Friday, 22 August 2014

Thin = Healthy

Oh please.

I don't usually consider myself a bad-tempered person. I'm usually pretty reasonable and generally I'm very level and cheerful. Occasionally however like everyone I will see red and then woe betide whatever the butt of my disapproval is. One such example of when I cross the boundary into an out of character temperament is when faced with an assumption that has been cropping up rather a lot lately in all sorts of discussions about chronic illness - that weight at either end of the spectrum is the sole cause of the problem.

OK, stranger. Let's say that I'm prepared to give your hypothesis even a moment's thought. Show me the medical qualifications with which you feel empowered to make such a sweeping statement. Nothing doing? So would you like to explain to me the relevant experiences of ill people which have led you to your false conclusion? The huge breadth of people you would have needed to meet and discuss this with in detail to have any hope of such a broad statement being remotely accurate?


I'll tell you why you're silent. You're one of the ignorant masses who never pause to think beyond whatever Google tells them. You never give any thought to anything beyond the narrow boundaries of what society deems acceptable, and the actions of the mass media which enforce those standards. Bravo, bravo.

My weight has virtually nothing to do with my conditions. Interstitial Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder lining - please explain to me how my weight whatever it may be could possibly prevent or cause such an affliction? No really, I'm waiting. I'd simply love to hear it. Obviously this is an area of biology and pathology I'm completely oblivious to so go ahead and educate me.

I dare you.

Fibromyalgia affects the joints, muscles and fibrous tissues of the body. Exactly how does my being "thin" stop the aches and stiffness, the sensitivity and weakness? Exactly what could my BMI (a flawed system to be sure) have to do with any of that?

When I first fell ill I lost nearly two stone in weight and I looked awful - there was nothing I could do and I was eating as well as I could with my rebellious digestive system. My explanations never stopped any comments of "You'd feel better if you just ate more" or "There's no point starving yourself to be thin".

(You most certainly are. Image from

Really? REALLY? Just who in the hell do you think you are?

First things first about me - I'm 5'3" and have a small frame. There's nothing I can do to change those two facts, and they define rather a lot when discussing size. I'm reasonably slim, but I work at it. The days of my being able to eat whatever I wanted and metabolise like a racehorse are gone, so I'm well behaved and the amount of exercise I do to keep the Fibromyalgia at bay is an enormous help in this regard.

I'll tell you a secret - I have no idea what I weigh. I don't weigh myself. Aside from if you have a medical reason for monitoring weight, I think it's a bad idea. It just seems too easy for self worth to become wrapped up in the number on the scales.

The heart of the matter is that the number on the scales only shows you one thing - a numerical representation of your relationship with gravity. When last I checked gravity was an infinite resource. Thin people are not wasting their allocation thereof, and bigger people are not *gasp* taking up more of it than they should. I'm fairly sure short of something catastrophic we're not going to run out of gravity.

The weight game is yet another hazard of an illness being "invisible". Weight sadly is visible, and it's all too easy for the ignorant to pin the problem on what they can see. Weight is not simply a matter or how much or how little you eat. I have known people who might eat like the proverbial four-legged herbivore but can't keep weight on because of inflammatory bowel conditions (one example cause), and still others who barely eat anything at all and still balloon in weight as a result of medications they have to take to have any hope of a productive day to day existence. Their weight is the effect of their illness, not the cause.

There is no difference between telling a thin person they should eat more and telling a bigger person to eat less, or exercise more. Either way you are being incredibly rude - whatever anyone else does with their body isn't required to match up with your idea of what to do with yours. In fact, nobody else's body is any of your business. Particularly when in the realm of chronic illness you're also being incredibly ignorant of the myriad of complicating factors which may determine the person's resulting weight - and how dare you presume to judge their eating and exercise habits as a stranger?

More importantly though, why is weight seen to be such a defining characteristic for us? Are "fat" or "skinny" really the most important things we could be as human beings? Are they really the standard by which everything about a person should be judged? Why is it seen as completely fair game to comment and expect no consequence for doing so?

A trick some people never learn is to engage their brain before they open their mouth. So many of us speak in ignorance when we should be quiet and learn, and in situations where we honestly do not have the right to comment.

You often hear this personified as "I'm a straight talker - I say what I think!" as if that's a get out of jail free card for whatever offence could be given by your words. Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom of consequence - and the latter seems to be what people are expecting when they envoke the former.

Happily for those of us less impressed with your behaviour, one day you'll meet someone who talks straight in return and I can guarantee you will not enjoy it in the slightest.

One final thing to remember, and it really sums up all of this post. Not a single one of us has to justify to anyone else the space (however much of it) we occupy in the world, and nor should we ever try to.

(Something to always keep in mind. Image from

Has anyone else been the butt of comments regarding their health and weight in this way? What did you do?

Letting the bee out of my bonnet and wishing you all many spoons xxx

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