I’m a Skinny Yogi, I’m a Real Woman & I’m Not Anorexic.

Via Jennifer S. White
on Oct 12, 2013
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Jennifer White

Okay, real women have curves—it’s true. Most people aren’t going to argue with that.

We nearly all have breasts—whether small or extra-large—and we all have hips, rear ends, etc, etc, but you know what? I barely weigh a buck-fifteen—and that’s okay.

Because real women are sometimes thin too.

And real women have skin folds and stretch marks and yada yada yada.

I am so sick of women arguing over whether “real” women are heavy or tiny.

Here’s the deal: I was watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast with my daughter earlier and let me just say that I’ll admit to being annoyed.

Not slightly annoyed or mildly agitated but Belle was full-on giving me a headache—and I’m alright with princesses. I’m down with glass slippers and temporary comas. Still, there’s only so much that a lady can take.

Example: Belle is “different” and “a most peculiar mademoiselle”—because she reads.

The future princess is a bookworm and that makes her a unique female. Um, okay. Moving on.

Belle is also traditionally beautiful (read: traditionally slender).

In short, I watch movies and read books with my toddler and obviously I notice that there’s a stereotypical look for women to have. For Godsakes, I remember reading Seventeen magazine and thinking that the girls were gorgeous—and I proceeded to be anorexic for years to follow.

So, yeah, I’m a skinny yogi and I’m not anorexic—now. But I used to be, and let me tell you that judging women by appearances is never okay, be it small or large.

Because not all women are overweight. I’m sorry but we’re not. Simple fact.

And not all ladies that practice yoga are either two ends of an opposing spectrum—anorexic and teensy or overweight and “normal.” And since when was the opposite of starving yourself being obese?

You know, I’m expecting a lot of horrid responses from this—I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for the barrage. Yet the thing is, why is it acceptable to degrade women of smaller proportions—calling them eating disordered and, essentially, not even “real” women—and it’s not okay to simply say that women come in all shapes and sizes, including  but not limited to extra small?

And here’s the deal too: yes, I used to be anorexic—but that was an emotional problem. It had nothing to do, really, with my shape or size. It had to do with not wanting to own my emotions and deal with becoming a woman—because women do have curves.

Real women do have butts and breasts and maybe even little rolls in their armpits. We also have responsibilities, feelings, thoughts and dreams and it’s not always easy to grow up. At the same time, just because your parts are bigger than mine doesn’t mean you’re healthier, more of a grown woman or better in any way—just like I’m not better either.

And women will not stop being criticized, compared or defined until we stop defining ourselves first.

So, go ahead: own your curves and your real-woman ass. It’s awesome—for real. I, too, am fabulous with my miniature bosom and scrawny arms—and I’m still strong. You are too.

Muscles, skin, bones, fat—they make up both of us, regardless of what size jeans and bras we wear.

So, yes, please, rock on with your bad self—I will also. I work hard to feel good about who I am, inside and out, and I know you do too.

I’m merely offering that we consider that the opposite of a “real” woman isn’t necessarily a skinny one.

No, come to think of it, the opposite of a real woman is a phony one—and I’m being genuine in my body, like you are in yours.

And let’s agree to disagree, or better still, let’s agree that a woman isn’t determined by something as inconsequential as facts—and figures.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people who ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She's also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.


