Being Mindful of Size Sensitivities

32103517_RuffledfeathersThough the dialogue was very respectful and, in the end, very fruitful … my post yesterday at WeAretheRealDeal unfortunately ruffled some readers’ feathers.

And I can’t help but feel bad about it today.

What did I do? Well, I named sizes … and called a 10 “average,” which made some readers who are bigger than that (and happy there!)  feel bad about themselves.

Eeks.

Of course that was not my intent at all – in fact, I even debated in my head using the sizes at all … but chose to in the end, for a point of reference and because, well, I tend to be brutally honest and transparent here.

Why? Well, I feel like it’s my duty/responsibility as a recovery/advocacy blogger to be honest and unfortunately, sometimes that means pissing people off, or, worse, hurting people’s feelings.

It’s never intended, but it does come with the territory.

As a blogger, this was another learning lesson. It was yet another reminder to be more mindful of my audience (particularly in light of  the whole “thin privilege” discussion over the past few months).

Of course, I wonder if I’d just posted the “Dress for Me” post here, would anyone have said a word about it? Would any of my readers here have been offended? I don’t really know, because the comments here on the post tended to be of the “I can relate…” variety, not about me making them feel bad about themselves.

But I posted it at WATRD and that audience is much broader … and maybe I should have known better.

In particular, WATRD has a lot of readers who subscribe to the “fat acceptance” movement … so coming from a (recovering) disordered eater/dieter background …  it seems I hit some nerves and needed to respond in the comments.

The absolute last thing I’d want to do is turn anyone away or make anyone feel like less of a person because of their size; I think people who know me in real life know I wouldn’t/couldn’t hurt a fly.

But I did hear them out and listened to what they were saying. It helped me see their side, which was certainly valid.

The truth is, blogging opens us up to a whole new world of criticism. And when we put our thoughts out there for the world to read, there are bound to be some people who are offended by them or hurt by them.

I chose not to edit out the sizes, but did listen to one reader who thought my original wording (“a 10 is less than the average size of a woman today anyway”) came off in an offensive way.

In retrospect, she was totally right; I could see how someone could read that and think I meant that anything bigger than a 10 would be “awful” – but that wasn’t what I was saying. Or, at least, that’s not what I meant …

I was saying for ME, personally … I didn’t want to ever buy 10s again. Granted, I did it this time because there were no 8s available, but I see how even that could have been misconstrued. I could see how a lot of my words yesterday could have been misconstrued, and for that I feel bad.

But I also feel like I learned something from it; I learned to see the other side and not feel like I was being attacked–because I wasn’t. And in turn, I was proactive and responded to the commenters. I think keeping an honest dialogue going was a good thing. The conversation remained positive and respectful … and for that, I’m grateful.

That said, today I am asking you a favor. You’re my readers, my loyal readers who have been with me throughout my disordered eating recovery journey. And I know not everyone will always agree with everything I say (and you shouldn’t!!)

So please be honest …. Were you offended by the post? Would you have left out the specific sizes if you were writing the post? And do you think it does a disservice to hear someone like me, on a body image blog, sharing about how it was hard for me to buy a size up (for whatever reason?)? Even if you related to it, do you see how the other side might have felt slighted or alienated by it?

Please be candid with me; I am someone who learns from my mistakes, and I can handle the criticism. I need to hear it. Please, indulge me … I want to be a positive asset to WeAretheRealDeal and this is a great opportunity for me to gain my footing.

Thank you …

Sincerely,
Melissa

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35 thoughts on “Being Mindful of Size Sensitivities

  1. I don;t think you should feel guilty for using sizes. You were being honest. This is your blog. Something I’m trying to learn lately is that everyone has a different healthy size. I’ll admit that I could never be ‘fat’. (I hate even using that word). I have a ridiculously small bone structure. If I went up to a bigger size than I was meant to be I would look unhealthy. But another person could be the same size as my unhealthy size and still look amazing. It’s the same thing with weight.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t feel guilty. This is YOUR blog and while I can understand that it may have ruffled a few feathers that sometimes cannot be helped.
    xox

    1. Niamh, I think that’s the hard part … for someone 5 feet tall and petite, a size 6 might be “big” for them. It’s all relative!! And it’s hard for people to grasp that. Thank you … I think again, it would have been ok on my blog … but at WATRD, it resonated differently (for some).

  2. I subscribe to you and to We Are The Real Deal because that’s what I want: The Real Deal. I want The Honest Truth – sizes and all. Thank you for being true to yourself and your experience AND thank you for making me feel like I’m not alone in feeling the way that I do.

