Skinny-- not TOO skinny
September 18, 2006 12:17 PM   Subscribe

How to deflect or assuage concerns about my weight?

May not be what you're thinking: I'm 6'3", 160 lbs, and definitely very skinny. I'm 27, and since I stopped growing, I have always been within six or seven pounds of my current weight. I enjoy being thin; I was a chubby and miserable youth. Perhaps because of my former chubbiness, in the years since friends and family alike have always commented on my skinniness, but over time the tone has changed and people seem more and more concerned.

I eat voraciously and with gusto. Because of my love of eating, I choose very healthy foods so that I can justify eating as much as possible (and also so that I can justify occasional big squishy chocolatey desserts). I easily eat at least 2000 calories in a day, though I don't keep count. I do not eat meat and avoid dairy, so I have less fat in my diet. I plan meals and buy groceries and eat until I'm full. I take vitamins. I have never had an eating disorder. I enjoy exercising several times a week, and live in a city with a lot of built-in walking and activity.

Maintaining personal discipline is hard enough, but made much harder by people constantly offering me food and sweets because of this discipline.

I mostly avoid sugar, as I am unable to consume it in moderation (a residual factor from said chubby youth). Whenever I decline food or sweets, I am usually met with perplexed questioning, and my explaining that I simply try to avoid eating some things almost always triggers concerned judgements about my body.

Also I have started dressing more fashionably in the past few years and finding clothes that actually fit right, instead of the boxy-shaped clothes that tall people must often resort to. I suspect that my form is not any smaller, just more visible (flatteringly so, in my opinion).

I performed a very safe, healthy, fast earlier this year for spiritual reasons that may have contributed to the greater-than-usual alarm I am facing from people now, months afterward. My appearance did not drastically change as a result, nor has it over time (that I can tell). However, some of my friends were concerned. This summmer I attempted to put on some healthy weight by consuming more fat and protein and changing the way I exercise, but while I did gain some muscle, I also lost some fat, provoking more speculation. A couple of people close to me have told me that I look "borderline unhealthy", "thinner than ever before", and have urged me to see a dietician or spring for a personal trainer. I have tried eating conspicuously in the presence of people, but it doesn't seem to make an impact.

How can I either convincingly assert to others that I am simply my own healthy size, or otherwise put an end to these questions or comments? Snarky comebacks are welcome, but this isn't just about shutting people up-- it's about genuinely allaying concern. I don't want my rejection of their opinion to seem like denial, I want to demonstrating to loved ones that my lifestyle is as healthy, disciplined, and regular as possible. I sense myself being far more self-conscious of my appearance and habits as a result of this scrutiny, which bugs me. It makes me feel unattractive and also undermines what I know and feel about my own health and body. Simply telling someone that their comments are rude and unwelcome may work with peripheral folks, but with friends and family I'd like to do a little better than that.

I have provided all of these details to stave off the speculation that there might be something to their concerns, but if you really think that's a possibility, I'd be interested in hearing why. Unfortunately I don't have any photos that would be helpful to link to other than headshots. However, some of you have seen me in person and can perhaps vouch for my (hopefully) unmistakable non-scariness.
posted by hermitosis to Human Relations (47 answers total)
It might be worth a token talk with your doctor, and a token battery of blood tests, so that you can smile and say "we've done the tests, and the best modern medical science has determined that this is my healthy weight, and weight gain from here would more likely be cause for alarm than be healthy".

(I wouldn't normally cast medical science as completely infallible, but you do what ya gotta do :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:26 PM on September 18, 2006

You can try throwing your BMI (which is fine, I checked for you) at them if you think that would reassure anyone.
posted by juv3nal at 12:32 PM on September 18, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, juv3nal, I could still legally be a runway model in Spain!
That's good to know.

My BMI is 20, and even if I lost 5 pounds, I'd still be at 19.4, which is still counts as "normal" weight.

And yeah, -harlequin-, especially now that I have health insurance benefits from work, it couldn't hurt to go for a physical. Do you think I can get him to fax my mom the results? :)
posted by hermitosis at 12:40 PM on September 18, 2006

You said that you easily eat 2000 calories a day, but as a man who is physically active like you seem to be, you can eat up to 2500 calories per day. More if you're very active, so I would suggest counting calories for a bit just to make sure that you're getting enough.

