Plus Sized Debate
Hello out there.
There’s a news story that came out a little while ago that I have been reflecting on. Here’s the link if you’d like to check it out.
I wanted to share with you the thoughts that it brought up for me about the Plus Sized Debate that currently rages in our world.
This link will connect you to an article by a ‘plus-size’ model about clothing sizes and our cultural body image / weight obsession.
I am glad she’s speaking up and challenging the status quo and I also question the definition of this woman as a ‘plus-size’ model.
I personally look at this woman and struggle to label her as plus-sized in any way. She looks simply healthy and balanced to me.
Maybe I have a distorted idea of what plus sized means…I guess if we look at it literally…plus = more…but more than what? Is it the fashion industry ‘what’…which we already know is notoriously dysfunctional and promotes the notion of bone-rack-at-any-cost? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being ‘plus’ that.
Are they referring to the fitness crazed 6-pack-ab, eating clean and lean crowd…not balanced. Not sustainable for most truly and a large proportion of my clients come from this population – dieticians, nutritionists, fitness trainers and coaches, body builders, athletes. Clearly folks can look ‘fit’ but be far from it in terms of balanced self-care. Remember this if you’re looking at your friend the fitness nut and feeling envious of her slim/toned body.
Look a Little Deeper…
Look deeper – how does she really feel about herself; how is her self-confidence; is her fitness focus about true enjoyment and health and wellness or about needing to be thin. You can be fit and toned and sexy without being a fitness buff and you can look great without having to diet or micro-manage calories and fat grams.
Maybe ‘plus-size’ to some means ‘bigger than normal people’…but, um…what’s normal? Different bodies, different genetic heritage and different interests are naturally going to produce different norms (is a pro-skater plus sized because her thighs are bigger than others?).
I suppose in reality, try as we might to avoid it…the ugly truth is that for most folks the term ‘plus-size’ conjures immediate connotations of being overweight. Why do we need the ‘plus’ in the size – can’t there just be different sizes? Again, ‘plus’ what?
I find the same confounding thinking in folks who get stuck on being ‘good enough’. There is no way, ever that you can be ‘good enough.’ It isn’t a thing or a place you can get to. The term ‘good enough’ on its own means absolutely nothing. You have to qualify it: Good enough for what? Good enough for whom?
Then you get the light bulb moment: good enough for my mom; for my ex; for the job I want; to travel to France, etc.
Some Questions to Ask Yourself
Once you qualify who or what you’re striving to be good enough for you can begin to ask yourself some very valuable and freeing questions:
- What, in the first place, makes me think that this person or situation is the accurate determiner of my worth/good enough-ness?
- What makes them ‘right’ and me ‘wrong’?
- What specifically is the criteria that I believe would make me ‘good enough’ for this person or situation?
- Is it true that I am not that now? Is it true that I can’t be that if I wanted to and spent some time gathering the tools/skills/knowledge etc.?
- Would I really want to spend my precious life moments trying to be ‘good enough’ for that person/thing?
- If I weren’t so busy trying to make others think I’m ‘good enough’ what would I really like to be ‘good enough’ at/for?
I could go on – it’s a very key piece of the healing / recovery / stop-overeating puzzle and it is a discussion and process I explore with every single client at some point in their work with me.
From my past experience, I can completely relate to not feeling ‘good-enough’ and to the chronic insecurity and depression that we live in when we feel that, at our core, there is simply something fundamentally wrong with us. There must be something wrong with us, we presume, otherwise wouldn’t so-and-so have loved us? Wouldn’t so-and-so have been kind to us? Wouldn’t we have been given such-and-such opportunity?
Not necessarily – there are many other possible explanations for why so-and-so did what they did that aren’t about you at all. But that’s a topic for another day.
Exploring Your Emotions
Back to being plus-sized: I used to eat my feelings (and anything else I could get my hands on). That only made me feel worse – fat, gross, ugly, stupid – I used to call myself that everyday and then some. I weighed 40+ pounds more than I naturally do now. (I’ve been my natural weight for 2 decades with no dieting or exercise regimes and haven’t weighed myself since…I dunno when.)
