Tag Archives: fat

The Skinny on Fat

The fashion industry has a lot to answer for. I may have posted on this before. In fact I did from the perspective of the fashion designer who used “plus-size” models for a show. Those supposed plus sizes were between size 8 and 12, hardly plus at all and normal for most women.

Well, I also came across the following article by a writer. who dressed in a fat suit to attend several fashion shows. The attitudes about skeletal models and towards overweight people that she experienced just highlights the unrealistic world of fashion. The writer, Kate Faithtfull, is normally a size 10-12 and that would be too fat for being a model. Yet, if you look at her picture, beside one of her in the fat suit, she looks perfectly healthy.

As a child with an eating disorder and therefore a pudgy exterior, I have well experienced the attitudes of people to those not of normal size. Interestingly, when I look back on those pictures of me as a teenager I was pretty near normal size. I have a European, peasant body and will never be stick thin without serious surgery to remove calf muscle from my large, overdeveloped calves (finding high boots is nearly impossible and women with smaller calves than me have problems too), as well as trimming the hips and thighs down to a size I’ve never seen on my body.  I’m sturdy, I have childbearing hips and I will always be curvy. I wear between a size 8 and a size 10, even with this shape.

Now Faithfull padded her body out to size 22 and found some clothes to wear, commenting that it was a good thing her breasts were foam because she’d have trouble finding a bra otherwise. Her male friends were more intrigued by the curves and yes, men often like more curvy women. Black men especially seem to like a woman with some “junk in her trunk.”

Now in recent years that crept up. I was no longer a small in my tops, going to a medium. My size 10 pants were too tight to do up. I should say here that there are a whole host of pants/jeans, which could be size 14 and I would still not be able to get them over my calves. Many jeans that I can get over my hips are then far too big in the waist, because, yes, I’m curvy. It’s not easy for many women whose proportions are not the 36-24-36 proportions to get clothes, though I would argue these days the measurements are more like 36-28-32. At my smallest I 34-22-38.

The fashion industry was never selling to me and I’m not sure who they sell to with their stick thin models in size 2, which a very small majority of any population can wear. Most women are between size 8-14. Many wear larger than that. Just by dint of being tall, can pop you up a size or too.

When I got into watching the Buffy the Vampire Slayer  TV show I was made even more uncomfortably aware of my size by all the teeny women. Willow and Buffy were diminutive, yet Tara was more of a normal size. I’m sure some people thought she was fat but she wasn’t and I bet she wore a size 8 or smaller. After all, she said she weighed around 118 lbs and is around 5.5″. That’s not much weight for that height. Between Hollywood and the fashion world, people are freaked out about being 120 or 150 lbs when those are more natural ranges for people from 5.4 to 5.8. I don’t have the national average in front of me but I know many women who weigh 140-150 who don’t look fat at all.

What hit me over the year or two was that my clothes weren’t fitting. With a great deal of effort (a natural, balanced diet and working out 3-4 times a week) I’ve lost around 20 lbs this year. I think I could lose another 20  though the doctor says 10 maybe 15. We’ll see but I can say now that even if I lose that weight I’ll still have hips and big calves. It’s the way I’m built and it would take a truly anorexic frame to eliminate this and I’d be getting rid of muscle mass.

It’s hard being in a culture that ridicules people for being fat yet seems to reward those who starve themselves. Marilyn Monroe would be fat by today’s standards and she’s still a sex symbol. Oddly the model Twiggy, presenting an anorexic shape in the 60s that took the fashion world by storm (why, I still don’t know) started a trend that doesn’t seem to have ended. I’ll work always at being healthy but give me the Selma Hayeks and Sophia Lorens over Callista Flockhart and Twiggy. Curvy is healthier.


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The Mind and Eating Disorders

I’ve talked before about the eating disorder I grew up with. It was always accompanied with self-loathing and vows to never binge again. Those vows were always broken. I felt I couldn’t remove myself completely from eating because we obviously need food to live. It wasn’t like alcoholism, I told myself, because you can remove yourself completely from alcohol. In many ways it was just like alcoholism.

One reason to eat all of something was instant gratification. The more my life sucked the more I could find instant pleasure in eating. I could not get enough of the taste. But then of course it was the catch-22 of hating myself for eating so much, feeling fat, sometimes gaining weight (though not always because I’d cut out most other foods), being hungry, eating sugars. Around and around and around.

When I finally sought help, I couldn’t go for counselling because it’s not covered by the health care system. But psychiatry is. Psychiatrists sort of counsel but they love to give out medications. I mentioned in my other post about the Prozac and then the Fenfluramine. Every week when I went in to see the psychiatrist he’d ask me how many times I had vomited. I would say, “Remember I’m the bulimic that doesn’t puke?” It didn’t give me much faith that he couldn’t note this in my chart or get it right.

We never talked about how I felt, why I couldn’t control my eating or why I had a bad body image. We talked about my writing, in the least likely way to relate to eating disorders. He told me, oh you’ll lose weight on these drugs. This psychiatrist specialized in eating disorders and had evening sessions at his home for people to talk about their experiences. I’d go and there would be a bunch of skeletal models and me, the bulimic, the fat one. It didn’t inspire me to feel like I wasn’t the only one with my problem. Instead I felt like the only weirdo amongst the weirdos. But still, all of those models knew at least one person who had died from anorexia. I didn’t. I think I only attended one of these meetings.

It’s said that people’s serotonin levels balance how much they eat. Too much and they eat little. To little and they eat a lot. I don’t believe my serotonin levels were out of whack to begin with but with the years of the disorder I do believe that they became unbalanced and that’s why I never felt full. I don’t know if this is accurate but it did seem to change. After about a year of taking the drugs and not losing a pound, of fruitless “counselling” and seeming to go nowhere, I quit the drugs and I quit the psychiatrist.

I did realize then that in fact my eating behavior had changed. I felt full when I ate. I could now have some chocolate in the house, or ice cream and not eat it all in one sitting. I still rarely keep these things in my place for fear of triggering the disorder but I can have them in small quantities now. When I’m depressed or unhappy there is still the urge to gorge but it’s more controllable. I feel less out of control and I can rule the food as opposed to it ruling me.

When people look at an overweight person and arrogantly say, She/he should just lose some weight, they need to understand it’s not an easy thing. True, dieting in and of itself takes time and isn’t easy but there are many factors than someone judging by looks alone can’t know. There could be genetic factors such as thyroid issues, metabolic such as a sluggish one or high cortisol factors, emotional factors such as past abuses, psychological such as phobias and blocks, and other external factors. One can’t know unless they’re in those person’s shoes. And even the person dealing with eating disorders and weight issues may not know. I’m not a medical professional so I can’t name all of the aspects that could affect a person’s weight but to gain or lose weight is not always as easy as just willing it.

The brain is a powerful tool and it can kill us. People with eating disorders struggle enough within themselves. Not one, whether thin or fat, wants to be that way. They either see themselves as fat when they’re not, or possibly thin when they’re not. However, an overweight person or a skinny person does not automatically mean an eating disorder. As I said, there are other factors and some people are naturally not in what we conceive of as the norm for body size, and some are happy where they are. But one thing is for sure, the more ridicule the person with a disorder receives the harder it is for them to get to a state of mental health.

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