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.”
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.
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.
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.