Slim writer rages at the cruelty she encounters for being so THIN

I’m sick of being skinny shamed: We all know curvy women can face hurtful comments, but here one naturally super-slim writer rages at the thoughtless cruelty she encounters every day for being so THIN

  • Gillian McAllister argues thin women should in the body positivity movement 
  • The 34-year-old author recalls being ‘skinny shamed’ at 13 years old 
  • She says pressure from others have made her feel anxious about eating publicly
  • The size eight who weighs 8½st, says she’s always been slim due to genetics
  • Gillian argues society makes thin women feel guilty for not having any curves 
  • Others also told how they’ve received unwanted comments about their figure 

When I worked in an office I dreaded meals out with colleagues. We got on well but if I didn’t finish everything on my plate, comments were made such as, ‘you barely touched that’.

The suggestion being I should have eaten more. This was never done with malice, more benign concern. But I was a grown woman and having my eating habits scrutinised as you might a fussy child’s was deeply embarrassing.

So what made my acquaintances — and sadly, it was only ever the female ones passing comment — consider this acceptable? Infuriatingly, it all came down to the shape of my body.

As a size 6 woman living in a society where to be average means to wear size 16 clothes, my being skinny somehow made how much I did or didn’t eat a matter of public interest.

Author Gillian McAllister, 34, (pictured) who is naturally slim, explained why thin women should be involved in the body positivity movement 

I never said anything in response. Instead, I would casually brush off the suggestion I was depriving myself in order to stay slim, steering the conversation to other topics.

But inside I’d be hurt, having once again fallen foul of the unspoken rule that it’s somehow socially acceptable to have a sideways dig at a woman if she’s particularly slim. When we all know that to do the same to someone who is visibly overweight is considered an unequivocal sin.

I have been slim all my life. It’s a genetic thing — my father and I share the same jutting collarbones and bony elbows. Our high metabolisms mean we both find it incredibly difficult to maintain a healthy BMI.

The first time I was ‘skinny shamed’ was long before I was aware that even existed as a phrase. I was 13, and up to that point hadn’t given much thought to my naturally slender frame.

But then a friend at ballet told me about a school project she was working on about anorexia. Would I mind posing for photographs to help her illustrate it, she asked.

I was shocked. This girl wasn’t being nasty and certainly hadn’t considered I might be upset by her request. But the inference was that I was someone who looked like they had an eating disorder. This immediately made me feel under pressure to convince my peers otherwise — but we all know how difficult proving a negative can be.

Overnight, I became self- conscious about my looks. I’d observe my skinny knees and defined ribcage in the mirror and wonder what on earth I was supposed to do about them.

Meanwhile, the only way I could think to try to persuade my school friends I wasn’t anorexic was to make sure they saw me eating. But, unsurprisingly, the pressure of that made me anxious — and as it does to most people, anxiety had a negative impact on my appetite, making it difficult to eat at school at all.

Gillian (pictured) revealed she has often been pushed out of conversations due to a sense of ‘thin privilege’ and friends have scoffed when she mentioned wanting to get fitter

The more I thought about all this, the harder it became. Inevitably, I became even thinner, which only compounded the problem. As a child the tricky emotions this stirred up were difficult to understand, so I pushed them down as much as possible.

Only in adulthood did I start to grasp just how complex an issue skinny shaming is. I’m now 34, and a successful author, and still waste time wondering how to prove to others that slim is just the way I’m made.

At its heart I believe there is a sense of ‘thin privilege’ — a notion that because you have the kind of body that is held up as aspirational, you’re lucky by default.

And I am — being slim is not as tough as being overweight. But being unhappy with your body is being unhappy with your body, whatever its shape or size.

At times during my life, anxiety, change and stress have killed my appetite, and comments have been made about the ensuing weight loss. I’ve been told I look gaunt, and asked ‘are you going to lose any more?’ as though I’ve been silly and taken a diet too far.

Who knew? 

In 1957 the average British woman weighed 9st 10lb and was a dress size 12. By 2017 this had risen to 11st and a size 16

Whether you’re slim because of genetics, or rigid dieting and punishing exercise routines, it doesn’t seem to matter. Either way, you end up robbed of a voice when it comes to conversations about body image.

As a university student I was shot down if I offered an opinion on issues such as possible socio-economic causes of obesity; or spoke of my continuing belief that women should be viewed as more than the size on their dress label, whatever that happens to be, and that women’s bodies should be celebrated right across the spectrum.

I remain too frightened to join in general chat with my female peers while they bemoan the various parts of their bodies they don’t like. I never mention that fashion stores rarely carry sizes that fit me properly.

I am thin, you see, so what do I know about body dissatisfaction? The consensus is that someone like me has no right to complain.

Gillian (pictured) who is now a size eight recounts a consultant urging her to gain weight after she shrunk to a size four weighing 7st — at 5ft 5in

Why do people think it’s fine to judge us?


Natalie Warner, 19, is a university student. She lives in Dumfries, Scotland. She says:

Natalie Warner, 19, (pictured from Dumfries) says she’s tried protein bars, shakes and adjusting her diet in the hopes of gaining weight

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been skinny shamed — starting when I was around ten. I’ve been called ‘skinny’ or ‘skeletal’.

People think nothing of saying things like: ‘Come on Natalie have another burger’ or even aggressive comments like ‘Wow, you’re so skinny I could break you in two.’

I had one male colleague tell me he was surprised to see me eat a yoghurt because he thought I was anorexic.

Some people think commenting on my weight is a compliment. But it can be really hurtful and, besides, whose business is it what size I am?

