Thick and Thin: a Tale of Two Sisters

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Two normal bodies, yet I spent years believing mine was flawed.

That’s me and my sister, about 30 years apart. From the very beginning of our lives, we had different body types. She is now, and has always been, thin. I am now, and have always been, thick. We’re very close in height and have the same biological parents, but our body types are different. In the pic on the left, I was a member of Weight Watchers, so my war with my body had already begun. A war that resulted in obesity , obsession with food, obsession with my weight, and deteriorating health by my mid-30′s.

When I look at the picture of us as children, I see two healthy bodies. Now. Back then, I saw one ‘normal’, or ‘correct’ body and one ‘fat’ body. I being the fat one. Culture sent me messages daily that my sister’s body type was ‘right’ and my own was wrong. I know now that she was getting similar messages, a sense that she was ‘too skinny’, but then, I thought she was lucky and I was jealous. And I lashed out at her and teased her about being ‘anorexic’ (sorry sis), because bringing her down made me feel temporarily better about myself (that’s a pretty common behavior for children and people who haven’t learned how to manage their emotions maturely. I see it all the time on facebook, from grown adults unfortunately).

I fought my body for 25 years. I tried to force it to be more like my sister’s. She was, for a long time, the standard I measured myself against. I compared myself to her (and to women on TV and in magazines), and it made me miserable. And for what? Look at the picture of us. Those are both healthy bodies! They are both ‘right’! There is nothing wrong with either of them, so why did I spend 25 years hating myself for being different? When there was nothing wrong? I was just different.

As you can see from the picture on the right, as we grew up our body types remained different. Our adult bodies are as different as our child bodies. I stayed thick, and she stayed thin. Shocker, huh? And both of our bodies are healthy. They are both ‘right’. One is not better, they are just different. But deep conditioning dies hard, and even now I can stand next to my sister (and other women who’s bodies are small and thin and graceful) and feel awkward and ungraceful and huge. Only now I know that that doesn’t make my body ‘wrong’, and that they probably have insecurities and negative conditioning too. So I’m able to stay at peace with my body, my body that is perfectly fine and healthy just the way it is. These are two different body types, and both are normal and healthy.

Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy”, and he was right. Comparing myself to my sister led me to decades of unhappiness, and there was nothing wrong with me to begin with. We must stop this.

 

18 thoughts on “Thick and Thin: a Tale of Two Sisters

  1. amazing…..in BOTH photos I see normal average healthy bodies- nothing more nothing less…………

    what causes us to view ourselves so harshly?

    blessings to you ……………

  2. Yes! You are both gorgeous and just ‘right’. I can absolutely relate to this. My brother was always super lean and could eat 8 billion calories and never gain a pound, whereas I was born curvaceous. It took me about 30 years to embrace the body I was given instead of fighting it and trying to force it to be something it’s not. Far too many people still don’t understand that health comes in all shapes and sizes and our emotional health is improved immensely when we can accept our body for what it is. Many of my clients can relate to your story, so I will definitely be sharing this. Thank you!!

  3. As one of three sisters, each of us very differently proportioned, I appreciate this story a lot. As a kid my older sister was beautifully muscled and athletic, I was taller, willowy and flat chested, my younger sister was softly curvy. My older sister battled with being perceived as masculine. I was teased about being “anorexic” (I wasn’t). My little sister was led to believe she was fat. All of us in actuality has varying forms of an athletic body. Each of us has learned to appreciate our very strong bodies but each of us still carries the ghosts of society’s judgements. Motherhood strongly shifted my body perception (and my shape) but I still worry about my “skinny legs” despite the fact that those legs make me a faster runner. Crazy stuff self perception.

  4. This is me! Exactly. I am you, but I have 2 sisters that are thin and I have always been thick. I have had deep issues with it forever. Only now am I okay with standing next to them in photos and realizing that my 190 pounds is healthy, even next to their 100 pounds. Thanks for sharing… it’s always good to know we aren’t alone.

  5. “I can stand next… other women who’s bodies are small and thin and graceful… and feel awkward and ungraceful and huge.”

