Being Skinny Doesn’t Mean Being Beautiful

EDIT: 07/09/2014 I was quite angry when I wrote this post, as you can tell. Maybe I was being too harsh, but I stand by its message. The ideal of thinness we’re supposed to conform to is unrealistic and dangerous. I want to point out though, that I’m attacking the belief that we should be thin to the point of anorexia to be considered worthwhile individuals, not women who are naturally skinny. All body types are beautiful. Trying to change them to comform to someone else’s ideal of beauty isn’t.

We live in a society that constantly tells us that we need to be beautiful to be successful and loved. We are bombarded with pictures of skinny models and celebrities living the high life, dressed in expensive designer clothes, earning millions, and just generally having a good time. The fact that a lot of these celebs have drinking and drugs problems, are often in and out of rehab and can’t hold onto a man for more than 5 minutes doesn’t seem to matter. What matters is that they’re popular and to be like that, you have to be beautiful. And in our society, being beautiful means being skinny.

But does being beautiful really mean being skinny? According to the media, yes. More and more books and articles on weight loss and dieting appear in book stores and magazines, most of the celebs, actresses and supermodels are tall and sticky thin (or made to appear so with Photoshop) and even when we go shopping, most of the clothes seem to be designed for 13 year old girls instead than grown up women.

It’s no wonder most women aren’t comfortable with the way the look and even hate themselves. We are all supposed to be the same size and conform to an ideal of beauty that just isn’t attainable. Not even supermodels and celebs look as good in real life as they do in pictures and their photos are always airbrushed to remove cellulite, stretch marks and other imperfections they may have and to make them look even thinner. But why?

Who has decided that being sticky thin is beautiful? Is there a reason that explains why skinny should equal beautiful? We are told that we need to be skinny to find love but every time they interview men, they say they prefer women with curves. We are told that clothes look better on size 0 women but I beg to differ. Strapless tops look bad on flat-chested women just like maxi dresses don’t suit short gals. Different styles of clothes suit different body shapes and types and does anything look good on women who are so thin their bones are sticking out anyway?

We are told that we need to be skinny to get a job, and while it is true that a nice physical appearance can be an advantage sometimes, if you can’t do your job well and properly you’re gonna get fired or just not advance in your career. We tend to associate skinny with youth but losing too much weigh can actually have an aging effect and make you look older and gaunt.

But most importantly, being thin doesn’t mean being healthy. We’re always reminded of the dangers of being too fat but being too skinny is equally dangerous. The only way women can achieve a size 0 is by starving themselves or exercising all the time or both. That’s just gonna make you ill. You are depriving your body of carbs, minerals and nutrients it needs to function properly. Being too thin can also lead to osteoporosis, heart illnesses and to eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. Is being thin really worth dying for? No, it ain’t.

So, next time someone tries to tell you that skinny is beautiful and you’re worthless if you don’t conform, don’t buy it. Stop feeling bad because you can’t achieve an unattainable standard of beauty and start questioning this dangerous message. People come in all shapes and sizes and they are all beautiful. Tall, short, thin, overweight, it is you. Embrace the way you look and stop trying to become someone you can never be. Stop worrying about your weight and focus on being healthy. Being confident and feeling good about yourself, smiling and treating people with respect, being proud of who you are and of what you have achieved and can achieve, that’s beautiful.

Do you feel the pressure to be thin too? Do you think that being thin means being beautiful?

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Comments

  1. Marloes says

    The woman in the second picture looks beautiful on the right, why did they photoshop her on the left? It’s a shame, look at her scary fake thin arm :(

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Marloes, I agree. She’s a beautiful woman and there was no need to photoshop her. They made her look so skinny, it’s scary!

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Trisha, I do and I think you are an inspiration. You’re losing weight because you want to be healthy and reach your normal BMI and you’re doing it the right way, by eating healthily and exercising. You’re not starving yourself to become sticky thin because you think you aren’t good enough if you don’t. That’s what I have a problem with. We all come in different shapes and sizes and they’re all beautiful. We should focus on being healthy, not skinny.

  2. says

    Agreed. I think I read somewhere that the ideal “model” body accounts for only about 2% of the world. I am naturally thin, but not because I’m unhealthy, so I try to respect people of all shapes & sizes as we all have different sizes that our bodies are naturally healthiest at.

    Something interesting though — there is actually a disorder that makes you unable to gain weight. I read about a woman who has almost 0% body fat and she has to eat a small meal every 15 minutes to stay healthy. Anyone looking at her would assume she has an eating disorder.. Though I think eating disorders are much more common than that disease.
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    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Eight, I agree with you that we all have different sizes that our bodies are naturally healthiest at and not everyone is healthy when skinny. They’re not synonyms.