I second you going to see a doctor. Getting the ok from him should go someway to shut people up.
posted by ob at 12:42 PM on September 18, 2006

"I eat voraciously and with gusto. Because of my love of eating, I choose very healthy foods so that I can justify eating as much as possible (and also so that I can justify occasional big squishy chocolatey desserts). I easily eat at least 2000 calories in a day, though I don't keep count. I do not eat meat and avoid dairy, so I have less fat in my diet. I plan meals and buy groceries and eat until I'm full. I take vitamins. I have never had an eating disorder. I enjoy exercising several times a week, and live in a city with a lot of built-in walking and activity."

Just quoting that paragraph would be enough to assure me about your weight.

But yeah, see a doctor. Then you get to add "...and my doctor(s) say(s) I'm fine!"

As horrible as it sounds, I've noticed that "worrying" about peoples' thin-ness is in vogue right now, at least with my generation (I'm 23).
posted by chota at 12:42 PM on September 18, 2006

"I eat voraciously and with gusto. [...] I easily eat at least 2000 calories in a day...."

This is not voracious eating, and indeed if you don't keep count it's probably not accurate, either. It might be interesting for you to get food records analyzed (this involves a nutritionist visit, careful record-keeping for a couple of weeks, and a follow-up visit to talk about what the records showed). It might allay other people's concerns and be useful to you to discover that you're eating a lot more than that. On the other hand, maybe your metabolism is just very efficient, in which case you would have that information and maybe be able to learn a bit about ensuring that you're properly nourished on a relatively low calorie count.

How often do you see a doctor? That is, do you have external validation that your health status is good? You don't actually tell us much about your health status, just subjective and unquantified information + the datum that you've been self-consciou about overweight in the past. I think for a lot of people that will sound like too much of the wrong information.

You don't really owe people an explanation for what you're saying above, but you are saying the kinds of things that make people wonder about an eating disorder.

I sense myself being far more self-conscious of my appearance and habits as a result of this scrutiny, which bugs me. It makes me feel unattractive and also undermines what I know and feel about my own health and body.

This is a pretty common feeling among (white, American) women. Sucks, doesn't it?
posted by caitlinb at 12:47 PM on September 18, 2006

At a 20 BMI you're on target, and you've succeeded in keeping the bad stuff out of your diet. Kudos here.

What you want to work with is appearance, and for this, I'd suggest long-term weightlifting with goals for size and strength increases. (Don't do these to the exclusion of cardio, of course.)

After a year or two, voila! The skinniness will be gone. What's more, at a 20 BMI, you'll have a six pack.
posted by Gordion Knott at 12:50 PM on September 18, 2006

I'm not saying that this is Gospel truth by any means but you can check this out.
posted by ob at 12:50 PM on September 18, 2006

I'm with Knott on this one. Look into some lifting websites (as usual, I recommend T-Nation as a great site) for information on how to put on muscle mass while avoiding too much fat. Bulking this way is basically just eating more of the stuff you eat now, along with some protein and meal shakes. Then, when you return to eating the way you do now, the little fat that you put on should come right off. Like Knott said, with 20BMI right now, you would look pretty ripped eventually.

As for getting people to stop bugging you? A doctor's visit would be good, as would the BMI information, or maybe a comment about how you aren't going to die at 40 because of heart disease. You may need to get snarky, because people don't like it when they are shown how unhealthy they actually look.
posted by Loto at 12:56 PM on September 18, 2006

I would just say "I know I look thin, but I'm exactly the same weight I've been all these years." and then take obvious pleasure in eating.

I wonder why the sudden change in their perception? Two things come to mind:
1. You may have lost fat in your face when you were gaining muscle elsewhere. When I see friends I haven't seen in a year or two, even a small change in the face is very visible and can be really alarming just because it seems SO obvious.

2. Did you recently get a different haircut or shave off facial hair or stop/start wearing glasses? That can also change the look of your face in a way that people think "wow, something's really different; look at those angular cheekbones".
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:00 PM on September 18, 2006

There might also be other cues to consider, eg. if you stand better, you may look healthier and stronger. Perhaps you are moving waifishly or something? People won't know why their alarm bells are going off, since bodylanguage is mostly subconscious, so they'll look for something they can see, such as you being thin or pale. And looking for it, find it, regardless of whether it's there or not, because their alarm bells are there.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:01 PM on September 18, 2006

Wait, why should the poster bulk up, exactly? What is wrong with his appearance?
posted by caitlinb at 1:03 PM on September 18, 2006

