Because of my size, I have to lose a lot of weight before I get compliments on my changing shape.
The complications that follow from dealing with the well meaning noters of weight loss is a whole other post. Needless to say it’s overwhelming, dispiriting, and a big mess. More about this later.
But inevitably, without fail, the first thing people do notice is wrinkles. They don’t say that. No one ever says, “Wow you look wrinkly.” (Okay, teenagers might.)
Friends say, “You look tired.”
“Have you been working out too much?”
“Getting enough sleep?”
But I know that what they are noticing (since I notice them too) are new lines on my face.
It fascinates me that people don’t associate this change with weight loss. Since all weight loss is positive, on mainstream accounts of beauty, any bad effects must be due to something else, like sudden onset aging or lack of sleep.
When I lose weight I lose first and fastest from my face and then my waist.
And a sad fact about my age: it’s either thin body or smooth skin. Take your pick. You can’t have both.
My mother and I share this, plump faces and smooth skin.
So many people compliment me on looking young, but they don’t even consider that it’s a side effect of being overweight.
Writing about fasting, Krista Scott Dixon sounds like she actually likes her skinny face but she’s younger than me, fewer wrinkles.
“I loved the way my face looked as my bodyfat dwindled. Leonine, I said to myself, looking at my chiseled jaw. Androfemme. I enjoyed the feel of both of these words in my mouth. My father had other words for it. You look like you just got out of a prison camp, he said. (Actually he said Auschwitz. But he has a flair for inappropriate hyperbole. Please excuse him. As you can see, the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. Love you dad!)
Your face! So skinny! said the coffee shop barista. (Yes, the barista.) Drink more milk.
You have your thin wrinkles, said my quasi-Aspie friend with no internal editor. You know, the wrinkles you get when you’re too thin. Right there, around your mouth.”
It sounds like the dreaded skinny face only happens to Krista when she’s at her very leanest. The sad part for me is that it happens first. Luckily I can live with the wrinkles if I get to go up hills faster and keep my hips, knees, and ankles happy for another thirty years or more. That’s the reason why I’d like to be leaner even though it’s clear to me that being fat and fit are perfectly consistent.
I’m typically not bothered much by traditional standards of beauty and whether or not I match them. Life’s too short. We all die in the end. The people who care about mainstream beauty don’t much interest me much anyway so why should I be concerned with what they think?
“We all die in the end anyway” might strike you as a gloomy thing to think or say. But really once you adjust to that big piece of bad news everything is small potatoes. It’s quite liberating. The joys of philosophy.
But as you might imagine there’s lots of angsty ink spilled in women’s magazines about this conundrum. Here’s a snippet:
There’s an old saying that, as you get older, you need to choose between your face and your rear end. In other words, if you’re skinny you’ll look good from behind, but your face will suffer.
Depressing as it may seem, there is some truth to the saying. A couple of studies have found that women with a low body mass index (BMI) have increased skin aging — including one study of identical twins. When the twins were under age 40, the heavier twin looked older. But after age 40, it was the thinner twin who looked older
Do skinny women just look older, or do they actually have more wrinkles? Actually, both are true. “In general what happens is, as your BMI goes lower you lose some volume of soft tissue, particularly over the age of 40,” explains Robert Weiss, MD, Dermatologist at the Maryland Laser Skin and Vein Institute, Associate Professor of Dermatology at Johns Hopkins University, and Fellow with the American Academy of Dermatology. “When you lose that volume of soft tissue, the wrinkles do either become deeper or more noticeable.”