100 Responses to “I’m a Skinny Yogi, I’m a Real Woman & I’m Not Anorexic.”

  1. Katie says:

    I agree with you. But I have a few thoughts about why some women fear thin women, and even though I wish this wasn’t the case (because it would be amazing if we were all enlightened in the arena of body love)…I think it makes sense. I think that as long as comparing and self-denigration are around, women are going to feel superior/inferior to one another in order to mediate shame and discomfort (which is kind of what you said, and I agree ☺). The best thing we can do in the face of women harming other women is to spread the word of love: acceptance and loving-kindness to ourselves and to others. And I think that is what you are doing when you write an article like the one above. It’s very honest. What I understand from my personal experience with women who have eating disorders is that some women (who also happen to meet societal standards for beauty – i.e. thin) do sometimes hide behind culturally supported excuses (e.g. health) in order to deny that they have eating disorders. Some don't, but some do. Most women I know do not do this in order to punish other women into believing that a thin ideal is superior, that's just the sad by-product of the situation. On the other hand, some women do get something out of their “superior” body causing an inferiorating (is that a word?) effect because it makes up for their own shame. I’ll explain…they push themselves to become as close to their personal approximation of what a “perfect body” means and looks like, and then they use it as a battle sheild to compensate for their shame (shame that comes from family, society, trauma, the shame/pain list is endless…). Putting a body image (ones own or another type) on a pedestal is not a compassionate thing to do to oneself or another, but it is an undeniable part of an eating disorder. It's a numbing mechanism, it's a shadow, it's a part of a process, but it doesn’t make them any less deserving of love and compassion. I’ve known several women who struggle with this very thing and I have felt honored to be in the presence of witnessing them own that they struggle with narcissism. Its much easier to say that you struggle with an eating disorder and shame than it is to say that you struggle with an eating disorder and narcissism, because people aren’t willing to be very compassionate about the latter! People are uncomfortable with women who are in this stage of their emotional growth because they use societal beauty norms as a shield, and that’s threatening to others. And when the masses are afraid, they generalize. It’s a rule (sort of). So…then if you physically happen to meet beauty-norm standards, and you’re faced with someone who has grown up in relationship to someone who struggled with narcissism and an eating disorder, then you might assume that other thin women are narcissistic. Which is totally not fair, but since humans learn through association…its actually quite (disappointingly) natural for the person to believe such a thing. But it depends on the life experience of who is looking/judging, and the state of their awareness about what it means to collude with one’s own judgments, and the state of their willingness to be in the presence of various forms of human pain (shame/narcissism) without being reactive to those forms and calling them good or bad.

    So I have one more thing…eating disorders do have to do with emotional dysregulation…unsafe emotions…and attachment, and family systems, and dissociation…and the body. We just like to think (once we know the ED is rooted in having to do with emotions) that it doesn't have as much to do with the body image because society still stigmatizes eating disorders as being superficial. And that angers us because to live in one is anything but superficial, it is profoundly painful. But, part of having an eating disorder is being addicted to ruminating about the way the body feels and appears (etc.) because the profound is too murky and painful to touch, and then once we've worked through it, sometimes we don’t want to own that parts of us went to that superficial place. But its true. I really believe its true and its deserving of compassion and acceptance. The body becomes a mask instead of a sacred place of living and growing, and you can’t process the pain that comes with recovery and then say that you never used your body as a mask in the first place. Or that the body-mask-using wasn't a horribly painful part of the process. It has very much to do with the body, its entirely embodied. The parts of the self who long for whatever physical form they needed (perhaps even superficial and all) were relevant in the process of coming out of an eating disorder, and its not real to say that they were not as significant. And this makes yoga such a healing practice, because a yoga practice can command body love and awareness.

  2. Alex says:

    You lost me when you said you were anorexic. Sorry but obviously you are not the role model for saying skinny is good. My sister is skinny yet she never had an eating disorder.

    I respect the fact that you overcame your obstacle but I really don’t think it’s your place to right an article like this.

    • Brianne says:

      Why does it suddenly discredit her because she used to be anorexic? I don't understand. She didn't say skinny was good, that wasn't the point of this whole article, maybe if you had gotten past the anorexic part…. The whole point is that people need to stop shaming women if they don't fit into one category. Overweight and underweight women. Why is it okay to slam thin people and say they're too skinny, but if I were to start making fat comments about a woman it would be unthinkable. Same shit, different pile. We're being discriminated against for how we look. Her recovery from anorexia has more to do with her realizing this fact, that we are beautiful the way we are. That we don't need to try and be fitter or fatter. That's real liberation.

    • truth-that-hurts says:

      People with anorexia tend to have incredibly high amounts of self-control. Your ignorance is astounding. If anything, a person who has survived an eating disorder is significantly more knowledgable about health, diet, and emotional well-being compared to the general population. Also, you don't show someone respect by denying their right to speak.