I second harlequin's advise to get a full physical - it's not a bad idea to do this every few years or if something changes (for example you get a job with more stress or hours, etc.)

it sounds like you're perfectly fine to me. How you handle this on a one-on-one basis would be entirely up to the specific incident, but a few thoughts:

a) parental / family guilt / nosiness? everyone goes through this. my mom used to haggle me about 'looking too thin' and I'm 5'4" and 130 pounds. her particular issue is that she's overweight and would project her own guilty conscience onto me because she disliked the fact that I (probably) look healthier than she does. Family are crazy. Ignore them, or just keep giving them the same 'geez mom, I'm fine' answer.

b) partner / SO? could be the same as above, could also be a genuine concern for your heath. Again running a full physical and being able to cite science can derail a lot of this. If they continue to badger, then a gentle, firm, and to-the-point comment such as: 'we've had this discussion n times before, I was fine then, I'm still fine now, can you please stop bringing it up?' may do the trick.

c) This may come as no shock to you, but in the past decade, the U.S. has had an unreal increase in obesity. I'm not even going to cite statistics here, because it's a sad and widely accepted fact. It sounds as though you (you lucky bastard!) are of naturally ectomorphic physiology. If this is the case you will increasingly stand out as a gazelle amidst a sea of warthogs. If you're different, people will tend to point that out, and again there may be an underlying current of jealousy there.

Keep eating healthy, it's the best thing you can do for yourself. And remember that while it's polite to acknowledge people's concerns, there's a point at which it's just none of their damn business and they're being judgemental boors. Once that line has been crossed, don feel you must justify yourself, your body, or your choices. I know it's hard to deflect the genuinely-concerned comments, but if you can honestly convince people that you are perfectly healthy and beyond that are tired of hearing them haggle you, eventually it should get through to them. Family? maybe not so much; my personal opinion of family is they're a score of individuals that were put on this earth for the sole purpose of driving one batshitinsane.

and if it still bugs you? well you could always come visit us out here in Boulder, Colorado, where endurance athletes and that 3% bodyfat beef-jerky build is commonplace enough due to the massive outdoor / athletic culture here that no one ever bothers to mention it.

/skinny d00dz are teh hawt!!!!1
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:05 PM on September 18, 2006

You're perfectly healthy.

The reason people express concern is that they are fat, and they're using to seeing fat people. You look odd, because you're not fat. The average person on the street is now significantly overweight, so you, despite being the correct weight, are now significantly skinnier than the average person.

There's also a bit of projection; people who are moderately concerned about their own weight (overweight) can deflect that mental nagging in their head by saying that you're just too skinny. It's not them - it's you! Have another pint of ice cream so that I can stop worrying about the pint I just ate.

Finally, it's socially acceptable to tell someone to eat more, even though it's not socially acceptable to tell someone to eat less. I don't know why.

The only way you'll prevent these questions is by relocation to some place where people aren't overweight. Africa, for example.
posted by jellicle at 1:07 PM on September 18, 2006

thank you caitlinb, very well put.

/personal aside: in my circle of women friends, most are of the opinion that dudes who bulk up just for the sake of bulk are as distasteful as fake boobs on an otherwise attractive girl.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:10 PM on September 18, 2006

Response by poster: I really only mentioned 2000 calories as the as least amount I eat as a way of saying I typically eat more. While I don't really keep track, the amount of restaurant meals that I eat a week in addition to my own rough count, I'm pretty sure I'm hitting a healthy area.

But to be fair, I haven't seen a doctor in years. I tend to be pretty healthy, don't get sick often, and have no chronic illnesses. Caitlinb, I agree that these things are hard to quantify and may inspire as much concern as confidence. Part of what disturbs me about all of this is having to wonder whether they're right (though I don't think they are). I won't rule out visiting a nutritionist, but I'm also looking to more personal approaches to discussing this with people.

And Gordion, that's the sort of thing I wanted to do this summer, but when I saw myself looking leaner, I quit. Maybe I was too hasty, and should pick it back up.

This is a pretty common feeling among (white, American) women. Sucks, doesn't it?

No joke, sista.
posted by hermitosis at 1:11 PM on September 18, 2006

I only thought I'd mention the calorific intake as this is something that quite a few people get wrong. You could try counting for a while so that you can prove with numbers that you are eating enough. Anyway, for what it's worth, you sound absolutely fine to me.

