What’s the skinny

Ioana Spangenberg is a model who weighs 85 pounds and has a 20 inch waist. What does the internet think about her body? Plenty.

When I was in my eating disorder, mixed signals were de rigueur.

Though I was ill, it was constantly assumed by people that I was healthier than I had been when I was larger.

“You must feel so great without all that extra weight!”

I didn’t. I was dying. But the comments just reinforced what the voices in my head were saying: fat is bad. And I kept on, encouraged by those close to me. But at a certain point in my weight loss the tide turned.

“You’re so thin! Eat something!”

Wait! The crowd had been on my side! Where did I go wrong? Fat is bad but thin is also bad?

It seems to be the same way with those in the public eye. The collective We speaks out on women’s bodies with judgment most swift. “Mariah Carey has gotten fat!”, “Mariah Carey looks so great!”, “I’m worried about Mariah Carey, don’t you think she’s too thin?”

There’s an invisible line that we don’t know we’re crossing until it’s too late. The line that takes us from unlovable, to lovable, to unlovable again. And that sweet spot, right in the middle? Well, as they say, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

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Pictures of model Iona Sapangenberg are making the internet rounds, again.

In February, the 30-year-old Romanian caused a stir when she gave an interview to The Sun, claiming that her unusual body shape–measuring 32-20-32 and looking a whole lot like a life-size version of a Barbie doll–is “natural.”

Iona, who at 5’7” weighs just 85 lbs, explains that, though she tries, she just can’t gain weight.

“No one seems to believe it, but every day I eat three big meals and I snack on chocolate and crisps all the time. I just have a small stomach. It’s a bit like having a natural gastric band–if I eat too much, I feel sick.”

Yes, of course. Her stomach is small, and there are people who have difficulty gaining weight. But there’s thin, and then there’s Iona, who has been dubbed “the human hourglass”.

While being thin is not a crime, claiming that her shape is natural, when a quick google shows many photos of her wearing a corset,1 seems counter-productive. Is another human being really supposed to think “Wow, I could achieve that look if only my stomach were small, like hers”? Corset training (or “tightlacing“) is a form of extreme body modification. You couldn’t any more luck into that shape by chance than you could being born with tattoos or piercings.

But Iona, herself, is not really the problem. The problem, as I see it, is the amount of hate that her pictures have garnered online:

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a sicker looking body!

She looks sick, someone feed her.

Poor girl, looking at her makes me want to throw up.

That’s the grossest thing I’ve seen this week.

OMG She is disgusting looking.

That is revolting.


i like my women much more meatier…can she even get pregnant?2

So, the tide has turned on poor Iona Sapangenberg. An internet full of strangers has decided that her body is not to their liking and has not been shy about expressing it. And, regardless of her dubious “natural” claim, I sympathize with her. The thing is, there are no winners when the case of a person’s attractiveness is tried in the court of public opinion.

So, here’s a crazy idea: Maybe we don’t have to say (or, in this case, type) every single thing we think about other people. Maybe another person’s body is their business. The way they carry it, the way they dress it, the way they care for it, the way they decorate it. I wouldn’t stand in your house and criticize it. Why? Because that’s rude. My mama, and most of our mamas, taught us that. So why then would we judge one another’s corporeal vessels?

Because, you know what? The sweet spot is bullshit. It doesn’t exist, and we shouldn’t truss ourselves up, starve, or feed ourselves trying to find it. The only thing that matters is feeling good about yourself.

After a lifetime of being deemed too thin, Ioana Spangenberg says, “I’m finally comfortable in my own skin,” and that’s good enough for me.

And maybe, just maybe, we can be lovable no matter on which side of the line we fall. Yes, that even applies Mariah Carey. Damnit.

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  1. Her body shape, while certainly more pronounced than is typical, does suggest that she wears a foundation garment regularly thereby “corset-training” it into its current form 
  2. My favorite, due to the commenter referring to a woman’s body as meat plus indicating that she might not be useful if she can’t procreate. 
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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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