Call Me Fit. Call Me Strong.

Call Me Fit. Call Me Strong.

This weekend as I sat down for dinner, my waitress and I hit it off as we discussed that we were running the same half marathon. Eating at a restaurant that was food allergy conscious, I then told her that I had multiple food allergies and celiac disease as I asked to speak with a chef. Her reply was simply, “No wonder you’re so skinny.”

This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this remark, but the following day, a better conversation ensued.

As I sat down at another food allergy conscious restaurant, I once again revealed that I had celiac disease and multiple food allergies. My waitress simply said, “That’s quite a few food allergies, but you still appear quite healthy.”

Call Me Fit. Call Me Strong. I’ve always played sports and eaten in moderation. Growing up and still today, my friends refer to me as athletic. But, when I need to mention my dietary requirements, strangers feel completely comfortable calling me “skinny.”

As misconceptions grow about celiac disease, the gluten free diet, and the benefits to eliminating some other foods from your diet, this comment occurs more frequently. Sometimes I wish these individuals understood how I met with nutritionists to manage my dietary restrictions. And, that as long as I maintain a gluten free diet, I can gain weight just like anyone else. The truth is I understand why you call me “skinny,” but it’s not the best response.

I know that when I reveal my dietary restrictions, you may not know how to respond. You then look back at me, see my size, and make the skinny comment. I get it.

Most people call me skinny after I reveal a medical condition. Therefore, it feels as though you’re implying that I’m thin from my medical condition. It undermines my active lifestyle. And, moreover, if you truly think I’m too thin, it reminds me of how sick I can be. For you see, celiac disease at one point took thirty pounds from me, and I was proud to gain them back.

Call Me Fit. Call Me Strong.
Today, I can live a full and healthy life filled with adventures and more.

Now, I don’t expect you to know how I would feel, but I want to let you know a better response than “skinny.” Most likely, I revealed my medical condition for a reason, so you can simply proceed in the conversation. Most waiters and waitresses will grab the chef without mentioning my size. To y’all, I greatly appreciate it.

However, if you must make a comment about my appearance, I ask that you choose a different phrase. It wasn’t until I began writing this article that I decided to look up the true definition of “skinny” to avoid writing the piece about the negative connotation our society has placed on the word.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines skinny as “membraneous,” which I whole-heartedly agree with as I am covered in skin. Yet most people are referring to its second definition of “very thin,” “emaciated,” and “lacking usual or desired qualities.”

After reading the definition, skinny doesn’t seem complimentary. Instead, consider one of these other phrases.

If you think I have some muscle mass, call me strong.

If you think I have a high aerobic capacity from exercising, call me fit.

If you think I could kick your butt at soccer, call me athletic.

If you think I have nice features, call me good-looking.

If you can’t take your eyes off me, call me stunning.

If you must comment on my size, call me thin.

But, please don’t call me skinny.

Most likely, you didn’t know the definition of skinny until now. But, I hope this post at least allows you to reconsider how you use the phrase.

Call Me Fit. Call Me Strong.
Maybe some day I’ll be as strong as the hulk. 🙂

And, if you ever meet me and choose to comment on my appearance, please be like the second waitress. I’m glad you can’t tell that I’m fighting a battle against an autoimmune disease. It only makes me feel stronger.

9 thoughts on “Call Me Fit. Call Me Strong.

  1. Kaila, can I PLEASE like this post, a million times? You literally HIT the nail on the head of something that frustrates me, but I couldn’t put it into words, but YOU did, when you said:
    “you’re implying that I’m thin from my medical condition. It undermines my active lifestyle.”
    because THAT is so true. I am not “thin” or “skinny” or “fit” because of my disease and restrictions, I am that way because of the choices I make, and the effort I put in at the gym, and just like you said, it UNDERMINES my hard work, as IF it gives me a free pass at not gaining weight.
    There are PLENTY of ways to gain weight with dietary restrictions, uHM HELLO ENJOY LIFE AND ALL ITS DELICIOUSNESS

    Something else that also bothers me that I get a lot it, “Oh, no wonder why you’re so skinny, you can’t eat anything/you barely eat” THAT IS FALSE as well. I eat more than most grown men, which then leads others to feel the need to critique how much I eat as well, “my god you’re eating THAT much food?”

