[English] The effects of body shaming

Welcome to yet another article on Dreaming Beyond Infinity! As a child, teenager and in my early 20’s, I used to be very thin. Up to this day I have never weighted more than 55 kg (121 lbs), combined with a length of 1.82 meters (5 feet 11 inches). So, I am like a leaflet. For some reason people feel the urge to make remarks about my weight: “You’re so skinny, don’t blow away!”, “Why aren’t you eating more?”, “Do you have anorexia?”, “I wish I was like you, so I could eat anything”, “Whoa, are those your ribs?!”, “I want to hug you, but I am afraid to break you”, and the list goes on and on and on. In this article I share my struggle with weight and the effects of it on my self-confidence, and how I overcame these struggles and gained self-confidence by accepting myself as being thin and working on myself to achieve my personal goals. With this article I aim to make clear that it is okay to be skinny, you are perfect the way you are, no matter what people say! 

This article is also available in Dutch.

Trigger warning: this article is very critical and the topic discussed can be a trigger for people who are sensitive for issues concerning body weight. This article is NOT meant to feel insecure about yourself. As I said in the introduction: you are perfect, just the way you are. It is important to keep in mind that these are my personal experiences and my personal view on my own body and not your body If you feel insecure about your body because certain people tell you to be insecure, please DO NOT CONTINUE reading. Even if you disagree with the people who tell you that you are not enough, this article can put you in situations (in your mind) where you don’t want to be. This article can have a very strong effect on your self-confidence, your positive feeling about yourself and the way you are living your life. However: if you are unhappy about your own body and you want to change yourself, please continue to read. I give advice how you could achieve your physical dreams. Or if you are ready to face your own demons from the past, you can continue. Please stop reading immediately if this article is upsetting you. After all, my website and this article are meant to feel better and achieve your own dreams. I am not here to crush you.

Please be aware! I don’t want you to feel bad about yourself in any way. If this article triggered you in feeling bad about yourself: I am so sorry. You are amazing just the way you are. There is nothing wrong being skinny or carrying some extra weight with you. There is nothing wrong with you if you can see some bones, you are ripped or you protect your sixpack with an extra layer of skin. This article is written for those who are unhappy about themselves and are tired of the phrase “you are good enough”. I don’t want to confirm your bad feeling about yourself, at all. But I have been there: you probably have the mindset “I don’t care what people say about me, I want to change, I want to achieve my physical goals”. I have been this way and I want to give you some insights on how to start your journey to your dreams.

Body shaming in any way is not okay!

Before I even start writing my article, I first want to clear the air for everybody by presenting some comments of people on skinny people and an appropriate answer to them. If you are underweight and you are afraid to stand up for yourself, feel free to use my list with answers. Be aware, they can be bold. If you are someone who finds it necessary to make comments about skinny people, please read my answers to the questions and comments carefully, remember them and don’t you ever ask them again to someone. Even if your intention is not to hurt someone, even if it comes from the sweetest person with the best intentions, these questions really hurt and have an enormous effect on skinny people. And if you ask those questions out of jealousy: please read my other articles and start your journey to be happy about yourself, without putting others down. 

Q: “You are so skinny! Do you eat enough?”
A: Yes, I eat. Actually most of us eat a lot, without even gaining any weight. The most of us even lose weight while eating too much. And yes, we make the best use of it and yes it bothers us too.

Q: “You need to eat more unhealthy food, man!”
A: No, I don’t want to. I respect my own body and I want to grow old in a healthy way. I really don’t care what you think about that. And if I want to, I chose to eat unhealthy, I am not doing it because you tell me to eat unhealthy. Get in line, you are not the first telling me this.

Q: “You are like a McDonald’s napkin in the car, if I roll down my window, you will blow away.”
A: Whoa, that’s so funny, you should consider a career as comedian (read the sarcasm).

Q: “You have anorexia!”
A: No, I don’t. I am perfectly healthy and no I don’t have an eating disorder. Have a bit of respect, both for me and the people who do have an eating disorder, either anorexia or obesity and everything in between. I don’t call you obese, do I?

Q: “I wish I was like you, so I could eat anything.”
A: Too bad, you can’t have anything.

Q: *Very rare occasion: takes shirt of in public* “OMG! I can count your ribs” *starts touching and counting my ribs*
A: First of all: keep your greasy fingers to yourself! It is disgusting what you are doing, stop it right away! Secondly, yes you can see my ribs, I am perfectly aware of them, I see them every time I look in the mirror or see myself in a reflection. I wish it was different too okay, I have to live with it, not you.