  3. I totally agree with Sara.

    And, related to the average woman comment, you can read in any magazine what the average “size” is today. That’s not intended to offend anyone by default. It’s simply a reflection of the dress size of females today. And, as you also pointed out, clothing sizes vary…greatly.

    You are you. Don’t feel bad for being honest. There are a ton of other people in this world that conceal the truth to pacify people and I wonder…what’s the point?

    1. Excellent points, Staci … it is, as you note, a reflection of today’s dress size (actually, 14 is average–10 used to be).

      You’re right, too — no need to sugarcoat things … but at the same time, I do need to be aware of sensitivities depending on my audience. It goes to the whole “is it a trigger” notion.

  4. I personally don’t find anything offensive in what you said but I could see where some people might but I don’t see that as reason not to write your true feelings in your posts. You did not say “size 10 is big” rather that to you, it is not the size you like to be. You didn’t say if someone wears a size 10 they are “fat” and should lose weight, etc. People come in all shapes and sizes, it is up to each of us to decide what is best for us providing what weight we want to be does not compromise our health eaither way (too little or too high) etc.

  5. OK, I haven’t read any of yesterday’s comments or even today’s yet but I wanted to say that we are in exactly the SAME situation. I am firmly an 8 even though I prefer the way I feel when I am down to a 6. That said, I know it’s time to watch it when I hit a 10. THIS IS ALL SO PERSONAL. I don’t mean any disrepect to anyone else. Do I think about your size? No. Maybe you draw the line at a size 4 or a 14 or 24 or whatever. I think we all have one.

    I once posted a comment on the WW site when asked the question…”how did you know it was time to join WW?” Well, for me, it’s when I hit a size 10 (in a certain brand). I got blasted as, for some people, a 10 was lower than their goal. I am sorry I offended them but FOR ME, that’s how **I** knew. I don’t compare to anyone else but me.

    SO, I wanted to say that I understand and saw nothing wrong with what you said. I would have found nothing wrong with it had you used different numbers. I got it. I’m short — when I am a size 10, my BMI is in the “overweight” category. FOR ME.

    Anyway, this touched a nerve, obviously 🙂

    1. Thanks Melissa–it IS so very personal. And like you, right now I’m “overweight.” I don’t FEEL overweight or think anyone looks at me like I am “fat” but I AM “overweight.”

  6. Melissa, you were absolutely right to be honest in sharing both your size(s) and your feelings about buying clothes in those sizes. I agree with Lara: never once did you say people who wear size 8, or 10, or 12, or 22 need to lose weight. Never. While I am a big believer in “fat acceptance” and “health at every size,” I don’t think that every little comment a blogger like you makes about her size and personal happiness needs to be dramatized to the extent that it applies to everyone in the female world. Just because you had an uncomfortable moment with a size 10 does not mean you think everyone should be uncomfortable with that size: you were not intending to represent anyone else except for yourself, and I think that came across *very* clearly in your post.

    That said, thanks for acknowledging in this new post that your size concerns could be seen, from a “thin privilege” angle, as somewhat trivial. It’s a good perspective to have, and one that I myself need to have more often.

    As always, thanks for your humility and honesty. I, for one, am extremely glad you’re in the blogging world.

    1. Thank you, Nell … I like this: “Just because you had an uncomfortable moment with a size 10 does not mean you think everyone should be uncomfortable with that size: you were not intending to represent anyone else except for yourself, and I think that came across *very* clearly in your post.”

  7. I found nothing offensive about your article. It was a story of your personal experience and I applaud your honesty about your shopping experience.

    I know I have a certain weight threshold that I don’t want to go over; whether that is more or less than someone else’s isn’t the point. Maybe if someone has a problem with your post then it’s…dare I say…their problem?

  8. Personally I wasn’t at all offended when I first read your article…but then, I guess I am not above a size 10. If someone said they hated their hair because it was curly (ahem), my feelings might be a little hurt. But if someone said they hated their hair and it was stick straight and thin, I wouldn’t really think a thing about it.

    I DO know from reading your posts that it was not at all in your intent to hurt people’s feelings! I think numbers can just be a dangerous thing. I get SO caught up in them myself, and that’s a really hard thing to stop obsessing about.

    Anyway, I love going through and reading the discussion it brought about on your post. Like MamaV (I believe?) said – we need to talk about these things! So many times it’s just the elephant in the room, but I love hearing people’s thoughts on this subject.