      That’s exactly why it makes me mad when people make comments about other people’s weight. There are disorders that make you unable to gain weight, just like there are diseases that make you gain weight and if you have them, losing it is gonna be extremely difficult. We should just stop passing judgements when we don’t know all the facts and just respect people of all shapes and sizes.

  3. says

    Wonderfully said, Giorgia! Being gaunt does age one’s appearance and beautiful women come in every form. Poor people, men and women, who conform to this absurd idea. I really like the Beautiful Women poster (also in your “Learn to Love Your Body” post which I liked it then too). ;D
    I will honestly say I used to think thin was pretty, but being thin didn’t make one pretty (so face, personality factored in too). I also thought many other women of all shapes could look beautiful but I wasn’t disgusted by thin, if that makes sense. Now, I feel that everyone is pretty in their own special way (I wish more people could realize this!) and I feel a bit sorry for those who hurt themselves to look so fragile.
    :]
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    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, I feel really sorry for them too. They are really hurting themselves to conform to an absurd idea indeed. I just hope they will realize that before it is too late.

      I think we all go through a phase when we thin that thin is pretty. After all, we’re constantly bombarded by this message that it’s hard not to feel a victim of it, even if only for a little while. I’m glad you realized that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and I hope that everyone who believes in this silly idea will soon too.

  4. Marianthi says

    Oh my God! I am going NOW for another slice of chocolate-covered tsoureki (traditional sweet for Easter) and I will not feel guilty at all! I guess I should send some to these poor girls… They remind me of the fund-raising campaigns by Unicef.
    Health issues aside, do they see themselves as beautiful? Do the people they work for (beauty industry) think anyone of us normal people will be attracted?
    I believe the beauty industry will have more chances of selling normal-sized clothes to normal-sized people than smurf-sized clothes to normal-sized people.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Marianthi, good for you, that sounds so yummy! And they remind me of the same thing as well.

      And I completely agree with you. I always hear designers say that clothes look good on women who are a size 0, but I disagree. Clothes look good on women who are naturally thin, but when you starve yourself to be so thin that your bones are actually sticking out.. well, that’s not really attractive and clothes just look shapeless on them. I do too think that they’d sell more if they used normal-sized models. That way women would get to see our clothes would actually look on them.

      • beautifulwithbrains says

        Lili, we were referring to women who starve themselves to be sticky thin. Those who do so deprive themselves of important nutrients their bodies need and are often malnourished. They are seriously harming their health and I feel very sorry for them. There are people in this world who cannot afford a loaf of bread and women who can afford any food they want but have serious problems that make them reject food. That’s very sad.

  5. says

    a lovely post I must say :) i have been struggling with weight issues since I was a child, most of the time, I am always too fat, even if I was already at my skinniest moment, and that my mom (of all people) said I look haggard n tired. But when I put back a bit weight, she’d call me plump n fat and etc.

    it still bothers me to this day about my weight (definitely fat! lol) and my excess flabs, but then most of the time I’d just ignore it and just eat what I want (I do watch what I am eating though) and follow up with a tiny bit of exercise. As long as I am healthy, I get to buy clothes and still be able to look dressy/ nice, I really can’t be bothered. Life’s too short to be battling weight issue all the time, and I can’t be dressing up everyday, I’m no model/ celeb LOL. Being thin is not equivalent to being beautiful, but having the right curves and attitude defines what’s beautiful. What’s a woman if all they have is bones? :P

    Fashion industry is really harsh I feel, and society has long followed the trend for too long. It’s hard to change ppl’s mindset even if they know photos are being photoshopped to look skinnier or better, or those people go under the knife just to look better. It’s easier to conform to normal society standard than trying to be different from the others :)
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    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Plue, I’m sorry to hear you have been struggling with weight issues. I’ve been there too so I know how it feels. I agree with you that life is too short to think about our weight all the time. As long as we eat a healthy diet (and that means mostly vegs and fruits, but also meat, sweets, carbs etc in moderation) and exercise a bit, it’s ok. We should aim at being healthy, not sticky thin.

      The media and fashion industry are hugely responsible for spreading and glamourizing this distorted ideal of beauty. Being aware of how they work and the tricks they use is the first step to change our mindset, but it’s not as easy as that, I agree. We are under so much pressure to conform, that we have to be really strong not to.

