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Love the skin you’re in

Unless the skin you’re in is skinny, of course…

As I was reading the various news sites that I frequent (some for news, some for laughs), I came across another “big is beautiful” type article, and remembered that I had been meaning to post about the subject for a long time. Now seems as good a time as any.

This article in, yes that’s right, the Daily Mail, is what reminded me that I wanted to blog. The article is a self serving puff piece, even more so than usual, since the author is writing about herself.

The title sets the stage for an all to familiar argument – “Alice is beautiful, confident, and the average size of a woman in Britain today…so why does she still feel fat?” I could dash off a quick comment that said she still feels fat because she actually is fat, but that wouldn’t do the article justice when there’s really so much more to it.

The article is a glowing review of life as a “bigger” person, complete will all the usual adverbs – curvy, big and beautiful, etc. However, while most articles merely imply that skinny girls must be starving or dysfunctional, this one comes right out and says it, with choice phrases such as “I look at skinny women and wonder how they can live in such denial. It is not possible to be thin and enjoy food.

I despise articles like this because of exactly that kind of rhetoric. I suppose that I would be considered one of those skinny girls living in denial. After all, I do slip into size 6-8 clothes with little trouble. I also train hard every day to make sure that I still can. I watch what I eat, but I never starve (as anyone who knows me can attest to, I don’t do well when hungry!). I love to cook, to bake, and I experiment in the kitchen quite often – whipping up some sort of dessert or some new dinner based on what’s in the fridge, and I manage to do so without putting on so much weight (unlike the author).

The “average” woman may be getting bigger, but being a “wobbly size 18″ isn’t a step forward in women’s liberation, it’s a health risk. The simple fact of the matter is that it’s not healthy to be overweight. It places increased strain on all of your organs. It puts you at risk for a number of conditions, such as diabetes, heart attack, high cholesterol, etc.

If you really want to be a role model, if you really want to make a difference to women, then why not try doing something that includes all women, not just those that have to shop at plus-size shops. How about campaigning for a consistent size scale across all clothes shops, so that I can go and shop for jeans that are W 28″ L 28”, instead of picking up a 4, 6, and 8 because there’s no telling what any size will be in most shops? Or how about campaigning for some consistency in the existing size numbers, so that a size 6 would be a 6, no matter what shop you’re in?

I understand that you want to be proud of your body, but if you respect yourself and your body, you should look after it. It’s like any other piece of equipment you own – it needs maintenance, and the right fuel to get along. If you don’t fill it with the right stuff, and don’t keep it in tip-top condition, it will break down. And, unfortunately, it’s not as easy to find a new heart as it is to find a new wing mirror.

It seems to me that this average woman is as elusive a beast as the mythical unicorn. I have heard women of all shapes and sizes complain that they can’t find clothes to fit. There may be shops that cater exclusively to plus size women, but I find that I’m often reduced to shopping in the children’s department of big clothing stores such as M&S simply to find clothes that will fit without alteration. The “average woman” must truly have the pick of the litter when it comes to clothes shopping though, since apparently all shops cater to her. I can only hope that, in time, someone with enough influence will manage to change the way clothes are sized so that I can find clothes that look mature and fit well.

The point is this – it’s great that you feel happy about your body, but why does feeling good about being big and curvy have to be inextricably linked with being better than someone who is skinny? It doesn’t have to be this way.

If you want to be a role model, then show people how to be healthy and curvy – it’s possible to be both. Show people that skinny girls can be curvy too. And for goodness sake, lay off of the skinny-bashing!

3 replies on “Love the skin you’re in”

Apologies for reawakening this, I was skimming your blog.

I agree in essence that skinny-bashing is not something that should be happening, but at the same time, more people are prejudiced towards fat people and they are under a heavier burden (pardon the pun) and always have been. It’s perception that is to blame in both cases.

