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Skinny Person Inside

Sometimes I hear people who want to lose weight talk about how they have a skinny person inside who is just waiting to get out. No offense to anyone who uses this phrase, but I’ve never liked it, and not just because it sounds like you’ve swallowed a Lilliputian for lunch. It’s like you’re saying “Don’t mind me! I’m not really a fat person. I’m just a skinny person in disguise!” (Coincidentally, this is always the vibe I got from Kirstie Alley during her well-publicized weight loss campaign.)

This statement also reminds me of a quote from the 1980′s movie The Breakfast Club:

“There are two kinds of fat people: there’s fat people that were born to be fat, and there’s fat people that were once thin but became fat… so when you look at ‘em you can sorta see that thin person inside.”

The character of Bender is just saying this to provoke the skinny girl he’s talking to. However, he is essentially saying the inverse of the first statement, that some people have a fat person inside just waiting to get out.

I don’t jive with this philosophy. I think it reflects our inability to recognize that people are multi-dimensional. We like to quantify people as one thing. She’s a bitch. He’s a jerk. She’s really sweet. He’s a romantic. It’s easy to forget that people can be all of these things, which was actually the theme of The Breakfast Club, so hopefully Bender learned the error of his ways.

A couple years ago, I got into a flame war with a girl online. I’m pretty sure she thinks of me as an asshole, and in that situation I probably was (though I wasn’t the only one). However, that doesn’t mean I’m always an asshole or that I have an asshole inside just waiting to get out. (That does create an interesting visual image though.) It just means that in certain situations around certain people I can get bitchy.

Similarly, I’ve noticed my brother will act one way around his family, but when he’s around his guy friends he gets more bawdy and prone to dispel gases from varying orifices. That doesn’t mean he’s really one way or the other, it just shifts slightly depending on the situation.

It’s like when you draw a circle with a compass. You have a center point that you started from, but there is also a certain amount of room around that center where you’re still in the circle. We all have a center that could be defined as our core personality, but there’s space around the center to move around in that’s still within the circle of our self.

The phrasing of that sentence “I have a skinny person inside waiting to get out” implies that you have this one true identity, that of a skinny person, and it’s just being subverted by this fat person who has somehow possessed your body. But I don’t think it’s as mutually exclusive as that. You can be more than one thing. I’m equally capable of being a skinny person as I am of being a fat person. One or the other isn’t my “true nature.” They’re just two different extremes of how I could be given different circumstances.

It’s hard to accept this concept. We really do want people to be just one thing. It makes the world easier to understand. One of the stages in child development is learning that something can have two different names. For instance, a “goldfish” is a gold animal with gills that swims in the sea, but it can also be a “fish.” It takes kids awhile to grasp that it can belong to two different groups and sometimes they may get the words flipped. This is why you might see a kid in the grocery store pointing at a cut of salmon and saying “Goldfish!”

So, it’s not that I am inherently a fat person or a skinny person, or that I’m really a jerk or a sweetheart. I’m just whatever I am right now. My “real” self isn’t hiding anywhere underneath. I can certainly decide that I want to make changes in my life to highlight certain qualities and sublimate other less desirable characteristics, but that doesn’t make them any less or more real. No one is hiding inside of me, fat or skinny. I’m just me, whoever I might be today.

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14 Comments

Amyt • April 5, 2006 at 11:44 am

i think so many people think they’d be happy if only they were slim and they’re like waiting for that happy skinny person to break out and start living, it just doesn’t work like that.

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LauraBora from Bufadora • April 5, 2006 at 12:09 pm

Well said!!

I am guilty of saying that phrase — but I think I meant that in a different way — it’s not like I wasn’t the fat person, too, because Lord knows I’ve been “fat” longer than I’ve been “skinny”.

I think I meant that — and brace yourselves, cuz this is arrogant — I was “TOO COOL” to be the sterotypical fat person based upon the erroneous judgements of fat people by our society. Because I’m smart and I bathe and I do cool stuff like open mikes and I’m OUT in the WORLD acting like I’m not ashamed of my fat. I was acting like a “skinny” person — whatever the hell that means.

I haven’t said that for a long time though because like you, I think it’s one dimensional.