I’m 5’4 and I weigh 125-130-ish lbs depending on the time of year and how active I am – yes, my weight naturally fluctuates over the course of the year, and it doesn’t stress me out – my clothes fit me all year round, through the winter I’m less muscly and through the summer more naturally toned. I don’t diet and I don’t calorie count or ‘watch’ what I eat.
I pay attention to how I feel physically and emotionally. I engage in activities that I truly enjoy such as kayaking, Mixed Martial Arts, an occasional jog, hiking, swimming (in the ocean when the weather is right), snowboarding…etc. It all depends on the season and the weather – the point really is that it’s all stuff I enjoy and there’s a variety of activities that I feel drawn to explore depending on the variables of season, weather, how much time I have, etc.
I respond to my emotions by respecting them and exploring them and, if I’m having a feeling that I don’t want to keep having, I take the time to figure out what triggered it and what I can do to resolve that. This makes me feel like I can trust myself to respect myself and like I can always find a solution to the problems in my life. I didn’t used to feel that way at all – I felt constantly anxious and like everything was insurmountable, and my fault to boot. Somehow I believed that if I was just thinner, these things wouldn’t happen.
The way I see it now, feelings are signs for me to explore how I’m thinking and what’s happening in my life. There is always a solution to whatever is bugging me that will make me feel better about myself and help me to feel peaceful and confident.
If I can eat what I’d like, exercise moderately – have fun/play/dance/kayak/walk the dog – and not have to watch what I eat or weigh myself 5 times a day like I used to ‘to keep myself in check’, I believe everyone can.
I didn’t used to think I could be happy with myself unless I was eating a certain way or weighed a certain number on the scale or took a certain pant size. And I made that a self-fulfilling prophesy for quite a few years – I was miserable, insecure, anxious, isolating, and binging and dieting my face off. And I kept gaining weight.
I felt powerless and frustrated. I started every day by staring at and judging my stomach rolls while simultaneously hopping on the scale hoping that the binge I had last night hadn’t had a lasting impact and that the attempts I made at dieting during the day had at least some effect on the ‘bottom’ line. Inevitably I was doomed – even if, by some miracle, I had lost weight it would be 1/8th or 1/4 of a pound – no where near the 40+ pounds I needed to lose in order to be ‘good enough’.
This naturally led to yet another day of me feeling anxious and insecure and creating a desperate need for binge food while at the same time promising myself I wouldn’t do it again!!! Yep, many years of my life were spent that way.
At that time in my life I was plus-sized. I had to shop in ‘special’ stores, of which, 20+ years ago, there were 2 in all of Vancouver, BC. How’s that for the fashion industry delivering a message about my body?
Today, by anyone’s standards I think, I’m a reasonable weight for my body but I still have to buy large undies! It is what it is to me now – I need undies that are comfy and don’t give me panty lines – and these are often a size large – big whoop. But back in the diet mentality days of my life, I’d prefer to chafe and struggle to breathe over buying anything with a ‘large’ tag on it. I’d be mortified. It truly felt like the biggest and worst thing a person could ever be: Large! (Insert scary organ music here!!)
But that wasn’t me thinking. That was what I had been taught to think by my parents and their distorted, diet mentality approach to life. I just hadn’t even entertained the possibility that they may have been confused or downright irrational in their approach to happiness and self-esteem.
Among those who have yet to truly feel ‘good enough’ for themselves, there is often a desperate need to de-exist (I’m sure that’s a word…) Why are people so eager to be a size zero? What do they believe that will mean?
Are they thinking: ‘I’m finally good enough, attractive enough, lovable enough, sexy enough because I’m so small no clothes will fit me? ‘
How does that number on your pants correspond to your worth or love-ability as a human being?
Um….it doesn’t – unless you’re trying to make someone with a small brain and huge judgement finally see you as ‘good enough’ – which I recommend strongly against.
