‘Real women’ come in all shapes and sizes

body image

body image

Since I had Anorexia, my lovely mum has developed a habit of pointing out very thin people and saying they look ‘ill’, and pointing out fuller-figured women and saying they look ‘great.’ In her defence this has become a habit which I think was originally designed to help me to feel better about myself, but as I’ve grown up it’s become something which I don’t feel is helpful for anybody – her included.  

The idea that a thin person is ‘ill’ or ‘Anorexic’ purely judging visually alone is incredibly unfair. ‘Anorexic’ should never be used as an adjective in my opinion, let alone an insult. Meanwhile, ‘curvy’ women (who may be a size 16-18, yet have killer curves) have come to represent the ‘alternative’.

My mum isn’t alone in this perception. Since the ‘size zero’ debate and public backlash against the ‘skinny model’, ‘curvy’ women are ‘in’. It’s a trend which certainly helped me to feel better about myself, as I’m naturally not built straight up and down. Now Kim Kardashian, Amber Rose and Nicki Minaj are hailed for their tiny waists, rounded behinds and fuller thighs. Whilst I’m all for celebrating all body types, this trend has actually started to exclude women who aren’t typically ‘curvy’, and throws a whole host of new insecurities at those who aren’t ‘perfectly shaped’ into an hourglass – all of which is equally damaging compared with the ‘size zero’ and ‘ultra fit’ trend promoted by high fashion outlets and lingerie brands like Victoria’s Secret.

Harmful new phenomenons like the waist trainer (which has been known to hospitalise users due to the undesirable side-effect of organ rearrangement) and bum implants (many a dodgy implant has landed a hapless girl in surgery) are emerging to help us all to achieve this ‘perfectly curvy’ body shape. These have even been known to cause death – so aren’t they just as bad as slimming pills, laxatives and diets promoting self-starvation?

I’m looking at this from both sides of the table – so I wrote this post from my perspective to encourage others to do so too. Next time you hear someone say ‘oh she’s got a ‘proper figure’’, remember that if you don’t fit that bill, that’s okay. Because everyone’s body is a ‘proper body.’ Every woman is a ‘real woman’ – curves or no curves, size 2 or size 20. 

Saying someone has  ‘proper figure’ is just as bad as saying ‘skinny is the only way to be.’ Everyone is acceptable, as they are. Coveting the ‘hourglass’ and praising ‘curvy’ girls is unfair to women who are born naturally slim. Lots of body image campaigners forget about this.

Although I’m all for plus size, I’m more concerned with acceptance – of others and of ourselves. And that starts with scrapping ideals – and stopping senseless judgement of a person based on their body shape.

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You are not a dress size

sizing

sizing

 

One thing I discuss in Tough Love is sizing. It’s always been such an issue for me and the people around me, because nobody in my family (or my group of friends) are actually ‘one size’ across the board.

So often I see magazine articles promoting ‘drop a dress size’ or ‘celeb X is now a size 10’ – but what does any of that mean? It means nothing, because dress sizes are different everywhere you go.

You’re not defined by your dress size – fact

I always thought growing up that sizes were grouped into ‘fat’ and ‘thin’. Anything below a size 10 was thin, 12-16 was middling, and over 16 was huge. This meant that as an overweight teenager I spent many hours in changing rooms feeling shit because I couldn’t get a size 14 or 16 pair of jeans near my thighs. To me, this meant I was ‘fat’.

But your measurements can’t dictate whether you are ‘fat’ or ‘thin’. I’ve since learnt that most women who appear to be a regular, healthy size struggle to fit into the size which would naturally correspond with that in a retail outlet. I’ve also learnt that sizes change from shop to shop and between different types of clothing – so really how can a size define you when you’re a 10 in Topshop and a 14 in Miss Selfridge?

What IS your dress size anyway?

Very few of us are created as per manufacturer’s instructions. The contradictory ‘one size fits all’ remit shops use (cleverly in some cases to exclude certain women) just doesn’t cut it for the majority of people who are all shapes and sizes. I use my own body as an example because my measurements are pretty extreme. I have a 24 inch waist and a 30 inch chest, but my hips are 37 inches. That means that I can be anywhere between a 6 and a 10 on top, and anywhere between a 12 and a 16 on the bottom. Loads of women have this issue – and whether you’re ‘top heavy’ or ‘bottom heavy’ it’s unlikely that high-waisted skirts and trousers or jumpsuits and dresses fit perfectly every time.

With this in mind, how can you honestly say you’re a 12, or a 14, or an 8? You could be all three.

Remember this when you’re feeling bad about your dress size

Unfortunately dress sizes have connotations attached to them. The ‘size zero’ debate has been raging for ages – and really there’s little argument against there. But what about all the other sizes? Why is an 8 acceptable, but a 12 isn’t? When a size 8 in one shop could also be a 12?

Next time you’re sitting in a changing room feeling fat, or hear your friends boasting about their dress size, remember that sizing is actually rubbish. It doesn’t define you – it means nothing. It says nothing about how you really look. Sizing made me hate my size 16 bum and thighs, but now I love them because my judgement isn’t clouded by pre-conceived associations about being ‘fat’. Lots of women hate their boobs because they make them a 14 on top – but those not blessed with a voluptuous figure are probably envious.

When you’re buying or trying on clothes, assess them on how they look on you, dress for the figure you have not someone else’s, and ignore the size labels, the mannequins and the marketing images filled with models who don’t match your body type. When you focus on your dress size alone you block out all the positives – and that’s a recipe for poor body image and low self-esteem.

Struggling with size? Want more on body image? Check out related blogs and Tough Love here.

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