    1. Holly, I think that’s just it–you’re not above a 10, so you (and most of my readers here, maybe?) wouldn’t feel alienated by it. I would never poll my readers on their size, but I have a lot of dieters and recovering ED/DE readers … not too many “fat acceptance” readers (to my knowledge–they keep quiet if they’re here and anyone is welcome!) so most of my readers probably didn’t feel upset by my sharing the numbers because I bet many are much smaller than me, and that’s ok too!

      I’m glad you all know me and know my intent wasn’t to hurt anyone. I just wish I hadn’t, ya know? Numbers CAN be dangerous and I’m going to do a post on that for later tonight or tomorrow.

      MamaV is right–the dialogue needs to continue! And I love hearing other people’s insight too 🙂

  9. LG…if I wasn’t such a sensitive person who always worries what others think (for better or for worse) maybe I could take the “it’s your problem” ‘tude…but I’m not comfortable doing that really. I mean, I see why it could be their problem/how they feel about themselves… but I can’t say it because I don’t 100% see either side. I see both. Of my own post, no less! 😉 Darn being a Libra!

  10. I read the post yesterday and I have to admit that when I did I thought if I were you I would have kept actual sizes out because I knew people would pounce on that on WATRD. As a fellow recovering DE I have comparison issues. I know I`m getting better though because when I read your post I didn`t immediately get my back up about the sizes. If this were earlier in my recovery I would have had many opinions: at one point when I was trying to love my body I would have immediately told myself you were dilusional for thinking 10 was big (ie: accept any size), if this were 3 years ago that size would have seemed astronomical to me because I was so dilusional about what a healthy weight was for me. Now I just remind myself that everyone is different. There is no point comparing.

    Knowing this about myself, I am now able to just observe. I read your post, I thought it was great. I also knew there would be people like my former self, being bothered by it. I can now recognize that my reactions to other people`s struggles and thoughts is simply a reflection of how I feel.

    I think what makes people react is their own discomfort. Their own frustration with where they are right now. Trying to accept yourself is a lot of work and it`s hard. When you are in that process, it`s easy to be angry with other people for many reasons.

    I am a faithful reader of yours. I find you honest and real and that`s what I like about you. Keep writing what you think. I will keep observing and questioning my own reaction to what you write.

  11. Susie, I am so glad to hear you were able to read it without getting flustered by the numbers–that definitely shows improvement and I agree, what makes people react is their own discomfort. That’s a really good point. While in no means was I trying to compare myself to anyone but me in my present or former self … perhaps some people compared themselves TO me and that made them feel alienated. I am glad we’re talking about this … it’s very relevant to what’s happening in society today.

    Thank you 🙂 I love knowing I have loyal readers. It makes this that much more meaningful. Because I don’t just do this for me; I do this for all of us.

  12. As a recovering anorexic I often wish that especially the average size = healthy size women (the real life role models) could trust in healthy eating and forget all the numbers, because that’s what also the really sick need to learn and dare to do in order to gain the desperately needed pounds. Other women worrying about numbers on scale or clothes are like flashing warning signs saying: “Do NEVER trust the myth of healthy eating!”

    Through the actual message of this particular post, and through your other writings, I do realize that healthy eating, and well-proportioned picture in the mirror are the things you pursue, so my only critique concerns the numbers.
    Why couldn’t we all just say to ourselves: “I eat healthy, so I am perfect”.

    1. I love this insight, Sparrow…thank you. I agree, I wish it could be that way, where we say “I eat healthy, I take care of my body, I exercise regularly, so I am perfect.”

  13. I read yesterday and since I “know” your voice I got what you were trying to say, and while I wouldn’t consider myself miffed or offended, the post did make me take a hard look at myself. I think if anything my gut reaction was to be jealous, which I could have easily turned into an “I’m offended” response.

    I am not happy at my current weight or the 30 pounds I’ve gained since my wedding, so hearing about you not wanting to buy the size I used to comfortably fit in was hard. Couple that with the fact that I just bought loose pants in my “never again ohmigod I must do something” +1 size, and well, I admit, I wallowed for a moment. Whatever our issues are, it’s so easy to say “Oh I WISH I had that problem!” For you, that was a big deal. No need to apologize for it. It’s sort of like when you complain about your husband and someone says “Be glad you have a husband to complain about.” What do you say to that? OK, thanks? I’m sorry? There is no right response because everyone has their own issues and the crap that comes along with it.

