beauty

"I've been a size six all my life, and I feel quietly guilty about it."

I feel nervous writing about my weight. I’ve never written about my weight before, and I don’t often speak about it. I feel like people are going to start shouting at me, “Shut up!” I’m not claiming to be some kind of authority. But I do know my own body.

I have been a size six for pretty much my whole adult life. I’ve been pregnant twice, and both times, had that basketball-under-the-jumper kind of pregnancy that makes people leap to their feet on trains to offer their seats. Both times, I went back to my usual weight, which is a bit less than 45kg, after having my baby. I’m now in my mid-forties, and although everything is droopier than it used to be, I’m still a size six.

I have seen plenty of articles with headlines like “Secrets of skinny women” or “How these women stay thin without dieting”. This is not going to be one of those articles. I have no secrets, no tips.

Watch: Meaghan Ramsey on the effects of low self-esteem. Post continues after video.

I eat when I’m hungry. I also eat when I’m bored, or unhappy, or happy. I eat till I’m full, sometimes beyond. I eat lots of buttered toast and white rice and pasta and cheese, and drink alcohol every night. I always have carbs for dinner.

I eat late. I eat my kids’ leftovers. I eat biscuits and chocolate and chips (though lately I’ve tried to cut back on the junk food, because I’m trying to set a good example for my kids). I do no real exercise, I don’t drink much water and I rarely get more than six hours’ sleep.

These articles on how skinny women stay skinny suggest that they’re doing something different from other women. They have some secret knowledge. Most importantly, they have willpower. They are self-disciplined. Therefore, if you are not skinny, you are just not putting in the effort that skinny women are.  (Post continues after gallery.)

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Sorry, but that’s bollocks.

These articles don’t mention one vital point: different people’s bodies deal with food in different ways. Research has suggested that our body weight is 60 to 70 per cent determined by our genes.

You don’t hear that point made very often, because it’s not going to help sell magazines or weight-loss programs or diet products.

Me. Photo supplied. 

Some people are naturally predisposed to be thin. These people, like me, don't talk about it much, because we know people will tell us to shut up, or hate us, or not believe us.

Some people can be thin if they put in a bit of effort, by restricting the foods they eat and exercising regularly. These people never shut up about it. They want to share their story with everyone, and "inspire" other people. Everyone wants to hear what they have to say.

ADVERTISEMENT

Then there are the people who find it almost impossible to be thin. No doubt everyone has advice for them.

Of course, what people eat does affect their weight. If you eat entire cheesecakes or drink four litres of soft drink every day, you will, most probably, put on lots of weight. But most people don't eat like that. And, of course, there are more overweight and obese people around than a generation or two ago, due to lifestyle factors. But not everyone is overweight or obese.

Image: iStock

Weight loss and gain is a complex, individual thing. If everyone ate exactly the same food and did exactly the same amount of exercise, they would not all weigh exactly the same. This idea that it's all a simple matter of "calories in, calories out" is bullshit. It's harmful. It encourages people to make judgements about other people and themselves on the basis of weight. Weight is not some kind of moral issue.

Just because someone is thin doesn't mean they're making smart food choices. It doesn't mean they're self-disciplined. It doesn't even mean they're healthy.

A recent six-year study into The Biggest Loser contestants in the US came up with some very disturbing findings. Apart from the fact that the contestants had nearly all regained weight since appearing on the show, they'd also altered their metabolisms. Before the show, they used to burn, on average, 2600 calories a day, at rest. Now they burn, on average, 1900 calories a day, at rest. Obviously, there's a lot that people still don't fully understand about weight loss.

ADVERTISEMENT

The contestants had regained nearly all their weight. Image: iStock

I never really thought about thin privilege until recently. That's because thin people don't need to think about it. But I've no doubt benefitted from it. Examples of thin privilege? People don't assume you're lazy. People don't make comments about the food you're buying at the supermarket. Also, apparently, you're more likely to get a raise or promotion at work.

I haven't worked hard to be thin. I don't deserve to benefit from thin privilege. And sometimes I feel quietly guilty that I do.

Don't think I've spent my life thinking how hot I am, though. I might not hate my thighs, but I have other targets for self-loathing. I've never had good skin. I've never got my hair right. My nose is too big.  And now that I'm in my mid-forties, I just wonder who that haggard old woman is that I occasionally glimpse in shop mirrors.

Okay, so I do have a tip, after all. Don't make judgements about people based on their weight. You honestly don't have a clue.

Now you can tell me to shut up. What would I know, anyway?

Image: iStock

What do you think about thin privilege?