I’m 5ft 10in and 9st — so yes, very slim but also healthy. It’s probably down to genes as both my mum and sister are slim. My mum studied nutrition and has always given us three hearty meals a day.

People are constantly surprised by how much I can eat and can’t help but make comments. Usually I laugh them off — but there have been times when I’ve said something sarcastic. I’ve realised most people don’t actually think they’re being mean, so I’ve learned mostly to ignore it.

Fat shaming and skinny shaming are two sides of the same coin — making people feel bad about their bodies. If I called someone obese, it would be just as hurtful.

I would love to gain weight. I’ve tried protein bars, shakes and adjusting my diet, but it’s hard. I suppose I am grateful. People tell me metabolism can decrease with age so I’m going to eat all the tasty food — and lots of it — while I still can!


Liza Ackermann, 41, is a software developer. She is married with three sons and lives in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. She says:

Liza Ackermann, 41, (pictured from Northern Island) argues praising curves shouldn’t mean ridiculing slim girls 

I’m 5ft 11in and 10st 1b. At school I was sporty with a figure to match. I would get called all kinds of nicknames — some hurtful — but I soon learned people skinny shame you out of a sense of ‘injustice’.

They feel you’ve won the lottery when it comes to weight, and so need to be brought down a peg or two. I have thought about it a lot and all I can say is I guess if I was the kind of person who could look at a cream cake and put on a pound, I’d hate me, too.

I’m skinny thanks to genetics — both my parents are very slim. But people make assumptions about my personality because of my build. I’ve had comments like: ‘You must go to the gym a lot.’ and ‘You must starve yourself to death.’

You only have to spend a few minutes with me to learn I’m not like that, but people see the slim physique and assume I’m very self-disciplined, vain or boring. I have a fast metabolism and there’s nothing I can do about it.

I’ve noticed a skinny shaming movement within the fashion and music industry. While celebrating curves is great for women with those figures, it can also make women like me feel as if we’re falling short.

Lyrics about a woman’s ‘booty’ being sexy or desirable are fine — but does that mean someone won’t like me because I’m skinny? Praising curves should not veer into ridiculing slim girls — the package you are born in does not define what’s inside.


I remember once telling a girlfriend I was keen to get fitter, which had nothing to do with what I weighed. ‘But you’ve got a model body,’ she scoffed. ‘Why do you need to go to the gym?’

Again, I was put on the outside of a conversation which, had I been bigger, would almost certainly have seen me encouraged rather than shot down.

And so, over the years, I’ve learnt to keep quiet when discussions turn to weight. I know that any input I might offer would be met with rolling eyes. That’s a hornet’s nest I’m always keen to avoid poking.

But it’s also frustrating, because I have to work really hard to maintain a healthy weight — putting on the pounds can be just as challenging as dropping them.

This has been brought home to me over the past year. I suffer from an auto-inflammatory disease, which is in remission, but unintentional stress-related weight loss caused a particularly bad flare up.

Gillian (pictured) says quotes about empowering curvier figures on social media, don’t take into consideration how they may impact someone who struggles to gain weight 

So I met my consultant, an immunologist. At my appointment I weighed 7st — at 5ft 5in that meant I was extremely underweight. I’d shrunk to a size four. ‘You need to make a concerted effort to put some weight on,’ my doctor advised me, hoping that might help with my condition. And so I embarked on an eating regime I found difficult — and which meant I could have done with some emotional support.

But I kept quiet about it. Even though this involved me eating three healthy but highly calorific meals a day, with snacks in between, whether I was hungry or not.

I also had to knock back specially formulated prescription drinks to get even more calories down.

I had to think about every morsel I put in my mouth in order to achieve the goal set by my doctor, which was to gain at least 1st.

But I didn’t dare complain to anyone. After all, who’s going to sympathise with a woman ordered to eat more for her health?

Thankfully, it worked and I’m now the heaviest I’ve ever been at 8½st. And I feel better for it.

But I’m still only a size eight, so I continue to be positioned on the outside of a society that urges overweight women to embrace their curves while making me feel guilty for not having any.

Just think about the words associated with being thin that are used in common parlance: skinny, scrawny, emaciated and gaunt. They’re thrown around with none of the caution applied when it comes to talking about someone at the other end of the weight spectrum. How is that fair, or inclusive?

Thin women need to be included in the body positivity movement, not excluded from it.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all this female empowerment, I have to read so-called inspirational posts on various social media channels celebrating curvier figures by saying things like ‘my boyfriend says he doesn’t want to hold a bag of bones in bed’.

Gillian (pictured) recalls a friend’s daughter coming home in tears, after her boss said ‘You’re so skinny, you make me sick’ as a compliment

There’s no consideration for how a comment like that might make me — a woman who struggles to gain and maintain every pound covering my bones — feel. Just for once, I’d love another woman to stick up for me, and the other women out there who share my body type.

When I fail to clear my plate, I’d love a fellow woman — whatever her size — to defend me against the comments. Because women’s bodies are constantly policed, whether we are overweight, underweight, pregnant or growing older, and we need to start defending each other.

My friend’s daughter, who works in a fashion store, was recently told by her female boss, ‘You’re so skinny, you make me sick.’ This was presented as a compliment — suggesting she looked so good in the clothes she helped sell it was OK to say something so cruel.

But it was so backhanded that were it flipped and said to an overweight member of staff she could have lost her job.

As it was this girl went home and wept to her mother at the injustice of it all. But until other women start to recognise this, I’m sorry to say nothing is going to change for either of us. 

The Evidence Against You by Gillian McAllister is published by Penguin and out now.

Interview by Rachel Halliwell

Have you been skinny shamed?

Tell us what happened at [email protected]

Source: Read Full Article