Q: “Watch out, you will break lifting something that heavy”
A: No, I don’t break in half if I carry something heavy. No, I won’t break any other bone in my body by lifting something that looks or is heavy. I am perfectly aware what I can carry and lift and I have never broke a bone in my whole body. Unless you are my certified (gym)trainer/coach, don’t tell me what to do and don’t you dare to offer me to lift up a tomato because you think it’s too heavy for me.

Q: “You’re more skinny than I am, so you will run faster and it is easier for you to run!”
A: Sure, I carry less weight than you. But that’s not the only factor that influences my performance. How about my stamina, ever thought about that? No? I thought so.

These are just a couple of questions I received on a daily basis, both in real life and online. Since I was a little kid I got so many comments on my weight, I became so insecure that I was even more unhappy about myself and my body than I already was due to the abuse, bullying and low self-confidence. It went so far that I didn’t want to go to the swimming pool anymore or to the beach, two things I loved to do. But I was afraid to get comments from everybody I was with and from total strangers about my weight and body. And I love to wear shorts, both in my free time and while working-out. In high school, in my first year, someone made a “funny” comment about my thin legs during P.E.: I had a high risk of breaking my thin legs. The result: it took me 10 years to recover from this before I dared to put on shorts again while working out. So, if I did something physical (during P.E., in the gym, running, or whatever) I always wore sweatpants, even if it was +30 degrees Celsius (+86 degrees Fahrenheit). Only since a couple of weeks I am working out in shorts again, and I love it. 

Being in a public place, like the beach or a swimming pool, is still a problem for me. I just hate it to take my shirt off in a public place, I am still afraid to get funny looks or “funny” comments from people or strangers touching me (yes, unfortunately it happens often). So, this is still one trauma to overcome. But I am working on it. A couple days ago, I was casted as a model, which means I have to change clothes with other people around me, so I hope this will help me to overcome my fear. 

In conclusion: what I am trying to say is that skinny people are perfectly aware of the fact that they are skinny, we are not too happy about it either (at least in some cases), but we have to live with it. If we could change it, the most of us would do it. So, if you see a skinny person, this can be a friend, a family member or a total stranger, and you feel the urge to say something about it. Please think about this article and keep your mouth shut. The skinny person is probably insecure enough and tired of all the “funny” comments. Body shaming in any way is just not okay.

And if you can recognise yourself in this part of my article, most probably because of your weight, feel free to use my answers. If you received other comments from people and you don’t know how to answer them, don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment in the comment section and I will try to come up with a suiting answer for you. Let’s continue to the actual article. 

How I dealt with my weight

Of course, body shaming does not only affect skinny people, but it affects people who carry some extra weight, people who work-out a lot and are (very) muscular, people with a “normal” weight, people who are small, people who are tall, and the list goes on. I chose to focus on skinny people because I used to be skinny and know how it feels to be body shamed as a thin person. 

At this very moment I have a weight of 55 kg (121 lbs) and as said before I am about 182 cm tall (5 feet 11), so we can say I am skinny, but I am really happy with my body and myself at the moment.

As I told you before, due to a “funny” comment of a classmate during P.E. in middle school, I haven’t worn shorts while working-out. Since a couple of weeks, I am wearing shorts again after 10 years. How did this happen?

I always saw my physical appearance and weight as something negative and this negativity was fed by the “funny” comments from people around me and strangers. When I was around 14 years old (+/- 39 kg or +/- 85 lbs) I started watching body transformation-videos on YouTube. I respect the people in these videos so much, the perseverance of these people is enormous. There are a lot of videos of people losing weight and becoming their ideal self. But there are very few videos online of transformations of people like me. After a long search I found a couple of videos of skinny people gaining weight, improving their own bodies and gaining the self-confidence I could only dream of. This is what I want! 

I started to study their routines of becoming what they became: eating healthy and a lot, sleeping plenty and of course working-out a lot. I tried to design my own routine: I tried to eat more, but since I was still living with my parents it was difficult to change my eating pattern: there was still a lot going on at home, so I didn’t have the courage to bring it even up. Thus, I started to eat a plate more than I usually do. So much for changing my food pattern. 

Since I had very little influence on my eating pattern and I just couldn’t sleep because of my anxiety, I decided to physically invest in myself by working-out every other night before going to bed. I searched for videos on YouTube with workouts I could do. I remember myself setting a goal for the first evening: 10 push-ups, 10 crunches and 10 squats, that’s what the video told me to do. After two and a half push-up I was done, I couldn’t even move myself anymore. I made the conclusion that I had to work really hard and maybe find other workouts too. About six months later, I managed to do a hundred push-ups, crunches and squats in a row.

