Yesterday while I was at work (I work in a hospital dietary office), I was talking to a nurse about a patient’s meal options. I was telling her I was unable to order a cheeseburger for a patient as the patient was recovering from open heart surgery (as in the system literally would not let me choose the cheeseburger as an option, not that I didn’t think the patient should have it, which is another post in itself). The nurse gets up to walk away and then turns around.
She looks me up and down with a look of disgust on her face and says “Not that you have to worry about anything, Miss Tiny,” in this oh-so-condescending voice that made me want to disappear.
Now, I am not posting about this to throw myself a skinny-girl pity party. It is easy for me to brush the comment aside because we live in a society where thinness is the goal (a future separate post as well). I am writing about this to bring light to an issue that we as fellow humans face in our culture when it comes to body image and acceptance.
“Get that girl a milkshake.”
“That guys got a total Dad-Bod.”
“Gross, push away from the table every once in a while, please.”
For a lot of people, the size a person is at is never good enough. We are either too fat, too skinny, too curvy, too muscular, too short, too tall, the list goes on. And it doesn’t just stop at the number on the scale. We are also either too loud, too quiet, too boring, too political, too emotional, etc. Oh, and it’s not good enough to just be a stay-at-home mom, but once you start working why would you not put your babies first? And please don’t get me started on stay-at-home dads; do you have no drive?
It all gets so tiring.
When we siphon a person down to the number on a scale, or to their choices in life, we are taking away the person’s inherent dignity to simply live their lives. Body shaming does nothing but make a person feel as if they aren’t worthy of love and acceptance. It can change our focus from reaching goals, learning, playing, creating, connecting, and loving to trying to fit our bodies into this mold of what others think we should look like; aka dieting, over-exercising, binging, shaming, etc.
And along this same path, I think there is a common misconception about dietitians and what they do. (See a previous post.) The goal of a good dietitian (emphasis on the good, because there are bad ones, just like there are bad doctors) is to help a person reach their health goals. It is not to shave off pounds until the person is at an acceptable societal weight and it is not put people on diets.
Adverse health consequences can occur because of choices about food and lifestyle. We understand this because of the rapidly rising incidence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, eating disorders, and more. If a person wants to do something about their declining health, and if diet can play a part in that, I want to be there to help.
What I believe is this:
Someone who is skinny can be unhealthy. Someone who is fat can be malnourished. Someone who is skinny can be perfectly healthy and someone who is fat can also be perfectly healthy. The size of our bodies has nothing to do with who we are as people or the choices we have made in life. When we comment negatively about another person’s size we are perpetuating the complicated relationships we have with our bodies, which creates a pretty negative environment for us to attempt to thrive in.
Health and body size are two separate conversations. Health should be a conversation we are having. Body size should not.