I do understand your predicament. Mine's a little different but I used to be quite a lot bigger than I am now and every time I saw my parents they commented on it (because I've never heard of mirrors!) I lost all of that weight and I put on a lot of muscle (because I'm naturally stocky, so that's relatively easy for me.) Now my mother complains that I'm getting muscle-bound. Sometimes you can't win...
posted by ob at 1:19 PM on September 18, 2006

I know exactly what you mean, and it's bloody annoying - I'm 6'1", somewhere between 8.5 and 9 stone (dunno what that is in pounds - 120ish?) and have been the same height and weight since I was 11 or 12 (except when I spent all my time in nightclubs, and dropped to about 7.5 stone and did look really scary).

I've found the best thing to do is clearly explain you've always been that skinny, do eat plenty of healthy food, and, if people push it, have been checked out by a doctor. If people keep pestering, ask them if they ask every fat person they meet about their health - for some reason, that's rude, whereas quizzing the skinny isn't. (I must admit, I have been extraordinarily rude to overweight people giving me shit for being too thin.)

One legitimate cause of concern, though I don't know exactly how common it is - tall thin men under 30 are especially prone to suffering a spontaneous pnemothorax (a lung collapse for no apparent reason). I've had five collapsed lungs, and suggest that if you start getting pains in your chest and back at any point, especially when resting after excercise, you should call an ambulance pronto!
posted by jack_mo at 1:22 PM on September 18, 2006

I agree that it's a good idea to go to the doc, explain a bit of your history (you hated being chubby as a kid), and honestly consider the possibility that something might be wrong. But supposing there isn't anything wrong:

It sounds like you have given a good deal of thought to your food choices. If you discuss this ("oh, I'm avoiding sugar", etc) with people, they may mentally classify that as "you're on a diet" -- because many people aren't accustomed to just choosing not to eat sugars. They would only do that if they were trying to lose weight. So they may take this dietary choice as evidence that you are trying to lose weight.

So maybe, with some audiences, you could switch to talking in terms of preferences -- about how you don't really like sweets, but you love a nice lean chicken with soy sauce or whatever?
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:23 PM on September 18, 2006

I'm naturally tall and thin myself (ectomorphs represent!), though my thinness is actually somewhat exacerbated by medical conditions. I have gotten shit (both well-meaning and spiteful) about my weight for years. It's tedious at best ("oh, I'm just so concerned about you, you can't possibly be healthy"), and fucking insulting at worst ("you look like you need a sandwich/have anorexia/escaped from Auschwitz/etc"), so I feel for you.

I've bulked up a little in the past year doing free weights a couple of times a week. I've only put on about 5-10 lbs. (my weight fluctuates between 130-135 now, whereas it used to run around 125), but I've seen a marked decrease in irritating comments. And aside from that, doing weight-bearing exercise is good for helping diminish bone loss as you age, since being thin is a known risk factor for osteoporosis.

A few comebacks:

"Oh my god, you're so skinny!"
"Ah, but there's a painting in my closet that just keeps getting fatter."

"Have you seen a doctor?"
"Yes, and he wishes he had my metabolism, too."

On preview:
One legitimate cause of concern, though I don't know exactly how common it is - tall thin men under 30 are especially prone to suffering a spontaneous pnemothorax (a lung collapse for no apparent reason). I've had five collapsed lungs, and suggest that if you start getting pains in your chest and back at any point, especially when resting after excercise, you should call an ambulance pronto!

jack_mo: have you been tested for Marfan Syndrome? Pneumothorax is common in people with Marfan Syndrome, but not (as I understand it) among tall, thin men as a whole category.
posted by scody at 1:28 PM on September 18, 2006

Response by poster: Perhaps you are moving waifishly or something?

LOL. Well I do try to maintain as strikingly masculine persona as possible, I probably register more on the Lisa Kudrow (and less on the Brad Pitt) end of lonefrontranger's "ectomorphic physiology" scale. My good posture and poise are possibly working against me here, as mostly my masculinity manifests as clumsiness and belligerence.

Interesting link though, lfr. Most of those traits fit quite well, and I will read more this afternoon.