The nights passed and my routines improved. After a couple weeks it was time for me to take a progress photo and step on the scale. Looking at the photo, I saw very little improvement, but still there was some improvement. I was happy, until I stepped on the weight scale: I lost weight. That wasn’t the plan. A bit bummed I returned to my room and did the workout I did before my measurement again. 

Weeks and even years passed: I did not gain any weight, at the age of 21 I weighted 45 kg (around 99 lbs). I looked at my progress photos and I didn’t see any progress anymore. How is this even possible? I had a subscription at the gym since the age of 16, I still worked-out at home and I ate more, but nothing changed. Disappointed I opened YouTube again, searching for those body transformation videos. I just didn’t get it, I did everything they did, and they were ripped within the year. What was I doing wrong?

Even after this fallback I did not give up. I kept going to the gym and I kept working-out. Then it hit me: I only went to the gym about two times a week, way too little to make any progress and I did only exercises improving my stamina and not my muscular growth. But even after this revelation I didn’t change anything. This was in the same period I was living on the streets, so I had other things to worry about. 

In the winter of 2018/2019, I decided it was time for me to start my transformation in the correct way, now I lived by myself, had a steady income and I was stable enough. In January 2019 I joined a CrossFit/Strength and Conditioning community. I decided to choose for a brand new “box” (that’s what a CrossFit-gym is called), because the owners are working to start their own business and brand and I started working on my own personal branding and achieving my own goals. So, I saw a fit: newbies helping each other out. After a brief search I found “Physics Den Haag” and I decided to sign myself up for a trial class. I overcame one of my fears by signing up for something that was entirely new for me and signing myself up for something where I would meet all new people. 

A week later it was time for the trial session and I very nervous. I remember myself sitting in the car, parked next to the box. I could look into the box from where I was parked. I saw a few people walking around and laughing with each other. This was enough for me to think: “Ok, I can’t do this, let’s go home”. But for some reason a little voice in my head convinced me to go inside, even though I was very nervous and scared. Maybe it was the thought of letting myself and my therapist down? 

Once I was inside, I was impressed. This newly opened box has a small number of participants during the class. This helps me a lot, because I don’t get overwhelmed. This was the first big plus! The coach, his wife and another coach are incredible in guiding their members through the workouts in the most professional way I have ever experienced, yet another huge plus! And the final plus: I did not get any comments on my weight from anyone in the box. All the things I needed to sign myself up to become a member of this community. 

Two to three times a week I can be found in the box to participate in one of the workouts and they are intense, but very effective. After a couple months I decided to discuss my eating pattern with the coach and with a new meal plan I left the gym and started to gain weight in no time. 

What are the results of working-out?

CrossFit/Strength and Conditioning is my new “religion”, even though I don’t workout every other day, it helped me so much. These are the benefits I gained from working-out under supervision of a professional:

  • I am gaining weight: in the year and a half I am working out I gained around 10 kg (22 lbs), which is a complete new record for me. At this very moment I weigh 55 kg (121 lbs) which is totally new for me and I am still heading to my goal of at least 67 kg (147 lbs);
  • I am gaining weight in muscle mass. So I am not getting fat, if I gain weight, it is in muscle mass;
  • I gained a lot self confidence compared to 1,5 years ago: since my physical appearance is improving, my self confidence is improving as well. I am not yet at the point to go to the beach and be shirtless yet, but I am on my way. But I am confident enough to walk with my back straight in stead with a hunchback;
  • I know what to eat and how much to eat: since my coach helped me with my eating pattern, I know what to eat to be healthy and accomplish my goals. Since January 2020 I changed to a all plant-based diet. I will come back to this in another article.
  • I sleep better: my nights are longer and better;
  • I have more energy.

What did I do exactly?

You are skinny and you are reading my article and think “Cool you share your story, I would like to do the same, but I just don’t get what you did,” well this part of the article is for you. In a diagram I explain to you what I did in the last couple of years to achieve my goals in gaining weight, or at least starting to gain weight and getting in shape:

  • Step 1: look for inspiration and motivation

    Today it is really easy to find inspiration and motivation online. You only have to open Instagram and search for the hashtags: #motivation #bodytransformation and you will find many profiles and many people who try to inspire and motivate people to start their own journey, including my own profile. If you can’t find anything on Instagram, find a video on YouTube. The link brings you to a page with videos of body transformations of people who used to be skinny. If this doesn’t work, try to find an image of your goal or try to imagine it on yourself, it might work.