We’re all so much more than what we look like or what mood we’re in.

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little miss ess • April 5, 2006 at 1:13 pm

Loved this post!

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kathryn • April 5, 2006 at 5:10 pm

Yeah, that’s something that bugs me too. Anything really that’s about people discovering their “true selves” – whether it’s weight loss or some other “voyage of discovery”.

Like you say, we have any number of selves. Who knows which one is the true self?

I guess the thing is to try and let the part of you that you want to develop shine through while decommissioning the part you aren’t so happy with – I mean, even at our fattest, we do things that are good for us and, at our thinnest we do unhealthy things sometimes. It’s just a question of making sure the good habits are the ones we nurture.

I hope that makes sense and I’m not just rambling :)

Your post reminded me of the episode of Ab Fab where Edina tells her mother she has a thin person inside her and her mother looks her up and down and says “Just the one, dear?” Lol.

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little miss ess • April 5, 2006 at 10:10 pm

Didn’t Roseanne have a joke she used to tell that was something like, Yeah, there’s a skinny woman inside me. I ate her! I can almost hear that squawky voice of her saying it.

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Suey • April 5, 2006 at 11:01 pm

I also don’t like the phrase where one says he or she (usually she) has the “body structure of a skinny person”…which leads to awkward silence.

Hi! I’m a new devoted reader. Or not so new, I’ve actually been lurking for the past months…which makes me sound scary, but TRULY I am not! :D

And like everyone else, I found you inspirational also. Do you keep count of how many people you’ve inspired? Just curious…

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Suey • April 5, 2006 at 11:02 pm

holy crap, sorry for the huge gaps in my previous comment…it looks different from the preview box.

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PastaQueen • April 5, 2006 at 11:33 pm

Suey – I fixed the big spaces in your comments, so no worries. LOL about the inspiration count. I should keep a tally box in my side bar like McDonalds does, but instead of “100 billion served” it would say “42 people inspired” or whatever :) No, I haven’t kept track.

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Mindie • April 6, 2006 at 4:10 am

Amen!!

Wow! … WOW!

Did anyone ever tell you how much of an amazing writer you are? Humph! I bet you hear it a lot, don’t you?

Mmhmm…

Well, I am one hundred precent with you on the “No one is hiding inside of me, fat or skinny. I’m just me, whoever I might be today” topic of discussion.

Your awesome and you really have me thinking.

The mind bugs are working!

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Lily • April 6, 2006 at 8:09 am

There is a skinny woman inside of me. I can usually shut her up with cookies.

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Amy • April 7, 2006 at 9:58 am

I agree with you, but I’d like to add to that line of thought. I think the reason people commonly define themselves in a limited way is because once they have that very specific definition, then they know what is expected of them.

One might say that it’s a band-aid for the confused or insecure, but it may be all a person needs to get through life. I also dont think it’s a terribly uncommon thing for most people to go through catagory-loving stage at some point. This is why teenagers form cliques and wear the same clothes.

The saddest aspect of this whole thing is that people tend to catagorize a person by appearance above everything else. Sure, appearance might shape who we are a bit, but there are so many more facets to a person than how much she weighs.

Also, I would like to add that I really enjoy how you seem to be able to consistently relate the big picture to the details of life. You have a good head on your shoulders (but I don’t mean that categorically, hah).

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The Fat Girl • April 7, 2006 at 11:50 am

This is lovely and very thoughtful.

And The Breakfast Club, aw. I love that movie. “Claire! That’s a fat girl’s name!”

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Kelly • April 8, 2006 at 9:52 am

I just finished reading Tales from the Scale and the writers discuss the “Fat Girl” who lives inside all of them, no matter how thin they get. I could relate to that because I think that the experiences I have had in my life due to being the “Fat Girl” will always have some impact on me. However, I feel like I’m the Fat Girl, the Thin Girl, the Happy Girl, the Depressed Girl. I’m everything, and like you said, I think we all are.

I also think that always looking to that Skinny Girl is really sad and keeps me from being happy right now in this moment of life. I hope to be thinner, and I realize I have less mobility and am less healthy when I’m bigger, but it’s still okay to be happy with the person I am.

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Nau-Dee • March 3, 2007 at 7:12 pm

Great post!

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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