Lobstermitten: yes, I did (finally) lose some of the roundness in my face that had been hanging on since I was a child. And I think you're right, it has made a difference in what people notice. Though I wouldn't put it back on even if I knew how-- I'm finally free from the torture of having my cheeks lovingly pinched by one and all.
posted by hermitosis at 1:34 PM on September 18, 2006

Granted, I've always been heavier and only now feel healthy after dropping considerable weight. I still am heavier than most women, but I'm healthy like you wouldn't believe according to my doctor. And to prove it I just had a complete physical with all the associated bloodwork and urinalysis.

And you're right, self-discipline is a b**** and it doesn't help when people are always putting the things you love in front of your face. And it's made worse by the fact that some people seem to get jealous that you do have the will power to turn down sweets when they seem controlled by them. Kudos to you for treating your body better.

So, if you're cool with the way you look and are feeling good - I say use that insurance and get things checked out. And you can request a complete copy of the results. You just have to sign some silly additional bit of paper to get them. I keep mine on file. Yes, I am OCD.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:35 PM on September 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

"Wait, why should the poster bulk up, exactly? What is wrong with his appearance?"

I agree with the implication of this semi-rhetorical question. If he's happy about how he looks then he shouldn't worry about it.

Well, that's assuming that he values his own satisfaction at his current appearance more than he values conforming to the expectations of those close to him. I'm perfectly serious about that: I'm not prepared to assert that there cannot be to a particular person great value in conforming to the expectations of those close.

Otherwise, though, he should learn to shrug off those expectations. The one thing he can't do is just stay caught in the middle. (Meaning he needs to make a sustained effort in one direction or the other.)

And I don't think it matters if he merely appears too skinny because most other people are overweight or if he actually is too skinny. His diet and appearance is his business, no one else's. Screw the people who are enforcing their values on him in the name of "health".

Recent evidence indicates that mildly starving contributes to longevity, anyway.

I partly feel strongly about this because my best friend is very, very skinny (or he used to be exceptionally skinny) and he gets comments from people all the time. Many people don't think twice about pointing out how skinny he is because they're so caught up in the idea that he's not fat. But he's always been self-conscious about this and people's insensitive comments have long pissed me off.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:36 PM on September 18, 2006

You sound just like my father, plus about three inches and 15-20 pounds. He's been hearing this nonsense his whole life (and he never had a chubby phase).

One thing that worked for him was emphasizing the activity part of his life. When people know that he exercises regularly and seriously, they are a lot less likely to think of his weight or his eating choices as anything other than part of his sports-related regimen.

As for bulking up, he also tried that for a year or so (back when bodybuilding was really in vogue). We're talking milkshakes with an egg thrown in, tons of protein, and going to the gym for hours a day. He put on a fair amount of weight in terms of muscle mass, but he said it was so much work (and time) that he would never do it again.
posted by anjamu at 1:44 PM on September 18, 2006

Response by poster: Double-plus on family being hypocritical and crazy, and if medical proof or some of these responses don't satisfy them, well, at least I tried.

Double-double-plus on LobsterMitten's suggestion to simply tell people I simply don't like sugar or certain foods. Although it may not work on people who already know me well and have witnessed my unrestrained behavior around birthday cakes.

As for the significant other, he prefers guys with a little more meat on their bones, so he's in the camp that is showing concern (although he's around enough to know how much I eat, which helps). Everyone should be so lucky as to be in a relationship with someone who'd be overjoyed if you gained 15 lbs.
posted by hermitosis at 1:47 PM on September 18, 2006

They're jealous, and would rather make you into some sort of diseased creature than walk a few extra blocks or avoid the tray of brownies. Yeah, even your mom. Even if you gained twenty pounds, you'd hear the same thing.

Don't even bother engaging them in lengthy explanations. Do a lot of shrugging with those bony shoulders and change the subject. Anything more than a sentence will be interpreted as excuses and an invitation to discuss your body further.

This reminds me of my co-worker, a rather clueless middle-aged man who seems to think that his perception that I'm some kind of health nut is a good reason to stare at my tits. Because he's complimenting how healthy I look. Or something. Look on the bright side -- at least they don't deliver these speeches while eyeing up the size of your package.
posted by desuetude at 1:51 PM on September 18, 2006

Everyone should be so lucky as to be in a relationship with someone who'd be overjoyed if you gained 15 lbs.

amen bro. being a (straight) female mesomorph is a massive pain in the tush as well.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:54 PM on September 18, 2006

Oh, and reassure your family that you'd not a speed freak.