      Your comment only serves to reflect your jealousy. Your sister may be skinny, but you sure aren't. You're probably not even healthy. Your mind sure seems unhealthy. Are you jealous of your sister too? Or still peeved that you have a man's name? In any case, boasting about one other person doesn't validate your argument.

      Having anorexia means a person is severely underweight and has various thoughts and behaviours that impair normal functioning. It can be overcome with a lot of hard work. The author has made significant changes to her life for the benefit of her health.

      If you do not have personal experience with this, then I suggest that you reconsider your place.

  3. sarah says:

    We never know the journey that others are on.

    Some are skinny and try to put on weight, some are fat and try to lose weight. Some don't worry about it. You can be skinny and healthy and (contrary to popular opinion) you can be fat and healthy. We need to nourish our bodies, so food is something that we cannot kick (unlike drugs). We can punish our bodies by not feeding them, or try to console ourselves with comfort food. But we can also be naturally on the skinny side or naturally on the fat side. (I am 5'9 and a UK size 16, so very overweight, but also eat a healthy diet and have a daily yoga practise – I have beaten bulimia/anorexia, but had already ruined my metabolism, and have a constant struggle with how I feel about my body. Shame that I have wasted so much energy – and still do – on something so superficial, when my body has generally served me and my three children well! It would help to not be judged constantly and if I could buy yoga or fitness clothes that were not too tight when marked XL. At either end of the spectrum it is as if our bodies are public property!)

    The body that we have in this lifetime is just for this lifetime, it is just a vehicle for us to pursue our lives in.

    Congratulations on finding yourself coming out the other side of your anorexic stage. Well done for making the point that neither end of the spectrum needs judgment, just acceptance.

    May your vehicle serve you well!

    Om Shanti

  4. Anon says:

    What is the correct way to represent women in the arts? Can’t show them skinny or curvy, smart or otherwise. Is it better not to portray women at all?

  5. J. Monet says:

    I love this article (most articles on Elephant, actually!), I forwarded it to my friend. I think all healthy bodies are beautiful! As somebody who's neither skinny nor overweight but has a lot of curves, I hate the concept of "real" women — all women get criticized and scrutinized (and objectified) for everything and anything; everything is either "too big" or "too small," and never JUST RIGHT for each one of US!

    I do want to say one thing with regard to yoga, though. I am relatively new to it (I WISH to one day do that pose as the lovely lady in the photo!), and don't like classes so much, so most of the time rely on videos and articles, etc. Sometimes I do get a little upset that only one type of body is shown practicing in all those materials, namely women who are very slim and thus have smaller "assets." I have a large chest and it can be difficult/uncomfortable to do some of the poses, and it does occasionally make me feel like yoga is a realm of the less curvy, or like many of those poses are unachievable. It would be nice and motivational to see more diversity of yoga practitioners and teachers, with respect to body types.

  6. ohhhhhhhh finallyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy someone express my thoughts! 😉 i have not been anorexic, I’m neighter too skin or fat but it BOTHERES ME NO END sometimes when people (usually obese women) can rock up to me and say – u are soo skinny as if I had small pox! I don’t rock up to a woman and say to her – u are sooo fat! ;)))
    Yes there are slim and beautiful women in the magazines – please GO TO A GALLERY with art from before the 20th century – there are plenty of fat and beautiful women there.


    and women who are beautiful are beautiful – deal with it! 😉 some are prettier than u some less. it’s fine. there are some women who will always mesmerize with their beauty! beauty is a reality…. so – it’s fineeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

    and also …………………. I hate it when they associate intelligent with nerdy – it’s fine to be INTELIGENT AND SEXY YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYy

  7. @LowesJane says:

    I agree with this, as a slender person I find that I am hypersensitive to using words like 'diet' and 'eating healthy' around other people for fear that they will assume I have an eating disorder. It's ridiculous that I feel the need to apologise for my genetics. However, I've noticed terms like "thin privilidge " being flung about a lot on body love sites and it honestly makes me furious. What a load of crock. Being thin or slender is one of many body shapes and sizes. It is not a "privilidge" and I feel like that self absorbed women using these terms are further perpetuating this idea that being thin equates to an eating disorder. Privilidge implies that one shape is better than another. Not very "body loving" approach wouldn't you say?

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