The most popular post I ever wrote on here wasn’t about writing or my books. It was about my experience being a Very Tall Female.
That was a year ago. Today I saw this disturbing image on an online tall community I frequent. Warning, it uses NSFW language and might be a trigger for any other tall females out there.
For those of you who don’t want to look, it’s a chart of heights for females pointing out ‘ideal’ heights for femininity, and at what height you should either get a sex change or kill yourself.
Yes. Change your gender or end your life. Because of your height.
To top it off, the author of the page is a ‘6’4 alpha male with PhD.’
Before we go any further I just want to say that I’m fine, this image doesn’t make me feel sad or worthless, etc., and I’m not posting it as a cry for pity. It’s obvious this image is trolling, and tall females aren’t the only ones insulted here. The author also goes after guys who like tall females, using very derogatory terms such a ‘beta’ and ‘neckbeard’, among others. I just thought it was an interesting lead-in to today’s topics, in which I continue to discuss height and throw a new one in there – weight.
So a year ago I posted that article. Over the past year I’ve had more run ins with people who think the world wants to hear a running commentary of their thoughts on other peoples’ bodies. Joining online communities and hearing other stories has shifted my perspective on my height and made me consider it in new contexts.
Here are some of the things I’ve been told this past year:
- I am fetish object
- I am manly and unattractive
- I’m not allowed to complain about my height because the benefits obviously outweigh the negatives
- I should be a model
- Wearing high heels should make me feel uncomfortable
- I should want to wear 5″ heels and flaunt it
As you can see, there’s a lot of contradictory opinions out there. And they’re just that: opinions.
Everyone’s got one and this past year has taught me that my opinion is that everyone should keep their opinions to themselves.
Don’t talk to strangers about their bodies. Don’t fat-shame, don’t skinny-shame, don’t short-shame, and don’t tall-shame. Not your body? Not your right to say anything.
I have been particularly thinking about the vocalizations of people as I lose weight. In previous years I heard a lot of commentary. Many people would come up to me and ask me if I played sports or how tall I was. But this year was different.
This year was… quiet.
I’m pretty sure it’s because I was 50 pounds overweight.
Yeah, you heard me. 50 pounds. In short people terms that’s probably 25 pounds. Look, I’m a big person. At a desirable weight I have an hourglass figure, and a large chest. It’s a cliche, but with my nordic ancestry I literally have big bones. What I’m saying is that even at my smallest I was obese according to the BMI scale (PS, the BMI scale sucks and is totally inaccurate), and even when I gain weight it’s very easy to hide. For comparison, my Hollywood body match is probably Christina Hendricks.
But 50 pounds is too much even for me and I was definitely chubby. It showed in my thighs, my arms, my stomach, and even my face. I maxed out at 250 and realized pictures of me no longer reflected my mental image of myself, no matter how I contorted or sucked it in. Office settings, no exercise, and eating out all the time were not the ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It was time to change.
I went on a diet and lost 15 pounds last year. Still overweight, but better than it was. Then I went on another diet with Chris’s help this summer, and have lost another 15 pounds. It’s these recent 15 pounds that made a difference.
(Quick brag: We started running together, and for the first time in my life I’m able to run a mile without stopping. Then 2 miles! We’re working on 3 miles now and I’m loving it!)
My face sharpened. My stomach slimmed down. And suddenly people were Noticing me again.
Listen, I don’t photograph well. I’m not using that as code for, ‘I don’t like the way I look,’ I’m saying that the person I see in the mirror is not the person who comes out in pictures. Something about my facial structure and how cameras capture light is messed up. My smile is a little goofy, and I have big teeth. So for those of you who have seen pictures of me and look skeptically at what I’m about to say, wait until I see you in person at a book signing :)
The truth is… in person? I’m beautiful. Before I gained too much weight 3 years ago, on a good day I could literally make people speechless when they saw me. Children would whisper, ‘She’s pretty’ in my wake. I got ‘you should be a model’ as frequently as ‘you’re tall.’ Heck, even last year on the LTWF retreat trip when we met a reader in person the first thing she said to me was, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re so pretty!’ Because, you know, the whole pictures thing.
I’m not Hollywood pretty, and no, I could never be a model. I’m actually TOO tall and my feet are too big. But, as Chris puts it, I am ‘striking.’ I have an interesting beauty, bold features, and my height gives me an added ‘wow’ factor. And, you know, I wear makeup, but let’s talk about that another day.
The point of all this is that I was used to strangers talking to me, even if it was annoying, made me uncomfortable, or bordered on creepy or harassment. But when I gained weight that all dried up.
It was nice, honestly. But when I started to look at my weight problem and dig into the reasons WHY I was overweight (aside from eating too much bad food, obviously), the whole ‘public appearance’ thing gave me pause.
I asked myself, ‘Do I subconsciously want to be overweight because it makes the attention stop? Am I hiding inside my own body?’
Eating disorders are one of the topics I’m interested in. Some people are super interested in cults, or cannibalism, or the mind games behind ‘psychics’, etc., but I care about eating disorders and the culture surrounding them. One of the things I read, from women who developed binge-eating disorders due to trauma, was that they hid inside their large bodies. As if they could protect themselves with the excess weight. Even though there was more of them physically present, there was less of their true selves visible and available to the public.
I think they are right in that assumption.
Ultimately I decided that no, I’m not hiding in my weight. I just comfort-eat and associate food with reward and was never taught about portion size. But losing weight and seeing the return of public attention on my appearance proved to me that those women were correct: You become oddly invisible when you are overweight.
Even me, a 6’2 rarity, felt as if I moved through the world no longer making a ripple. I didn’t see as many eyes on me. It made me feel more normal to be less ogled.
The things I’ve learned about gender and body relations over the past few years are ever-present on my mind as I continue to lose weight. I’d love to talk more about being attractive as a female and what that’s like, and if I use it to my advantage and how, or about the social politics of makeup, but this post is very long so I’ll defer to another day. Here’s a few final notes on my weight loss in case people are curious or concerned:
- Chris and I consulted with a nutritionist to make sure we were eating nutritionally well and within a healthy caloric deficit.
- We view this process as a re-education on food and portion sizes. It’s a lifestyle change, not a quick-fix diet.
- I’m working on giving up misconceptions that fat or carbohydrates are inherently bad for you and should be avoided. Avoiding entire food groups? Not a good idea.
- We don’t just eat less, we also exercise. Chris quit smoking and so now our major concern is Heart Disease, the #1 killer of Americans. I go to Body Pump at my gym and we run together 4 times a week.
- Can I get an amen for Chris quitting smoking? 5 weeks on and I’m SO FLIPPING PROUD!
Thank you for reading. I look forward to your thoughts in the comments :)