Because after they exhaust the logical possibility of anorexia and bulmia, they'll move on to deciding that you're on drugs.
posted by desuetude at 1:54 PM on September 18, 2006

You could suddenly become very, very concerned about dental hygeine.

Or your immune system, or your odds of getting diabetes, or your body's yin/yang balance, or the environmental effects of the sugar industry, or...
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:58 PM on September 18, 2006

If you did recently lose fat from your face, you might be able to just explain that to people. Their alarm bells are going off but they're not sure why, so if you can explain why, some of their worry might be averted. You can just say "Yes, I lost some fat from my face this year, that might be what you're noticing, but I'm the same weight as ever overall. I put on some good muscle in my legs from all the biking I've been doing (or whatever). I know it looks worrying at first, but it's completely okay. I just went to the doctor etc"

On a lighter note, I recently had a reminder of how weight loss in the face can be really striking. I looked at pictures of Peter Jackson on IMDB. I haven't had a TV for a couple of years, so I didn't know that Peter Jackson lost like 70 pounds, and hadn't seen the new skinny Peter Jackson -- I don't know if he's been all over the TV, maybe this isn't surprising to anyone but me.... but damn! Look at the difference in his face; he looks like a different person. Old pudgy Jackson vs. New, skinny Jackson.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:58 PM on September 18, 2006

Response by poster: I can't mark best answers here, because pretty much all of these are useful, and I don't want to cause highlight-blindness. Mostly though this has been a huge confidence-booster. I haven't been able to talk about this with many friends, because as some of you have said, people project their own insecurities and opinions into a conversation like this ("Who cares? You're skinny! My problems are worse, because I'm fat!" "No you aren't." "That's kind of you to say..." etc.)

Nice mention of the drug worries, desuetude: there is a family precedent for that kind of problem (which is part of why I am so fascinated with identifying and thwarting compulsive behavior, such as eating sugar). Some of my long-distance friends have brought it up, but as far as I know, those kinds of rumors aren't out there now.

Consider my doctor appointment to be made in the near future and those bony shoulders shrugged.
posted by hermitosis at 2:06 PM on September 18, 2006

two words: horizontal stripes.
posted by nonmyopicdave at 2:38 PM on September 18, 2006

I'm 6'3", 130 lbs... I've probably gained 2-3 lbs at most over the past 10 years. In my case, it runs in the family, although my diet and lifestyle contribute somewhat. I remember being concerned about my thin build when I was a teenager, but as an adult, it doesn't bother me one bit. Sure, shopping for clothes can be difficult and I look pretty goofy in photos (especially when surrounded by people of average height and build), but it sure as hell beats being overweight.

Thankfully, I'm well-proportioned enough not to have that "starving peasant" look and have muscle mass where it counts. If it were otherwise (as is the case with my older, skinnier brother), I'd probably be less pleased with my appearance.

As for deflecting comments, I find "it runs in the family" works well enough. Of course, in my case, it's the honest truth. Still, if you're dealing with friends or acquaintances who wouldn't know one way or the other, it should work well enough. You can't argue with genetics.

Other than that, I find it's simplest to just smile and say, "I'm just a skinny guy." If they still insist on pushing the issue... well, I don't think there's much you can do. Assuming you're healthy, there's nothing wrong with being a skinny guy, and if you're happy with your appearance, why pay their comments any attention? Just keep smiling and keep doing your own thing. Just because they're convinced you're one step away from collapsing from malnutrition doesn't make it so. Hell, you're probably healthier than they are.
posted by jal0021 at 3:06 PM on September 18, 2006

Also, if your clothes are baggy, it exacerbates that gulag look. Since a lot of designers use thin, tall models, you'll look great if you wear well-fitted clothes.

Having received similar comments in the past, I sympathize. Try to pay it no mind, and rock your thinness.
posted by sixacross at 3:26 PM on September 18, 2006

Response by poster: By the time the clothes make it to the racks, I've found that most often they are conveniently reshaped for squarer, shorter folks. :) I have to get most of my stuff from thrift or designer surplus stores. Any particular recommendations?
posted by hermitosis at 4:30 PM on September 18, 2006

All these people bothering you about being "too" skinny? Wait 40 years THEN when you out live most of them, go to thier grave sites and say:

"Ha. Ha."