    You hit the nail on the head. At 5’9″ and 165lbs on a muscular physique, I often feel this way. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone and to be reminded that just because I’m not petite, doesn’t mean that my body is “bad”.

  6. It’s funny because at first all my eyes see are two athletic women. The “thick” and “thin” aspects are something I have to look for.

    I think ETF has made my brain/eyeball connection work in a saner way …

  7. Great pictures. When my sister was growing up she was naturally very thin and a very picky/discriminating eater. I have always fought against being what I consider “chubby” and a “garbage gut”. Now I have two beautiful daughters age 2 and 4, the 4 year old is naturally thin, tall for her age and picky. The 2 year old is chubbier, shorter and will eat anything I give her. Both are in a healthy range, but they look very different. So I spend all this time convincing the 4 yr old to eat her vegetables and pray that the 2 year old never discovers that she’s “fat” or see’s her adorable (perfectly healthy) little tummy sticking out.

  8. I know what it’s like to compare yourself to someone else and especially to be compared by someone else. My sister and I are twins and for as long as I can remember people would always look at us and call me the thick one or make some comment that implied that I was bigger or that I liked to eat more than my sister.

    I used to think that losing the weight and working my way to fitness would be a way to set myself apart from my sister and be the better half of the comparison or something but as time went on I realized that there was no need to do that. My happiness is my own and my sister’s happiness is her own. I was miserable trying to change myself to be exactly like her and it really corrupted how I saw my body and viewed myself.

    Even now sometimes I fall into the trap of comparing myself and beating myself up but honestly, it’s not worth it. I feel a lot better when I say positive things about myself and remind myself that I am not my sister. I’m myself. Just because we look like does not mean we have to be the same person with the same everything.

  9. You both have beautiful bodies! I would kill for muscles like that – they’re gorgeous. The message I hope we can finally send out is that health is so much more than outward appearance, as as long we we’re wishing for something we will never (healthily) have, it doesn’t matter what we look like on the outside because we’re tortured inside. If we spent the same amount of time worrying about what goes on inside out head as we do what we look like on the outside, our daughters would grow up in a different world. Screw what society has to say about the “perfect” body – there is no such thing. Keep preachin, sister. xx Meg

  10. THANK YOU! I can’t wait to show this to my youngest daughter. She is dealing with the same exact thing. My oldest is what you would call a “beanpole” all arms and legs and super super skinny. My youngest is just built thicker, and a little shorter. They are 13 and 11 and i tell them ALL the time they are BOTH beautiful and that doesn’t come in “one size fits all”

  11. This really hit home for me as well. My sister and I are 20 months apart, and growing up she was never skinny, but athletic and played tons of sports. I was overweight since about age 9 (and unfortunately, she never let me forget it. Now I see that her concern was from a place of love and about health, but boy was that rough to hear at 16). In our case, though, the roles reversed in the past 4 years and she has now gained weight and I am the “skinny” sister. I’m still navigating the weird privileges this switch has bestowed upon me, but you continue to remind me that it’s not our bodies that define us!

  12. My sister is 5’10” and 110 lbs. I am 5’5″, and 150, on a good day (down from 215). When she was a kid, she could eat a whole pizza by herself, because she played tennis 4 hours a day. Now she runs and eats very little. Her doctor had to tell her, when she got pregnant, to start eating some fat. Most of the family was amazed that she was fertile at all. My mom eats crap all day, gains no weight. My dad watches her eat crap, gains weight. I can eat a lot more than most ex-fattys, but most of the tiny Asian women I work with can eat me under the table.

  13. I still feel like the fat sister. Even in high school when my sister and I wore the same size clothes, my parents would buy me a large and her a small or medium. I ran a half marathon and when the shirt was too tight, she asked if she could have it. I’ve had more than one person tell me I was the smart one and she was the pretty one. It’s weird that now I am healthier than I have ever been and stronger than I have ever been, I’m nervous about visiting family because I’m still chubby. Old habits die hard.

