Stop Saying “You Look Skinny” As A Compliment

Image from Canva

By Frieda Projansky

Like most people, I have had such a journey making peace with my body and finding confidence.

In August 2018, I experienced a major life change as my relationship of five years fell apart. I had just moved to Nashville to be with my partner, putting an end to our long-distance relationship. After a few brutal months of working through the transition, he dumped me. Surprisingly (even to me), I handled it quite well. I loved my new job and was busy building a solid group of friends. I went through my days with little sign of heartbreak as I rebuilt my life. The only major effect the breakup had was on my appetite — my body was in pure shock.

I went from the type of person who looked forward to eating all day to one who dreaded it. I had always struggled with weight, had been a “chubby” kid in grade school, so this feeling, or lack of feeling, was new to me. For weeks, I would take a granola bar to work for breakfast, and could barely get through half of it, feeling so overwhelmingly nauseous. I knew my habits were unhealthy, but it didn’t feel like it was a choice. When I visited my sister in LA, I didn’t look up any restaurants or express any interest in food. I was just as concerned as she was. Cooking and exploring food scenes are passions of mine, and I felt very lost with that part of me fading away.

When I saw friends and family back at home, people commented on how thin I was. It made me feel awful and guilty. I knew I had gotten thinner, but I was upset that it happened involuntarily. I disliked that people close to me were affirming it, complimenting me on being “skinny” which I knew was problematic. Although they were trying to support me, they didn’t realize what was really going on.

In November 2018, I entered a new relationship. From the start, it was healthy and supportive. The two of us quickly began exploring Nashville’s food scene and meal prepping together. I learned that these were passions of his as well.  Almost immediately, we started sharing our food-related interests and my appetite returned.

It’s been over a year and I find myself getting emotional when I work out now. I choose to not count calories, count steps, or own a scale, even though many people encourage me to. I know myself, and I know those methods will not help me build patience with my myself and my body. I have gained weight since my breakup period, and I am healthier now than I have ever been. I eat full meals and go to dance classes at my local community center at least once a week. I work hard to feel healthy, harder than I ever did when I was “skinny” and it’s all worth it. I am so happy with how I look and more importantly, with how I feel. I surround myself with a beautiful, supportive group of women, some of whom even work out with me. My partner couldn’t be more loving and is constantly building me up as we choose nourishing lifestyles together.

I wrote this piece because I still hear people saying the words “you look skinny” as a compliment (even on an episode of last season’s The Bachelor, which I wish had been edited out). When you see someone who may look thinner, refrain from complimenting their size. We don’t know anyone’s story, and what they may be going through emotionally. Plus, there are so many other ways to compliment a person.

Thanks for reading.

Frieda Projansky is a software tester in Nashville, TN. She was a writer and editor for a food magazine in college (Syracuse University). She is very passionate about cooking, travelling, and encouraging body positivity.