    Found your inspiration and motivation? Good, time for step 2!

  • Step 2: set an achievable goal for yourself

    If you step on your scale and you find yourself to light weighted, set a goal for yourself how much you want to weigh. Be realistic, I set my own goal in a weight gain of 22 kg in three years. Seems like a lot, but remember I gained already 10 kg in a year. So, in this pace I will get to my goal by the end of this year. 

    Note: you know yourself: do you gain a lot of weight in a short time or do you lose weight very easy? Keep this in mind while setting your goal. If you lose weight very easy, like me, or you gain weight very easy take your time to avoid disappointment. Because you will lose weight in the beginning and this can be upsetting, but it is a normal process to lose some weight in the beginning. For example: when I started, I lost about 5 kg and it took me about one year to get those kilos back. So be patient and most important: be kind to yourself, don’t be too hard for yourself. You are doing amazing. 

  • Step 3: make a progress journal

    Keep a journal where you can keep track of your progress. Make it digital, or buy a notebook. It’s up to you, as long as it suits you. I keep my journal digital, I prefer the Apple Health app to keep track of my progress, but there are many more (online) ways to keep track of yourself. There even are platforms where you can upload progress photos of yourself. By the way: I can recommend you to take those pictures. But don’t do it too often, just to avoid disappointment. Do it once every three months for example. 

  • Step 4: find a suitable way to workout

    This is one of the most important steps. It can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. 

    Find yourself a suitable way to workout. Do you prefer the gym? Or do you prefer to work-out at home? Or do you prefer to work-out in a community, like me? It is important to keep in mind that you have to work-out, so if you subscribe at the gym, you have to motivate yourself going to the gym and workout. I had a subscription for two years and I did nothing with it. It’s a waste of money. 

    If you decide to workout at home, create a place for yourself where you can work-out in peace. Maybe add some weights and find videos with workouts that suit you. Remember to train your whole body. 

  • Step 5: food

    This step can be a bit expensive too, but it is very important. I experienced that food is the most important factor in gaining weight. It sounds obvious, but it is not for the most of us, myself included. 

    It is important to find somebody who can help you to set a healthy diet which connects to your workout routine and your life. You can ask your trainer in the gym, your coach in the box or you can contact a dietician. Together you can find a meal plan that suits you and can help you achieving your goals.

    If you don’t want to spend any money, you can do online research. I did this too, but it was not very effective for me, so I won’t elaborate on this point. If you had success in your research, please share it with us in the comments and help each other out.

    In January 2020 I switched to a fully plant-based (vegan) lifestyle, which means no animal products at all: no eggs, no meat, no dairy, no whey, ect. Since I switched, I noticed great differences in my shape and weight. I gained 5 kg in 5 months and I am getting in shape now. Of course, combined with a proper workout. I can highly recommend you to go vegan. I will write about the transition to veganism in a next article. 

  • Step 6: go for it

    Once you made your plan: you have the motivation, you found an effective way to work-out and you set up a meal plan, it is go time (if you didn’t start already of course). Now you have a clear goal for yourself and it is time to achieve your dream. Go for it, I know you can do it!

Just a reminder for the right motivation

I just can’t stress this enough, because I think this is very important. You have read this article and you’re almost at the end, you already made up your mind: you want to change yourself, my article motivated you to choose a different lifestyle. That’s great to hear. But if you want to change yourself because other people tell you to change yourself, don’t do it. I know this might sound a bit strange. But you only need to change yourself if you want to change, don’t let other people decide for you what to do. You know yourself the best (even if it doesn’t feel like it), so if you are happy with yourself being more skinny than other people, or you are happy while carrying some extra kilos or you are very muscular, please don’t change. The most important thing is to be happy with yourself and your body, it doesn’t matter what other people think. So, if people make frustrating comments about you needing to gain or lose weight or that you should work-out less: ignore them and show them your best self, you can be proud and you are allowed to show it. You will inspire people with your positive mindset. 

And if you are unhappy about yourself and your body? Go for it! I am convinced you can achieve your dreams, no matter what!

After all the trigger warnings, a very critical chapter and my personal experiences and tips, it is time for me to end this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it! Feel free to share your story, motivation, progress and questions in the comments or via the contact form, I will get back to you, as soon as I can. In my next article I will continue on this topic, I will be writing about my decision to become a vegan and the effect on me.

Note: I am not a medical professional. Please be careful in changing your lifestyle, like your eating pattern and the moments you are active. Consult your doctor or another professional in this field for advice.

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