I never grew up skinny.
I was one of the largest guys in my high school, used to a life of eating poutine, pizza, and lattes. The world, it seemed, had tried shaming me into changing that.
The problem with shame is that it is irreversible. If it does not work, it is insult veiled as well-intentioned advice. If it does work, that shame is internalized so even when that person is skinny, they learn to shame themselves.
I learned what it meant to be willfully hungry, to sleep instead of eat, to count water and diet soda as a meal. I was disappointed at how slowly I lost weight. Two pounds a week was apparently too slow.
I lost ninety pounds in a year and fainted from hunger at least once.
The few who remember me from first year congratulated me on my weight loss and the determination that I must have had. They ask if I am happier with my body, with my ego, and with my sex life, and I politely lie through my teeth.
I have never hated my body more, nor have I had a lower opinion of myself. The shame I had been taught had done its damage.
I march to the gym, or as I call it, the Bastion of Insecurity, four times a week. I weigh myself each Friday morning, contemplating whether or not I should have eaten dinner the night prior. I watch as fellow insecure folk work out, noticing the few, who, like me, continue to shrink each week.
I cannot tell myself, looking in the mirror, that I should stop. I will forever feel like an overweight man, even when that is not true. MyFitnessPal, it seems, will be a lifelong companion.
I do not continue to work out and eat healthy because I want to be my best self. I do it because I want to stop hating myself.
So I advise, cautiously, be careful about how you word your advice and contempt of those with a little more weight. For, if that shaming works, it might work a little too well.
4B, Computer Engineering