You might have heard this term on a podcast lately claiming that it doesn’t exist. Or perhaps someone is talking about their experience/struggle with thin privilege and you’re wondering what the heck it is.
Essentially it means having a “thin” enough body, without much work or effort on your part, so that you are not discriminated against or weight shamed by your family, physician, friends, or society.
I grew up with thin privilege, my brother and sister did as well.
And since the three of us had thin privilege, unbeknownst to us, we were not discriminated against as much as someone who does NOT have thin privilege. Society was more accept of us because we did not struggle with our weight.
It’s pretty messed up when you start to flush it out and view it from the other side of the fence.
People have been weight discriminated against for a long, long time. People in larger bodies face constant judgment and oppression by society but we all deserve non-discriminatory healthcare, employment, fair pay and basic human rights.
Here are examples of THIN PRIVILEGE:
No one assumes you are unhealthy based on your size
Your size is not the first thing people notice about you (unless you ARE being thin-shamed)
You can shop at any store for clothes and don’t have to have special sizes
Family and friends don’t make comments like “maybe you should try this *new* diet program” (fill-in the blanks with whatever is trendy)
No one says, “but you have such a pretty/handsome face – if only you would lose some weight…”
People do not assume that you are lazy, solely based on your size.
You’re likely to get a promotion or raise compared to someone in a bigger body.
When you go to the doctor you don’t get lumped into the diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other weight-related diagnosis (read about women who were misdiagnosed with a 50 pound ovarian cyst, and Ellen Maud Bennett who was finally diagnosed with stage 4 cancer after years of being told to just lose weight (she died shortly after her cancer diagnosis).
Recently I had a new client start counseling with me because he was struggling with disordered eating behaviors. He shared with me that at his highest weight, his (male) doctor got in his face and said, and I quote, “your problem is that you’re F*cking FAT!”
Emphasis on the last two words.
Yes, that’s exactly what he told me. My goal is to be 100% non-judgmental and compassionate during nutrition appointments (I am mindful of my facial expressions) but my jaw dropped to the floor with a thud when he said that.
He said that was the kick in the pants he needed; he then started an extreme weight loss program that caused him to lose a significant amount of weight. BUT it came back when he stopped dieting and had developed some funky eating habits that he was feeling really guilty about in addition to the weight gain, hence our appointment.
So while going back to the extreme dieting sounds like a logical option right, because it “worked” before. I would challenge that belief. If it TRULY worked, if it REALLY REALLY WORKED, it would be sustainable. And he wouldn’t be sitting in my office trying to figure out how + what to eat.
Unfortunately I hear this all the time – how diets work: keto work-ED (then why are you coming to see me?), Whole30 work-ED (then why did you have to do it three times?), Weight Watchers work-ED.
Imma rant about this mega biz who makes about $70MILLION a year because now they’re rebranding with “WW” so they can go after kids and put them on diets at a young age and teach them how to diet – pardon the rant but I am vehemently opposed to the direction Weight Watchers or WW is moving towards. And I’m disappointed that Oprah has partnered with them. If she understood that diets are steeped in racism, I think she might change her mind.
I’ve gotten off course here.
Do me a favor and tune in right now to where YOUR thoughts are. Do you have weight bias or discrimination towards people who are in a bigger body than you have? Do you think that people who are in a bigger body deserve the same human rights as you do? Access to proper healthcare or not?
What are your personal beliefs around weight?
Let me point out something pretty important that doesn’t seem obvious… having thin privilege DOES NOT mean that you feel comfortable in your skin 24/7, that you’ve never suffered with a funky body-image or body dysmorphia, or struggled disordered eating behaviors OR a diagnosed eating disorder.
It just means that society accepts you and your body size. You on the other hand, might not!
So yes, there IS thin privilege and it does indeed exist (I’ve never been weight shamed at the doctors office or told to lose weight). However, I WOULD look in the mirror each day and pick apart my flaws because according to the beauty, fashion, film AND fitness industry I was far from PERFECT.
And I had this false belief that if I LOOKED a certain way, if my body was perfect, at a perfect weight, then I would get the perfect job, I would find the perfect man, we would have perfect babies and live a perfect life.
Oh the lies we believe!
But also, it can swing the other way because there are always two sides to every story.
I have experienced several incidences of being judged for my food choices or comments made about my body. I even felt a sort of reverse thin privilege food discrimination (idk if that’s even right?) when I was on an Alaskan cruise eating a monster salad at the pool (my body was literally crying out for vegetables and fiber).
Day one of breakfast: I’m not a big breakfast person, never have been, and I think I had some fruit, veggies and prunes on my plate. I wasn’t even hungry but ate with everyone. One server came over, pointed at my plate and said she was watching me because I ate like a “healthy” person. I laughed it off and said, “I’m a dietitian.”
One evening the chef came out from the kitchen, to our table, because I didn’t eat my dinner. I have a delicate digestive system and I was just so tired of eating eating eating all the heavy rich food. In full disclosure, my dinner didn’t taste like it was worth eating and when I tuned into my belly, I realized I was totally was satisfied with a glass of wine and the fresh bread + butter. I was being French! So I didn’t eat and apparently that’s really weird on a cruise.
I had several women pointing at me (no lie) with what I can only describe as flabbergasted looks on their faces while they mouthed “WTF, is she really eating a salad?” I am not even making this up, it was oddly uncomfortable. I get it, there was a TON of decadent food on the boat available 24 hours a day. But I was so tired of eating heavy food and was desperate for some leafy greens + other plants and fiber. So I ate a salad because I know it FEELS good in my body when I eat high vibe food.
But it was odd and I felt self-conscious at meals. Were people watching me and my food choices?
These three incidents all happened in a week on one cruise ship. I felt like I was the official weirdo and I’m used to it, kinda. But it doesn’t mean that I’m not discriminated against for my food choices or the manner in which I eat.
But the only person who weight shames me, is me…
Well, except for that time I went for a coolsculpt consultation at Sculpted Contours and the owner grabbed the back of my leg and said “THIS IS ALL FAT!!!”
I stood there, speechless, in front of my friend who was there for a consultation too.. I was in such shock, I have never had a stranger have their hands ON MY BODY and body shame me like that!
Biggest mistake I’ve EVER made but major learning lesson about how I will allow people to speak to me, about me.
Essentially, you’re verbally sucker punched.
YOU can make comments about your body, but it’s NOT okay for others to say anything about your body.
I’d recommend speaking kindly about and to your body because it does a LOT of work behind the scenes that you are likely not aware of. But when you start tuning in and realize the treasure that it is, you can start seeing it in a different light. In fact, if you struggle with the negative body talk, I’d recommend you check out my 30-Day Mindful Eating Challenge so we can work on that.
Remember: ALL BODIES ARE GOOD BODIES!