  6. Steffi says

    Thanks for this article! What I especially like about it is that you touch on the emotional effects that dieting can have on you.
    About 6 years ago I dieted away about 10kg and ended up being rather on the skinny side. I didn’t think I looked overly skinny then but a lot of people were telling me I’d look better with a bit more weight on. The thing about that time was that I was miserable. I had mood swings all the time, I got upset easily and couldn’t take any pressure it seemed and I couldn’t focus. Now there were circumstances that certainly added to that but in hindsight it does seem to me like I was coping unusually badly with those circumstances and I do feel like the weight loss had something to do with that.
    All I can say for certain is that my skinniest time ever (I’ve gained some weight since) coincided with my most miserable time ever. Funny because we always seem to think that once we’re our dream size, life is gonna be a blast. But I think we need to be aware that we may be endangering our emotional balance if we’re being too cruel with our bodies.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Steffi, thanks for your comments and I’m sad to hear you had to go through that. Lots of people told me the same thing, how losing a lot of weight and being thin made them miserable. I too think the two things are related. I’m not sure how exactly but I guess a healthy diet not only prevents illnesses but give us the energy we need and just makes us feel good in general. Depriving our bodies of some of the nutrients it needs can be very dangerous indeed. And as much as we like to think that our lives will be better if we’re thinner, prettier or whatever, that’s not really true, but such thinking can cause a lot of serious problems. The only way we can truly be happy is to accept ourselves just the way we are.

  7. Lili says

    “The fact that a lot of these celebs have drinking and drugs problems, are often in and out of rehab and can’t hold onto a man for more than 5 minutes doesn’t seem to matter. ”

    I can see your point: you don’t have to be happy just because you’re skinny. That’s true but I don’t agree with how it doesn’t seem to matter that those celebs have drug problems- it’s often written negatively about it in media. Blog posts like this one aren’t all too rare either, it’s kinda popular to criticize the thin ideal and point out that being skinny doesn’t necessarily equal happiness. Plus, it isn’t necessarily better to be in a relationship than to be single and mess around with different people, or try dating several men before finding your Mr. Right. It all depends on your personality and where you are in your life right now. To each their own, so what the celebrities love lives look like don’t have any relevance, really.

    “And in our society, being beautiful means being skinny.”

    I don’t agree with this either. The fashion ideal is a skinny one but there are many other ideals in society. Individuals as well as groups of people have different ideas of beauty and yes, they might sometimes be influenced by current media ideals, but that doesn’t mean being skinny is the only acceptable look. As a skinny woman myself, I’ve received a lot of nasty comments about my body type, as well as the usual: “Men prefer curves. You’re never gonna get a man if you look like a 13 year old.” But seriously, women come in many different shapes and there’s always someone who will appreciate your shape. You can be skinny + beautiful, and you can be curvy + beautiful, and you can be fat + beautiful. It depends on the viewer and your own body image.

    I love my body, I love being skinny and my man loves that I’m skinny. I know that I don’t fit in to the general man or woman’s idea of a sexy body: my butt is too flat, my bones stick out too much and my arms are too thin. But I don’t really mind, because I have confidence and realize that the most important thing is what 1) I think and 2) what my boyfriend thinks. Despite that, I think it’s pretty sad how people try to empower women by complaining about other body types. I don’t take offense by it but I think it’s rude, unnecessary, unfair and very contradictive. You don’t have to spit on the ideal body! You can spit on the fact that there even has to be an ideal, but writing like this is just rude:

    “Most of the clothes seem to be designed for 13 year old girls instead than grown up women.”

    “And does anything look good on women who are so thin their bones are sticking out anyway?”

    Also, this isn’t true:

    “The only way women can achieve a size 0 is by starving themselves or exercising all the time or both.”

    I am a size 0. I haven’t starved myself to achieve it. I haven’t even really tried to achieve it because I’ve been skinny all my life. That’s just my body type. I’m skinny, with some curves. I can still wear a size 0. Then I have friends who aren’t as skinny as I am and they can wear size 0 too. As well as my short friends can. Skinny isn’t the only way to be a size 0, it depends on your height and where you store fat. So really, it’s just BS that you can’t wear a size 0 unless you starve yourself or exercise too much… I eat normal portions and work out only once or twice a week. I still look like this. I would appreciate it very much if people didn’t assume I have an eating disorder just because I fit into the media ideal. It’s rude and stupid.

    I also think we need to remember that just because there’s an ideal out there, doesn’t mean you have to make every effort to fit in. No one forces you to look a certain way and you do have responsibility for your own actions. I know that people with ED’s can be triggered by such images as the ones above but that doesn’t mean ED’s exist because of them. There are so many other reasons behind low self-esteem, anorexia, bulimia and so on… it’s unfair to only blame the media.

