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“You’re So Skinny.” “Thanks! It’s the Cancer.”

or 11 Things Skinny Spoonies Are Tired of Hearing


You’re so skinny! I wish I could look like you!”


Imagine saying that to a young woman you barely know. When she turns to look at you, instead of flashing you the proud smile you expected, only the slightest hint of a smirk plays on her pallid lips as she removes her wig and whispers, “Thanks. It’s the cancer.”


How would you feel? Like crawling under a rock or flushing yourself down the nearest toilet, that’s how!!


People are very careful what they say to someone with cancer. It’s ingrained in our society that cancer is a very serious illness, the person could die, and you don’t want to say or do anything that will worsen their suffering.


As a society, we’ve also learned that it’s impolite to make rude remarks about a person on the husky side. They’re aware of it, and they’ve probably been picked on for it enough, right? Maybe it’s a glandular problem, you think, but you certainly don’t say anything!


So, why in the world is it still “OK” to make comments about skinny bodies? Thin people don’t always choose to be thin just like big people don’t always choose to be big.


There are medical conditions (other than cancer) that have a profound effect on weight, and that’s only ONE of the many symptoms a person living with a chronic illness has to endure every day.


On top of it, spoonies (people with chronic illness) get comments like this:


1) “I wish I had celiac disease!”


When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease in 2002, I heard this a few times. I think people said it for two distinct reasons:


  1. They didn’t think I had a disease at all, and the name of it was put in invisible quotes. Sadly, I didn’t understand this at the time because I was very gullible and took things literally. (Still do. I’m autistic.)


  1. They had body image issues and believed they would rather have a disease that would make them lose weight uncontrollably instead of being healthy with a few extra pounds. (Yikes!)


Believe me, you don’t want celiac disease or any other gastrointestinal condition that keeps you from putting on weight because there are horrible “side effects” that go with it. Chronic abdominal pain, brain fog, poor memory, irritability, muscle aches, and sinusitis aren’t fun to live with.


You’d trade my body back for your own healthy body inside an hour!


2) “Oh, so you’re bulimic?”



When someone has gastroparesis, their stomach muscles essentially freeze, and it causes them to have serious trouble eating food and keeping it down when they do. One person with this condition had just finished explaining this to a friend, and their friend’s immediate response was to ask if she was bulimic.


No. That’s not how bulimia works. Bulimia is an eating disorder that is primarily psychological in nature. Gastroparesis is a functional disorder (which means organ function is impaired).


Big difference! Both are serious issues and should be treated with respect, but when somebody tells you exactly what’s wrong with them (and you could easily look it up on the good ‘ole interwebs if you don’t believe them), why would that be your first response?


Because it’s easier? Because you think you’re “catching” them in something or proving you can’t be tricked? Dial down the cynicism a bit, would you?


3) “What are you, anorexic or something?”



This is another one I heard quite often before and after I was diagnosed with celiac disease, especially when I was 90 pounds and my hair was falling out. I would explain the then-unknown condition to them, they’d look me up and down, and say, “Is that like anorexia?”


Huh? How is celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes my immune system to attack my intestines and my brain when I eat gluten anything like anorexia, which is a primarily psychological condition that affects body perception and eating habits?


They’re not even in the same zip code!


By the way, what if the person you’re talking to is anorexic? Would you ask somebody you suspected of having cancer in the same blunt, unfeeling way? I don’t think so.


4) “You need to eat a cheeseburger!”



No, I do not. First of all, I can’t eat a cheeseburger from a fast food restaurant, or I’ll get sick. Second of all, one cheeseburger is not going to make me magically put on 10 pounds, clear up my skin, brighten my eyes, and make me the happy-go-lucky person you seem to believe I should be.


Nausea, lack of appetite, food allergies, and an inability to gain weight are all common symptoms of chronic illness, and some gooey cheese slapped onto an all-beef patty on a sesame seed bun isn’t going to change that.


So, stop it with the cheeseburgers already!


5) “It’s good that you lost weight.”



Again, think cancer. Imagine walking up to somebody you barely knew and telling them you think it’s great they lost weight, only to find out said weight loss is because they’ve been taking chemo for six months!


If you have a friend or family member who specifically tells you they are glad they lost weight, cheer them on! If not, don’t make assumptions, or you may wind up with your foot jammed so far down your throat, you’ll need a proctologist to remove it.


People who can’t gain weight are often just as self-conscious about their bodies as those who have trouble losing it.


Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to make a “pro-skinny” comment.


6) “At least you’re young and skinny.”


Did you know that being young and skinny wasn’t always in vogue? It used to be (at least according to a very sexist vintage ad) that women had trouble getting a date if they didn’t carry a few extra pounds.



You wish you were young and skinny? So does the person you’re calling young and skinny because what you actually mean is “healthy and vibrant”, and someone living with a chronic illness, regardless of their age, is neither of those things.


7) “I wish I could just get my guts cut out like you.”





In context, I can understand why the person said it (they have IBS and their friend has Crohn’s disease), but no. Just no! There are lots and lots of complications that go with having any type of inflammatory bowel disorder, and even surgery doesn’t “fix” the problem. Often, multiple surgeries are needed, and the problem just keeps turning up like a bad penny anyway.


You may be frustrated with your own health condition, but be careful what you wish for (and how you express it to those with serious illnesses).


8) “You’re so lucky you’re healthy!”



Would you walk up to a chubby person and say, “It’s too bad about your health”? No. Why? Well, one, it’s rude. Two, it’s an assumption. Just because a person carries extra weight doesn’t automatically mean they are unhealthy.


The same goes for a thin person. He or she may have what you think is the perfect body but be as “healthy” as a hard-smoking, hard-drinking 90-year-old with a pacemaker.


Even if you mean it as a compliment, it won’t come across that way. The person struggling with the chronic illness wishes they were as healthy as you think they are, and this reminder that they’re not can feel like a punch to the gut.


9) “I wish I was skinny like you.”



Maybe? Um…I don’t know about that. I think what you’re looking for is a healthy, fit body that can rock your favorite jeans. Not a frail, pain-wracked body with hardly any energy or muscle tone. There’s a HUGE difference.


10) “I WISH I had that problem!”



There are medical conditions that cause people who live with them to have virtually no appetite. They still need nutrients to live like anyone else, but they don’t get the typical signals of hunger as healthy people do.


This means no hunger pangs, mouth watering, or desire for food. What’s worse, since there is no appetite, eating is an ordeal they quickly want to get over with. Forget “breaking bread” for social bonding. This can be a very isolating condition, and you do not want it.


11) “Can I have another one of those cookies?” “Yes, of course. You look like you need more cookies!”


Angel plaque surrounded with cookies


Ugh! You almost had it. All you had to do was say “Yes”. You didn’t need to add your little side-of-the-mouth commentary about the person’s body!


If a heavier person were to ask for a cookie would you say, “Do you really need another one, Zelda? You’re about to break the chair you’re sitting on as it is”?


See what I mean?


Skinny spoonies get a bad rap for being thin. They’re either accused of having an eating disorder or half-envied and half-hated for their bodies. Neither is a winning position to be in. Just remember, the next time you say something that sounds like a compliment to you, it may have the exact opposite effect on the person on the receiving end.


Bottom Line


Think about the comment you want to make or the question you want to ask. Would you say it to a person you suspected of having cancer? Would you say the reverse to someone carrying a few extra pounds? No?


Then, let skinny people be skinny without adding insult to injury.


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