If your feeling energetic and healthy that is all that matters.
posted by tkchrist at 4:31 PM on September 18, 2006

You sound a lot like me at your age. I enjoyed being rail-thin. It was easy to do, fit well with my self-image, was an asset in my chosen sports, and was something that set me apart. In retrospect, I think I got a little too skinny at times, and I suspect that it cost me a bit in terms of the durability of my connective tissue (joints, ligaments, and tendons). Those times I think it went to far, I got warnings very similar to those you are relating. I've looked at pictures from those times, and I did indeed look cadaverous, though I felt great at the time. I didn't weigh myself often, but IIRC I was about 6' 150lbs.

I'm not one who's overfond of labeling everything as a disorder, but it is sometimes useful to understand them in terms of an extreme, like understanding fascism is helpful in understanding the dangers of current political trends (sorry for the derail, but it's the analogy that comes to mind). Have a look at the wikipedia entry on Anorexia and think very hard about whether some of that criteria may apply. Even if it doesn't, it will help you to address the concerns of your friends and family, because that is what they are trying to tell you, however delicately.

Many things in your post come together as a red flag for danger, if not now then possibly in the future. A tendency to binge, and then purge via fasting and exercise, preoccupation with diet, denial of a problem that those around you perceive. Ultimately it is a lifestyle choice, but I would suggest a shift in priorities to long-term. At 27 your body is still a growing machine, but you are nearing the end of this phase. When you deprive it of necessary nutrients, or worse, force it to cannibalize by underconsuming you are not doing yourself any favors in the long run, whatever satisfaction you derive from it now.
posted by Manjusri at 4:35 PM on September 18, 2006

Seriously, I'm concerned about your health based on hearing the story from your perspective, and I don't even know what you look like.

As mentioned above, 2000 cal per day is hardly voracious eating, especially for a tall person who exercises. And you really should see a doctor once in a while. He may not fax a note to your mother, but he probably will write you a letter on office stationary verifying your health if you ask him to (and if you're healthy).
posted by bingo at 4:53 PM on September 18, 2006

I think it's weird to hear a very tall, very skinny man talk about how he has to be so careful about what he eats. I know a lot of tall, skinny guys, and none of them actively exerts dietary restriction. I suspect that that is what people worry about-- not the fact that you are so skinny, but the fact that you seem to be actively keeping yourself so skinny.

When you say things like: Nice mention of the drug worries, desuetude: there is a family precedent for that kind of problem (which is part of why I am so fascinated with identifying and thwarting compulsive behavior, such as eating sugar), it makes you sound, well, a little unstable. Completely avoiding something can seem just as compulsive as overindulging in it.

Anyway, as others have suggested, I would stop all talk about watching what you eat, because it sounds weird and unhealthy coming from someone outside of cultural norms for skinny. No one needs to know that you don't eat sugar because you binge on it, instead, you just don't like sweets.

And no, they probably aren't jealous. That is absurd.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:51 PM on September 18, 2006

One more thing to beware of. Once you've successfully deflected the "you look like a starving ______" comments be prepared for the next brutality "just wait for middle age... the pounds will appear from nowhere and boy will you miss these thin times. everybody gains weight at middle age, you won't be thin and beautiful forever."

I've gained about 5 pounds in the last year and it has been just enough that I have seen a total stop to the stupid weight comments. No one tells me that I look ill any more, but I know that it's not healthy weight, I've stopped excercising and all of the weight is in my abdomen. But part of me is so afraid to go back to hearing the comments again that I'm reluctant to go back to being healthier.
posted by bilabial at 6:31 PM on September 18, 2006

Response by poster: I really do appreciate the concerned comments, but I'm not sure whether you latecomers read my comments throughout the whole thread.

Rather than "deprive" my body "of necessary nutrients", I eat well-rounded meals (to capacity, meaning usually several helpings) and take vitamins. And as bad connective tissue runs in my family, I have figured some things to help which I incorporate into my exercise (building muscle around my knees has helped the joints feel considerable stronger).

Bingo, I consider 2000 to be the barest minimum of healthy eating for an active person (hence "at least"), and generally eat well above it, hence "voracious". And you may know what I look like a little-- we met at the meetup At the Bushwick Country Club (I was the one who had turned my pants into shorts, scarfing stale chee-tos). :)

And as for "completely avoiding" sugar, I've made copious mention in my comments to my tremendous enjoyment of desserts, but trying to keep limitations in place to keep from going overboard. I try to limit myself to one dessert every few days. Or maybe just a little one every day. Which can be nigh well impossible in the office, as well as around holidays). But yes, perhaps my honesty is working against me here, and I should just deflect people's constant sugary offerings in a more clever way.