You look at someone skinny from a not-so-skinny standpoint and the thoughts run to how difficult it is to lose weight and keep it off, and that makes people think that the skinny person doesn’t eat. You look at someone fat from a not-so-fat standpoint and the thoughts run to how they must do nothing but eat and sit on their asses. Neither is particularly true. Okay, there are definitely cases where it is true. But neither is that the whole story.

I am overweight. I know that. I have been for a number of years greater than ten. I don’t make excuses for my weight, nor do I address it very often. I have a fairly extensive medical knowledge and understand the risk factors. However, due to several circumstances, I am not easily able to lose weight. This has a negative impact on more than my health though. My self-esteem takes a fairly solid hit when someone remarks on my size, on my perceived abilities, without knowing more about me.

And yes, there are times when I will do the same both for those higher up the spectrum of size and those at the opposite end. I just wish that “fat” was not a catch all term. I have a sore ankle – I need to lose weight. I have bad period pain – I need to lose weight. Medical practicioners spend more time looking at my waistline and trying to preach to a converted choir than they do actually listening to what I am saying.

Dress size is another issue, and it’s equally hard to find clothing. I have maybe one or two high street stores that cater well to my size. Well, I say they cater, what they actually sell is either dresses or tops that could double as tents or so damned skin tight that you can count the tires. Once you go past a 22 (and I haven’t for a very long time) you are out of luck in all but one store, and even there, you must settle for whatever they deign is fashionable. I would rather shop in the kids department than give them a cent of my money.

Personally, I think that weight, mass, size is something that should not be commented on publically. I don’t see what business it is of anyone elses. Society says that it’s open and accepting of all people, but means all people who adhere to social norms. Those too skinny or too fat are castigated and belittled. “She must be hungry all the time, that’s why she’s in a bad mood.” “Jeez, did you find any food in the shop that wasn’t in the sweet isle?”

I don’t see why we are all supposed to fit a norm that doesn’t even fit the average woman any more. Should there be more emphasis on healthy eating? Yes. Should there be a health awareness campaign? Probably.

If someone is healthy and taking care of themselves, then why the hell should any one else care?

Big is beautiful. But so is thin, svelte, petite, curvaceous, volumptious, tall, short, curvy, leggy, mousy, outgoing, quiet… It just depends on who is doing the looking.

We’re probably never going to see eye to eye on this. I’m fairly sure that there is a certain amount of diametric opposition on our parts through differing experiences but I will back a call for a consistant sizing policy for all items of clothing.

To be honest, I don’t disagree with much of what you’ve said there, as it’s pretty similar to what I was getting at with the blog – namely that there are people who are unhealthy at all weights, shapes, and sizes, so I wish people would stop picking on just one (or the other) for the sake of filling space in a newspaper.

It’s no healthier to be anorexic than it is to be overweight, so I’m not encouraging either. What I’d love to see is more useful information, and a better attitude, in these kind of articles. It’s possible to write an article about dressing well at a larger size without turning it into a skinny-bashing piece, and yet so many newspapers and magazines can’t seem to resist the temptation to throw the dig in and imply that anyone who is skinny must be unhappy and unloved by “real” men, etc. The focus should, as you rightly said, be on healthy eating, and on health in general, rather than simply on the relative merits and disadvantages of completely opposite sides of the size scale.

Re: looking beyond the weight in a medical sense, I have also seen that as a problem for some time. While being overweight can cause problems, it’s not the *only* cause of problems, and it shouldn’t be treated as such, because it means that underlying problems go undiagnosed, and untreated. Just because someone is over- (or under)weight, doesn’t mean they deserve lazy healthcare!

There’s prejudice all around, no matter what size you are – as much against overweight people as against skinny people. What I don’t like about the article linked (and any others like it) is that they do nothing to address the prejudice, and instead, simply reinforce it. A paper or magazine with a big following could do so much by spear-heading a campaign for healthy eating, for consistent sizes across clothes, stores, and departments, etc., but instead, they let themselves down by just jumping on the bashing bandwagon.

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