Welcome to the new kind of body-shaming where even being skinny isn't enough.

As far as body-shaming goes, not much tends to penetrate my radar.

I’ve spent a good deal of my 22 years working hard to make sure my body will never be my currency. When summer rolls around and the inevitable half-joking-but-really-mostly-serious comments about how no-one’s bikini body is ready to brace the beach, I try to tune out.

When Kayla Itsines and her bikini body transformations stumbled into my newsfeed, I quietly unfollowed her and went about my day. And when articles about diets and fads and getting into shape come into focus, I scroll along.

They are conversations that sit behind a wall of ignorance, purposely separating my reality and my body image from the messages hurled at me from a world that finds value in your t-shirt size.

Bluntly, I don’t let it demand my attention for fear what might happen lest I give it air time.

So when I sat with a group of friends on the weekend and found a subtle sense of shame creeping up me about my body, no-one was more surprised than I was.

Skinny-fat, they said. Surely I had heard of it? The kinds of bodies that are thin enough, but you know, not that toned. 


It was conversation that wasn’t gender-specific, nor was it particularly personal. It just was what it was: Skinny-fat, a title as unassuming as a confusing milk label. Is it healthy or not?

Except as unassuming as the conversation was, I found myself waiting for the ball to drop. As far as elephants in the room goes, surely this was a six-tonne African elephant sitting Harry Potter’s bedroom in the cupboard under the stairs. Did my closest friends not notice I was the walking definition of skinny-fat at this point in time?

"Walk past me in the street and you would assume I was relatively healthy."

Walk past me in the street and you would assume I was relatively healthy. Mostly because I am. But as my final semester of uni takes charge, my assignments and my part-time work has become a closer friend of mine than my local gym or running track.

As I walked into work this morning, relaying the conversation and a concept I was apparently so late on the bandwagon with, I realised I wasn't the only one internalising a concept that was the most bizarre form of body-shaming I had yet encountered.

I found myself in a conversation with four others who looked at me, looked down at themselves, nodded and agreed. Skinny-fat? We're all skinny-fat, they said.

We collectively learnt being healthy wasn't enough years ago. It didn't matter how your body functioned internally, nor did it matter how healthy a doctor decided you were. You were skinny, or you were unhealthy.

But in a world where the #fitspo movement has become a commodity in and of itself, and clean-eating has become the most exclusive kind of first-world club, skinny isn't enough any more either.

Do you want to be thin or do you want to be fit? The Well talks 'fitspiration'. Post continues after audio.

That in the rush to push health and wellness into the public eye to ensure we are functioning as the healthiest versions of ourselves, we forgot one crucial fact: that it is not really about health at all.

Does the person who looks at someone and calls them skinny-fat genuinely care about their wellbeing? Do they look at the lack of tone in my biceps and wonder how I must handle not being able to carry the odd grocery bag from the car without help? Do they have legitimate concerns for how my body functions internally?

I know I don't need to answer that for you. Because body-shaming was never about health and it never will be.

Skinny-fat is just the newest member of a club desperate to make sure we all have one overriding insecurity about a body that's meant to carry us, not represent us.

Tags: body-2 , body-positive , health
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