope in the future you will remember how others feel when you complain about your weight.  It’s like Bill Gates bitching about being poor to Robin DesCamp.

Please let me know how the conversation goes by sending a follow-up email.  

I know someone who does this all the time and I’m going to follow my own advice and have this talk with her as well. If she dumps me as a friend and Jenny does the same, let’s set them up so they can spend time together working out and eating celery.

Now I’ve gotta run…I have five hours of writing, 100 push-ups, and 6 miles to job/hobble through today.  My jeans are too tight and bathing suit season is upon us.  I’m so fat!

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Tamsen

    I come from a background of growing up as a ballet dancer, and never being thin enough. (I distinctly remember weighing 98 pounds at 5’6″ in high school and being too fat) and having a mother who, when I weighed about 125 pounds at 5’7″ (my final, grown up height in college) was told I couldn’t be seen in a bikini I was so fat. I look back at the photos of my thinner days and wish I could have felt good about myself then (because now I really am fat). I have never felt thin enough, and so I can kind of identify with Jenny. She’s probably oblivious to the weight or feelings of those around her (I would have been) and she may well not see herself accurately. In hind sight for me, it’s really just a shame I couldn’t have just felt happy with how I looked back then, because frankly, I looked dang good. Cut Jenny some slack, my hunch is she’s got her reasons, but really doesn’t feel good about herself.

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