I don’t have a history of eating disorders, but being asexual surely didn’t prevent me from having the same skewed body image most other women have.
Admittedly, I’m not fat, either, so I’m speaking from a position of privilege, but I’m also not someone you’d describe as willowy. However, I spent most of my life thinking of myself as at least overweight, and I still catch myself referring to my body as fat inside my head.
This started when I was eleven, when my mother declared, „we’re too fat, we need to lose weight“ (never mind that I wasn’t exactly fat even then, and you don’t make kids lose weight without consulting an MD beforehand). Thus she started us on a series of thankfully very short-lived dieting attempts, at least once a year until I was sixteen or so.
This „you’re too fat“ joined the chorus of „you’re too quiet“, „you have too few friends“, „you sit around too much“ (I was reading, thanks).
Anyhow, no wonder I ascribed my continuous failure to acquire a boyfriend to my figure and my shyness.
Also, I still have a hard time thinking about my figure in an objective way, even though I now am quite confident that I don’t want a boyfriend or husband in the classical sense, and that I don’t need to look sexually attractive.
At the same time, I find myself looking at women who aren’t as close to society’s ideal as myself and having a sense of superiority, because at least I’m not that fat. (This is a kind of double standard that my dad excels at.) All I can do is keep that thought in my head and remind myself that I have no right judging anyone based on their figure. I don’t know their story.
So, I was indoctrinated by my family, and the media sources available to me. Most magazines I got my hands on agreed that women wanted to lose weight, so yep, obviously most women were too fat. I was female, therefore I needed to lose weight, too.
I know this kind of perception is common, because, being a pharmacist, I regularly get female customers asking after something to lose weight, be it the latest useless supplement wonder pill, prescription drugs usually not worth the side effects, or formula diets that force you to down nothing but sweetish slug three times a day. (There are very few men wishing to lose weight via pharmaceuticals.)
Most of the women asking after those things have a lower body mass index than I do, and still „need to lose a few kilograms“. Thankfully, I’m allowed by the boss to tell people that the supplements are useless, it’s my duty to be honest about the prescription drugs, and I usually manage to refer customers interested in formula diets to a colleague who’s actually tried them.
Fact is, those same, objectively thin women tell my objectively not-fat colleague, „but surely YOU don’t need to lose weight.“ Also, in the rare case when I’m asked to dispense actual dieting advice and tell people that this is something I did or do*, I get the same response.
* Yes, there are some things I do – no sweetened drinks, maximum four meals a day, no continuous snacking. As I’m not the type to eat entire bars of chocolate in one session, all of that is actually not a matter of conscious discipline, it’s just habits I acquired along the way, mostly by being a university student who was a bit more miserly than I needed to be.