  14. Wow! This hits close to home. I am not even that much bigger than my sis, (she’s about 100lbs and I’m 125lbs) but I was always the “strong”, “big-boned” one (even though I’m a dancer as well). Goes to show you can always find someone to compare yourself to and then feel badly about no matter how you look.

    “But deep conditioning dies hard, and even now I can stand next to my sister (and other women who’s bodies are small and thin and graceful) and feel awkward and ungraceful and huge.”

    My sister is coming to visit this weekend. We are going to the beach. Even though I’m helping her with strength training and even though I’ve been cutting fat all summer, deep conditioning dies hard for sure.
    Thanks for sharing. You are right.

  15. My sister and I are a similar height and weigh about the same but have quite different builds. I have always used her figure as my goal, with her slightly longer legs (I have a slightly longer body) and narrower hips (I am more hourglass) and where she carries body fat compared to me. Reading my first sentence to myself again, though, is like a lightbulb moment – we have quite different builds!! I will never possibly look the same as her! She has always paid me compliments and built me up, but I used to think she felt she had to say those things. But – we have quite different builds, so perhaps she has wished she had some of my attributes! Now I feel foolish for chasing the unobtainable for so long, haha 😉 We are both spot on 🙂

  16. Wow. Lots of sister stories. My sister is beautiful – in a “model in a magazine” kind of way. I’ve always been a lot bigger and thought of myself as attractive but not pretty. I’ve been doing a lot of work – eating better, being active, lifting weights and changing my body. Now, I would say we are comparable, not the same, but a much more similar look and physique. It’s hard to navigate. Until recently, I didn’t realize how much I’ve built so much on that in my head. It’s hard, for sure. Thank you for writing this.

  17. This story is a lot like my own, with my little sister being thin, and me being thick, though I did have a minor weight problem as well. My weight problem would probably have resolved itself with puberty if I had only loved myself, and I know I wouldn’t have developed any disordered eating habits.

    I am now an adult (I think) and I have finally accepted my “gut” and my thick thighs – because they are a wonderful part of me. I am healthy and in much better shape physically than when I was at my smallest size.

    My binge eating disorder is under control more often than not, and I’m slowly working on figuring out certain food sensitivities (I need to avoid things like feeling bloated as that brings back feelings of hatred towards my body). Food allergies run in the family, so their support is great.

    Weight loss is not on my agenda, fueling my body and eating tasty food is – and it’s very liberating to eat an entire bag of plantain chips with a whole avocado and not worry about a carb number, how many calories that was, etc.

    I’ve hid away my scale as it only brings me down, and I chose to focus on how great I feel – that inevitably makes me also admire how great I look!

    Beautiful people like you remind me to keep heading down this path. Thank you!

  18. I could have written this myself. I first foray into weight watchers was at age 11. I was 5-4 and 152 lbs. I was nowhere near fat. I was thick and still growing. My yoyo started then. I got up to 5-10 tall and my pre-children weight ranged from 163-209 thru 15 years of yoyo dieting starting at age 11. With pregnancies, dieting, pills, obsessive exercise, I then varied from 192-315 over 23 more years. I must have tried WW 20 times, Jenny Craig 5, Atkins, low-fat, cabbage soup diet, south beach, running thru rain or snow. You name it I did it. the weight came off but always came back. Eventually the weight would not come off anymore after years of this. I know that the perception that i was the fat one from about age 6 onward led me to the dieting yoyo for my whole life. I promised never to do such a thing to my own children. I’d rather they be a bit thick than start the dieting yoyo.
    18 months ago with diabetes potentially staring me in the face and the potential for Breast Cancer reoccurrence, I bit the bullet and got gastric sleeve surgery at 295 pounds. I did not want to yoyo again. I could get 10 pounds off and it would be right back on. I needed the help of the hormone changes surgery brings that address appetite and metabolism (which 38 years of dieting screwed up). I am now 180 pounds and 26% body fat. I do strength training and spinning and am at the gym 4 times a week. I am active, walking and biking even on vacation. I walk 2 miles to and from work from the train station. I am still thick! But I am also strong!

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