We Give The Word “S-K-I-N-N-Y” Too Much Power

We Give The Word “S-K-I-N-N-Y” Too Much Power

Let’s overthrow the tyranny of “s-k-i-n-n-y." We are more than just bodies.

A word: a seemingly insignificant pairing of letters…a singular term among 171,476 others in the English dictionary.

The word “skinny:” s-k-i-n-n-y… a seemingly insignificant pairing of letters that comprise a singular term among 171,476 that we as a society have transformed into a dominant concept with potent superpowers. These superpowers consist of the ability to manipulate minds, define beauty, alter moods, and determine success.

“Skinny” is not an ordinary word nor an ordinary adjective.

Skinny, rather, is an invincible force that society has tied in an interwoven knot with achievement, happiness, and beauty.

Yes… one word, one singular shape that may have once assumed only the esteem of the word “triangle,” or “tall” or “circular,” maintains the power to control the way we perceive ourselves and others.

Allow me to provide you with a scenario. My family of six traveled to my cousin’s home this Thanksgiving. My cousin is a seventeen-year-old student at the top of his class at a prosperous private school…who was recently invited to participate in a debate in India…who recently won a crew regatta…who recently asked out his first girlfriend… who lost a significant amount of weight since the last time we saw him. Subsequent to a quick “hello” followed by a hug or a handshake, the proceeding remark made by each and every one of my immediate and extended family members was something along the lines of “Wow… you look fantastic… you look so… skinny!”

Positive reinforcement was not only present but also very prominent the entire holiday. Numerous dialogues revolved around his weight loss. He was showered with abundant compliments. He was regarded as a “new and improved” kid, quite distinct from who he was just two months prior when he had been characterized by his buxom physique.

An adolescent, living a life robust with activity, achievements, and adventures, spoke primarily “skinny” talk this Thanksgiving holiday. “Skinny” talk seemed to be the most important to him and the people around him. These people around him, all loving friends and relatives, clearly focused on the "skinny kid", rather than the kid with limitless triumphs and attributes.

This is an allusion to our society as a whole.

We exist in a society teeming with political disbelief, technological advances, an ever-changing opportunity structure, fascinating research about outer space, unique intersections and diversity. Now more than ever is the time to speak about each and every scope of life. Meaningful discussions are opportunities to acquire new knowledge and thereafter, create positive changes. Yet, the societal fairy god-mother has granted the letters s-k-i-n-n-y with the power of a tyrant.

We speak highly of the letters. We prioritize the letters. We converse about the letters. In fact, that six letter dictatorship has the authority to make us happy or sad, to warp us into success stories or failures. In a world where one individual can have so many attributes and perform so many significant roles, we actively allow for the tyranny of s-k-i-n-n-y to prevail.

You, your friend, me, my cousin…

We are all far more than those six letters.

While it is simple and subconscious to allow the dictator to dictate, I invite you to remind yourself and your friends that our world is far too complex to allow for a number on a scale or a six-letter word govern how we feel.

Engage in a more meaningful conversation than that. Compliment one’s character. De-emphasize that word and all of the social constructs that arise with it. Because a word is just a word unless you give it those mighty superpowers that it does not deserve.

Cover Image Credit: @aerie

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week Should Matter To All Of Us

Secrets make you sick.

Next week (2/26 - 3/4) is National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week, a week where education, prevention, and treatment take the forefront.

In the United States alone, as many as 20 million women and 10 million men will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives. This statistic becomes especially troubling considering eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Despite these growing numbers, eating disorders are still incredibly stigmatized, and they are born and raised in silence.

This is exactly why National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is so important – to me, a survivor, to the millions of people struggling, and to a society that turns the other cheek to one of the deadliest, and most preventable, illnesses of our time.

This year's theme, sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association, is Let's Get Real, a challenge and a promise to fight stigma and make it okay to talk about eating disorders, whether you're directly affected by them or not. The program encourages prevention through things like education and awareness, including the ability to recognize unhealthy thought and behavior patterns that may lead to the development of an eating disorder.

It also aims to educate the public on signs and symptoms of eating disorders to guide people in helping their loved ones who are struggling toward treatment and recovery. Along with prevention, the program encourages treatment and recovery through resources like their online screening tool and their 24/7 helpline. NEDA also works to fund treatment centers and counseling across the country, and the money raised during the week goes directly toward life-saving treatment for those who need it.

But arguably the most important aspect of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is the opportunity it gives us to finally talk about these diseases – without shame and without stigma.

Eating disorders are constantly around us, whether we know it or not. They are born and raised in silence. Giving us the permission and the platform to finally talk about them gives us power, and even gives us the chance at possibly saving someone's life. It gives us the chance to say to someone, "You are not alone" and "Recovery is possible." And it is so, so possible.

This National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I encourage you to head over to www.nationaleatingdisorders.org and take a look at the information and the resources made available. I encourage you to start a conversation in your own social circles, your dinner tables, your residence halls, etc.

I encourage you to help fight the stigma and save some lives. Let's Get Real – this week and every week.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, contact the NEDA helpline at (800) 931-2237, text "NEDA" to 741741, or visit the official NEDA website at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

For Stony Brook University students, contact CAPS at (631) 632-6720 or CAPS After Hours at (855) 509-5742.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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I'm Done Explaining Myself And My Body

I'm a work in progress.

When I started college as a freshman, I was small. Small in a lot of different ways, but small in body size, first and foremost. Small in the most important way, I told myself.

Today as a senior, I am larger. Larger in body size for sure, but larger in a lot of different ways that I’m starting to realize are much more important. I’m larger in areas such as spirit, mentality, and empathy.

But throughout sophomore and junior year, I was only concerned with the expansion of my body. Mostly, I was concerned with what others were thinking about it.

There are a host of reasons behind my expanding body during those years, and I spent a solid portion of those years trying to explain my reasons to everyone. Literally. Everyone. To my family, to friends past and present, to people I’d just met who hadn’t even known me when I was small. To Facebook, to Instagram, to Twitter.

I explained myself and my weight gain to anyone and everyone before they could make up their own assumptions before they could place their own narratives on my body.

In her powerful memoir, “Hunger,” Roxane Gay concurs with this particular anxiety of mine: “When you’re overweight, your body becomes a matter of public record in many respects. Your body is constantly and prominently on display. People project assumed narratives onto your body and are not at all interested in the truth of your body, whatever that truth may be.”

I was determined for people to understand my truth — even the darkest areas of that truth — because I couldn’t bear to have those typical narratives placed on me. I could not allow people to think I was simply lazy and overeating for no reason other than a lack of willpower.

First and foremost, when I was explaining my body, I’d make sure people knew that at one point not too long ago, my body was small. And by the end of my explanations, I’d still be large in size and feel even smaller in the aforementioned more important ways.

Explaining my body never left me feeling more confident and safe in how people saw me. It just reinforced that my own self-worth was equated to my body size.

Luckily, things have changed this year. Through education, experience, and consistent training of my thoughts, I’ve slowly begun redefining my self-worth and started practicing more love and acceptance towards my body. I don’t feel as great a desire to explain my body to people, although I’m certain people still have their own explanations when they see me.

I’m a work in progress. I know my truth. And that’s all that really matters.

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