    Oh and I’ve never really experienced that there’s an ideal saying you have to be skinny to get a job. Does it? Where? Who says it? I think it’s more in our heads than in papers, music videos or adverts. Our own ideas are only triggered by those images. If you didn’t agree with the idea of skinny = beautiful, you wouldn’t feel that way after looking at the pictures.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Lili, first of all, let me apologize if this post offended you. I can assure you, that wasn’t my attention at all. But I think you have misunderstood my words. This post is not aimed against skinny girls but against the idea that we need to be thin to beautiful (which is often associated with popularity and happiness), which I agree with you is more in our heads than anywhere else. Rereading what I’ve written, I realise that I may have chosen my words more carefully and explained some concepts better. For instance, I should have written “The only way MOST women can achieve a size 0″, as that’s an ideal that’s impossible to achieve if you aren’t born that way. Unfortunately, having suffered from self-esteem issues related to my weight (which actually got better once I stopped reading magazines and watching so much TV), and seeing a lot of friends still going through that, it’s difficult for me to remain emotionally detached. But in the future, I will sit on a post a bit longer before publishing it.

      I don’t believe the media is solely to blame for the idea that skinny equals popular, but it is definitely one of the main culprits. How many women who aren’t a size 0 do you see in magazines? And how many of them are portrayed in a good light? And how many good characters in movies and TV shows aren’t thin? They keep perpetuating stereotypes that do a lot of damage to women worldwide. Those who have learned to think critically and have good self-esteem will just realise these are silly stereotypes and ignore them, but what about all the vulnerable women, especially young ones, who believe them? The media could do a lot to change things, but chooses not to, which is why it is important to address the topic and remind people that you don’t have to look like a celeb in a magazine to be considered beautiful.

      “The fact that a lot of these celebs have drinking and drugs problems, are often in and out of rehab and can’t hold onto a man for more than 5 minutes doesn’t seem to matter. ”

      I wasn’t trying to diss celebrities here. In fact, I feel very sorry for them. I believe they too are victims, because in their line of work, being considered beautiful matters. And many seriously harm both their physical and mental health while trying to achieve an unrealistic idea of beauty. And of course there’s nothing wrong with dating several people before finding Mr Right. It’s just that I’m tired of people saying things like “you’re too fat, you’re never gonna find a man until you lose some weight”, or “you’re too ugly, no men could possibly ever be interested in you”, or, when a gorgeous man dates an “average-looking” woman “what does he see in her? She’s so ugly”. This means that we think it is easier to find Mr Right if we are beautiful. So, the point I was trying to make is that while beautiful women may attract more men, if they also don’t have a personality, none of them will hang around for long.

      I’m sorry that you’ve received nasty comments about your weight. No one, no matter what they look like, deserves that. I agree that women come in all shapes and sizes and that they are all beautiful. I even wrote so at the end of the post (People come in all shapes and sizes and they are all beautiful. Tall, short, thin, overweight, it is you. Embrace the way you look and stop trying to become someone you can never be), but I guess I could have expanded the concept more and make it more clear.

      “Most of the clothes seem to be designed for 13 year old girls instead than grown up women.”

      I don’t know where you live and what clothes are sold in your country, but here in Italy, good luck finding something to wear if you aren’t tall and skinny. I’m a US size 8, but because I have a big bust, I never seem to find something that fits right. Everything is too small, or is cut-out, strapeless, or just leaves exposed one area or another, which are all styles difficult to pull off for someone who is even slightly overweight. Maybe it’s different in your country, but what I see here, and in Europe, is that designers create clothes with a size 0 in mind, and often these don’t look good on women who aren’t one. This just makes shopping a very frustrating experience for many women. I know women who have stopped shopping altogether because, never being able to find anything that fits them, they always left the shops crying. This probably caused me to be too harsh in my post, but it’s hard not to lose your temper when you see those you love hurt.

      I also didn’t mean to make curvy women feel better by complaining about skinny ones. I don’t have anything against women who are naturally skinny, I just don’t want to see women who aren’t strive to achieve a look that’s unattainable for them because that’s only gonna make them feel worse. Yes, people don’t have to make every effort to fit in. And yes, people are responsible for their own actions. But the “sticky thin = beautiful” message is everywhere. It’s on mags, Tv, cinema, billboards on the streets. We’re exposed to thousands of these images every single day and so it is extremely hard not to be affected by them. If you’ve never been, you’re very lucky.

      I didn’t write this post with naturally skinned girls in mind, I wrote it for those whose self-esteem is affected by the media. I was trying to help them see that they’re beautiful just the way they are. And if in my zeal, I took things too far and insulted naturally skinned women, then I’m very sorry for it. It was never my intention.

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