    Obviously I’m projecting my own issues onto this, but when it comes to size, weight, and FA, we all can’t help but take a bit of everything personally on some level. That’s just a natural thing we all tend to, whether you admit it or not. It’s a slippery slope, but not one to be avoided. I loved the dialogue that it started.

  14. GIANT DE-LURK
    I know you wanted input from your long-time readers on this but I wanted to give the perspective of someone who has lurked but never commented. I have been a big lurker over at WATRD since pretty much the beginning. I read your post and was going to de-lurk there. But when I read the comments that had already been posted I decided not to. What I hoped was going to be a discussion about our different self-judgements centered around sizes/shopping and learning to overcome them had turned into yet another episode of The Trigger Police. Look, we all have triggers. If we’re reading WATRD most of them probably have something to do with weight/body image issues. I’m trying to recognize and work toward removing my triggers. There seem to be a lot of commenters who are doing nothing but reading postings looking for things that pull their triggers. And then they hi-hjack the discussion turn it into a whole my trigger-trumps-yours thing. I’m trying to NOT live my life based on triggers. I’m looking for people who are trying to find common ground in an amazingly diverse world. I don’t need yet another place where it’s all about someone telling me that if I do not thinkfeelact exactly as they do I am l’ess than.’ I’m trying to get away from protecting my triggers. Because the more I respond to them, the more I talk to others about them, accuse them of pulling my triggers, the more powerful my triggers become. Although I enjoy the posts at WATRD I may have to stop reading the comments because the trigger-trump environment is really unhealthy for me.

    1. Somebody’s Mother–thank you so much for speaking out. You raise some really good points here. You’re right, we ALL have triggers that vary from person to person. It’s good you have identified yours and I’m just sorry they tend to come from the comments–though I suppose that’s better than from us bloggers 🙂 Thank you for delurking–you’re welcome here any time!

  15. Hi Mandy and thank you for your honest assessment; I value your insight a ton here. I certainly never intended to make anyone feel jealous or any emotion really, but I see now how it did.

    But your comparison about having a husband is a great one. I’m often reminded of all the good things in my life, and so while it felt like a big deal to me … it certainly wouldn’t be to someone else.

    And the most important thing you noted is true: we project our own issues/insecurities into body image …how can we not? It’s not like we can separate ourselves from our physical bodies. I’m glad you’re happy with the dialogue we started! 🙂

  16. I liked the original post, but I cringed a little bit when I saw the numbers. I think that talking about sizes is so fraught that it’s rarely worth it…I have made a major point never to mention my jean size or weight on my blog, and I’ve always found that I’m able to discuss my feelings about my weight loss and body without referencing specific numbers.

    Sizes have an ability to irrationally affect the way people feel about themsevles, which was the whole point of your post. For that same reason, I think its a lot more inclusive and less triggering to avoid specific numbers.

    Kudos on being so willing to listen to criticism…I was really impressed with how you handled yourself over at WATRD.

    1. Hil, I can see why it might make sense not to share that info, but since I already did, the best I can do is, going forward, keep that in mind.

      So true, they do irrationally affect how people feel about themselves.

      Thank you, though, that means a lot. I hope it demonstrates my willingness to learn; I’ve only been blogging a year and a half, and it was mostly here at Tales, so I’m learning how to deal with other audiences.

  17. Hi, there! I’m actually new to your blog, but I look forward to reading more! And this entry really piqued my interest, so I hope you don’t mind comments from a newbie!

    I think the numbers game is really, really tricky. I struggle with it my blog as well. In my opinion, if you know a blog is being read by people with eating disorders/disordered eating, in recovery, people struggling with body image, etc., etc., numbers should be left out. As much as we can argue that numbers *shouldn’t* matter, they DO matter. And they matter A LOT to some people.

    Plus, numbers are arbitrary. A size 10 here, might be a size 12 somewhere else, or a size 8 somewhere else. We assign undo value to them. I think that actually having specific numbers in a post can reinforce that b/c it makes what is arbitrary seem concrete. Also, numbers can be triggering for a lot of folks with e.d.’s, and upsetting to many others.

    In my own blog, I try to use phrases that can give a general idea of size as a reference point, but I don’t use specific numbers. Worst case scenario, I might even say something like, “I was size x. For me, the idea of going up to a size y is frightening. It’s symbolic of . . . ”

    Anyway, those are my thoughts!

  18. Of course I don’t mind comments from a newbie! Welcome! 🙂

    Thanks for your thoughts. I still see both sides of it, but will be more mindful about using/not using numbers. Sometimes it is relevant, but I do need to keep my audience in mind.

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