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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ICU (Japan) chapter.

“It worries me that no matter how much I eat, I can’t gain any weight.” Some you might think “ugh, are you being sarcastic?” after reading that sentence. If you thought so, I want you to read the rest of this article. I want you to know that, just like some people struggle with “not being able to lose weight,” there are others who struggle with “not being able to gain weight.”

I’ve been skinny since birth. Compared to the standard weight for my age, my weight has always been lower. I kept getting told “girls will start gaining weight once they hit their growth spurts!” but before I knew it, I had turned 22. Looking back, there’s never been any particular phase where I gained any amount of weight worth mentioning. I didn’t have any health issues pertaining to my weight either. I eat well, but I don’t gain weight for some reason. And I’ve had lots of people envy my body type because of this. 

But not being able to gain weight comes with its own set of hardships—both physically and mentally. Even if I do everything to gain weight, it won’t be worth it if I fall ill and end up bedridden. If I get gastroenteritis, I fear I’ll lose even more weight. I’ll be accused of having an eating disorder. I have a difficult time finding clothes that suit my body shape, and finding a swimsuit is even more of a challenge. I end up looking boyish, even when I don’t intend to. And on and on…

But the most painful thing is how few people are able to sympathize with my struggles with thinness. “Being skinny” isn’t recognized as something people struggle with, I’m often mercilessly showered with comments about my body. 

“You’re soooo skinny!”

“Why are you so skinny?”

“You’re so slender/delicate.”

“Your shoulders are so narrow.”

“You look like you could be blown away by the wind!”

“I’m afraid I’ll snap you in half if I give you a hug!”

“Have you been eating properly?”

“You’re always so skinny, I’m so jealous!”

Regardless of whether they’re a close friend or someone I’ve never met before, people manage to bring up my weight naturally in conversation. I’ve gotten used to it by now, and I know that people tend to mean well. Commenting on how skinny someone is socially seen as a positive thing. I believe people mean it as a compliment most of the time. 

But sometimes, when I respond with “I’m actually really struggling to gain weight,” people tend to respond in one of two ways. Sometimes they’ll say, “not being able to gain weight must be difficult as well.” But most of the people I’ve met tend to respond semi-sarcastically: “that must be such a nice problem to have!”

If you’ve read this far into my article, you must get it by now—struggling with thinness isn’t a “nice problem to have” at all. It’s not like I’ve been swayed and affected by every comment anyone has ever made about my figure, but I certainly think the sum of these comments has affected my self-esteem overall. I’ve never had someone to talk to about my struggle with “being thin”, and I’ve had times where I’ve been worn out from stressing about it on my own. It’s incredibly saddening that there are people who push those who struggle with being skinny away without knowing what they’re going through.

And I want to take a moment for us to stop and think about how weird it is for someone to comment on someone else’s body. You wouldn’t point out how fat someone is to their face, so why is it so normal to comment on how skinny someone is? There’s no reason for anyone to say this or that about a body that isn’t their own.

As of late, there are numerous movements like the Body Positive movement that encourage us to love our bodies the way they are. Even in such a climate, it’s still pretty difficult to actually accept your body as is. I think others who struggle with being skinny also feel the same. There seem to be very few role models in the Body Positive conversation for people like us, and there’s always been a trend of women needing to be curvy. There isn’t really an attitude or atmosphere championing angular bodies like there is around more ‘womanly’ figures. It’ll likely take some time, but I hope these ideas around body type begin to change little by little, and I hope this article could be a first step in this direction.

I hope this article reaches and educates as many people as possible about the problems that thin people face too. Not being able to gain weight is a struggle, ust like not being able to lose weight is. This is true for just about anything, but everyone feels and struggles with different things. Even if you comment on someone’s skinniness as a compliment, those words may be taken negatively—I’d really appreciate it if you could keep that in mind. And if you know someone struggling with being skinny, try empathizing with and supporting them, instead of telling them their problems are “nice”.

Ellie Eshima

ICU (Japan) '21

Ellie is currently a senior at International Christian University, majoring in Psychology.
Sarah Ishikawa

ICU (Japan) '21

Sarah Ishikawa is currently serving as Editor in Chief and Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at ICU Japan. She is a senior studying English and American literature. On her days off you'll probably find her at a museum, coffee shop, or just at home getting things done.