Anyhow since I know that I may not be able to do much in to allay concerns of man-orexia in mere words, so I do not take offense. And one day when I am no longer thin and beautiful, I will simply have to settle for being beautiful. Now if you'll excuse me, there is a major soy ice cream party about to happen over here.
posted by hermitosis at 7:17 PM on September 18, 2006

jack_mo: have you been tested for Marfan Syndrome? Pneumothorax is common in people with Marfan Syndrome, but not (as I understand it) among tall, thin men as a whole category.

Nope, though after a quick Googling, I do seem to have quite a few of the symptoms. Cheers for feeding my hypochondria ;-)

It is most often seen in tall thin men as a category, though Spontaneous pneumothorax occurs in individuals with no known lung disease... most often among tall, thin men between 20 and 40 years old, according to the American Lung Association, Wikipedia agrees, plus a wealth of anecdotal info from skinny male sufferers on my website.

Any particular recommendations?

Hedi Slimane, Gaultier, Dries Van Noten, Yohji Yamamoto. H&M, M&S and Gap on the high street.
posted by jack_mo at 8:07 PM on September 18, 2006

The bare fact of an anorexic person's weight is not what is so unhealthy about them. Being anorexic is bad for other reasons. It's wrong to assume that someone who is very skinny is necessarily in bad health. People are greatly overstating the negative health effects of being underweight.

But aside from what any individual person thinks is healthy, and what is the correct diet to be healthy, and related, is the question of whether someone else's health is a private or public matter. More to the point, is diagnosing them and prescribing changes anyone's damn business (unless solicited)? I don't think so.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:10 PM on September 18, 2006

I don't want my rejection of their opinion to seem like denial, I want to demonstrating to loved ones that my lifestyle is as healthy, disciplined, and regular as possible.

I don't think you can. What you need to convey to them is that you're an adult, not a child, and that their questions are rude. By justifying it (i.e., "the doctor says I'm healthy") you are reinforcing their idea that it's okay for them to infantilize you. Perhaps a firm "I'm doing well, how are you?" might work, or even a gentle, "People come in all shapes and sizes, you know." Then change the subject.

Please don't listen to everyone telling you to see a doctor to "prove" that you're healthy. You don't need to prove anything to anyone.
posted by Violet Hour at 8:36 PM on September 18, 2006

I'm 5'6 and 123 pounds -- which means I have a lower BMI than you -- but nobody ever accuses me of being too skinny. I'm jealous.

Seriously, I don't see why people are saying that a BMI of 20 is unhealthy. It's in the bottom third of the government-designated "healthy range." Most of the health benefits associated with weight actually occur at BMIs between 18 and 21, I think. So it's better for your health to be in this range. You are a good weight.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:48 PM on September 18, 2006

first i want to commend you on cutting back your sugar intake. i have a similiar diet and noone ever understands it, even when i try to explain that coming off of sugar was hell! headaches, depression.. all the typical symptoms of cutting an addiction that is harmful to my body. my taste buds changed drastically, i became clearer of mind, and yes, i lost weight. the united states has a serious addiction with sugar so they will never understand someone not swimming in it.

i second what was said about society recognizing a heavier person as being the norm in the US. i hit a point in my life when i decided to shape up, started eating healthier, exercising regularly and staying on top of all of this with a doctor. after several months i had become very lean and therefore concerned ALOT of people. my doctor said i was one of her healthiest patients because of my changes in my lifestyle. i have a small frame, if im not overweight i will be very small. (im 5'2" and 100lbs is the healthiest weight for me, yes i know it sounds crazy). i just told people what my doctor had to say and most of them eased off, the rest backed off after spending time with me and seeing how great i felt.

good luck with dealing with everyone and keep up that healthy living!
posted by trishthedish at 6:55 AM on September 19, 2006

If a medical professional is concerned about your weight, high or low, listen up. Meanwhile, every time someone bugs you about your weight, reply by thanking them for their concern, but without being defensive, i..e, "Thanks for being so concerned, that's really nice of you." The more defensive you are, the more people will bug you. It's also useful to have some diversions, so when people persist in questioning you, you can turn the topic to something else, distracting them from annoying you.

The many posts on weight-related issues at MeFi suggest that what a hot-button issue weight is.
posted by theora55 at 5:42 PM on September 20, 2006

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