    It seems as if as soon as you mention a medical condition/dietary restrictions, it is a free pass for others to comment on your size/weight/shape BUT if someone had diabetes or a thyroid issue, you would never say “no wonder why you are ‘heavy'”

    I love LOVE your phrases to stay instead. My favorite compliment I get,
    “You look so healthy”

    1. Amber,

      I’m so glad that you liked this post because I was nervous to release it! I also fixed the paragraph spacing (sometimes it goes crazy and I don’t see the post until I wake up!). BUT, I’m so glad you can relate. AND, you should feel comfortable eating till your heart’s content.

      ALSO, I LOVE ENJOY LIFE! Yum, yum, yum! (Although, did I tell you I’m not the biggest fan of the new dark chocolate morsels. Crazy because I LOVE dark chocolate.)

      Ah, so I was originally writing about how after someone reveals a medical condition, it’s probably best not to comment on his/her size. However, I didn’t want to over-gereralize, so I kept this post close to home and personal. But, I do think that while it may be a different phrase, the moment someone mentions a medical condition, other people are likely to make “intrusive ‘observations'” as Mary Kate said below. Some of which I’m sure are just as hurtful as skinny.

      In reality, I find the word skinny to be condescending to anyone. But I know it’s a complicated topic, so tried to stick close to home on that topic as well. 🙂

  2. I *am* skinny because of my medical conditions, whatever they may be when we figure them out, and not because I run or do anything else specific. It’s because, for whatever reason, I’m not processing nutrients correctly. But that still doesn’t mean I want it commented on — or that I want you to critique my food choices (or the choice to bring my own food). It seems like the revelation of a medical issue of any sort opens the door to all sorts of intrusive “observations.”

    Questions are fine, if they are asked in tone of curiosity — I bet it is hard to imagine dealing with multiple food restrictions when you have none. Conversations about things other than food are even better and more interesting (unless, again, this is waitstaff and you still need to speak with the chef.)

    1. Mary Kate,

      I’m so glad you brought in your perspective. I actually had a remark about how I don’t appreciate being called skinny when I am sick because if I truly look “emaciated,” or as though “I’m wasting away physically,” I’d prefer if you nicely (and briefly) mentioned that you were concerned for my health. I’ve just mentioned that I have a medical condition, so most likely, I have doctors looking after me already.

      Now, I loved your phrasing so much, especially the bit about “intrusive observations.” I think some people simply feel awkward, and don’t know how to respond. But, I wonder if you have a different thought on this?

      Additionally, I appreciate questions about celiac disease, food allergies, what I cook, etc. It’s the only way that misconceptions will slowly die down. I wanted to be careful writing about “skinny,” as it veers close to a body image talk, which I am not equipped to fully moderate. Instead, I tried to write from my personal experience about where I am right now.

      Finally, I hope you and your doctors find out soon, what’s wrong. I remember feeling awfully and frustrated when no one knew why. Best wishes for good health!

  3. I loved this post. Took the words out of my mouth. I have been “skinny” my whole life, and I hate when people look at me a certain way because they assume I have an ED or say that I am skinny, when in reality I am working my butt off running or at the gym, just to release stress. being FIT feels so much better than skinny! 🙂

    1. Allie, thank you so much for sharing your perspective! I absolutely agree that being fit is what feels good. I’m always grateful to be able to skip across the floor or flip into a pool, both of which I can’t do when I’m actually sick (and less fit). 🙂

  4. It hits home to talk about other people calling you skinny. It’s just what they do, I have heard it a million times plus one and it really bothered me. I didn’t like it at all. Why am I saying in the past tense? Because I have gained some weight to no longer made people make the “skinny” remark by looking at me but now there is a silent treatment which says; Do not gain any more weight to not be fat.

    It is really no pleasing others in this department.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story! It was very moving to hear. Don’t worry, I wasn’t planning on changing my behavior. I believe the word “skinny” can be hurtful under any circumstance (not just if you have a disease as I specifically discussed).

      I hope this post makes individuals think before they use the word “skinny” now that they know its definition, and gives them more (less harmful) words in their toolbox to describe individuals. My goal is to address this issue in as positive of a light as possible (with solutions). 🙂

      1. Yeah i got what you were trying and I like it 🙂
        I think more positive approach is always better, and if people would just think how would something make them feel before they speak, it would be different. Or not, maybe they like to hurt others to feel better. But that is not my problem, it’s theirs.

        You’re welcome, I share because I care hehehehe 😀

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