Someone who is truly that ignorant of what true love and true acceptance are about will never be able to be rational enough to have a healthy relationship with you in the first place (probably why you feel so insecure around them in the first place – they can’t meet your needs for reassurance and acceptance because they don’t have a clue how! Not because you aren’t worth it!).
You’ll never be able to feel truly loved by them because they don’t even understand the term. So, move on if that’s you. Even if it’s your mom or dad or auntie or grandma doing the slamming – If they are not simply concerned for your health and happiness and demonstrating they love you and accept you as you are – move on – fast.
The need to be accepted and loved is a perfectly healthy human need – persisting in trying to find acceptance and love from folks who judge your worth by your weight is not healthy or helpful and will never, ever, be successful.
You Deserve Better
You truly do deserve better – but you won’t find it if you keep beating your head against that brick wall. And if you’re out there buying it – thinking there is something not lovable or good enough about you and that’s why they aren’t more loving or warm or considerate or accepting of you it’s time for you to learn how to think for yourself and to build real self-esteem and to prioritize values like respect, dignity, compassion, self-care, reliability, integrity and trustworthiness (to yourself and others).
This clear thinking makes you feel more confident and less anxious and naturally leads you to feel excited to take better care of yourself.
Self-esteem means you trust your ability to think clearly and reasonably and you have to have confidence in your perspective. That is the foundation for good self-esteem and a happy life and it also naturally leads to the ability for you to change, effectively and respectfully, the things you see in yourself and in your world that don’t make sense.
Then instead of waiting for everyone around you to feel secure enough in themselves to be able to give you the love you desire, you are naturally, fully, giving it to yourself and through your behaviour you are naturally teaching others how love really looks and feels, at any size.
In the U.K. there is a current initiative to change all the mannequins in clothing shops to a size 16 (from, I think, a size 6) because the real average size of women in that region is much more 16 than 6. I believe it’s long overdue that a more accurate form of the average female in any region be modelling clothing, jewelry, and anything else that requires modelling to sell.
In my opinion, if folks are naturally a 16 or 20 or 2, so what? Are they nice? Are they honest, trustworthy reliable folks with a good work ethic? Are they capable of rational thought and action? If so, I love them!
If someone has extra weight on their body because they eat when they aren’t hungry to try and pass the time or calm their nerves or soothe or nurture themselves, I help them to feel happy and peaceful and confident in themselves for real – i.e. without needing food to make that happen for a moment.
Whatever the number on their pants or on the scale when they reach that sense of inner confidence and strength and genuine happiness has truly no bearing on their deservedness for love and caring or on their intellect or ability.
I say, unless we know how the person we are looking at achieves their current weight or maintains a certain look, we cannot begin to offer comment on the healthiness or appropriateness of their appearance. I’ve had way too many clients over the past 20 years who are starving themselves or vomiting many times a day to maintain a certain weight while the people around them praise them for their will-power, slimness, and small size. Ya never know what goes on behind closed doors.
For me, I’m far more interested in how happy and confident and secure in yourself you are than in the size of dress you just bought – ‘plus’ or otherwise.
And I know that anyone who is capable of a truly healthy, loving relationship of any kind is going to think the same.
What do you think? Let’s discuss the thoughts that come up for you when you consider these concepts.
Ah Michelle. Always good to get a check in and this article was perfect. I realized I’m so much happier when I’m not stressing about food and weight. And I decided happiness and inner peace means so much more to me than my pant size. Love you! xo
Thank you Mandy for taking the time to share. I am really happy to hear you’ve come to the same conclusion as me! Love M.
Thank you for this article and sharing your experiences.
There were many answers to the chatter in my brain.
Being one who cannot buy clothes in ‘regular’ stores, I often am absolute in society being more accepting and offering to my demographic.
To have more representative sizes, images etc., To not have “plus size, above average” sections in stores. To have fitness alternatives/awareness for varying bodies. The people in my life are in it based on their character and integrity, not how they look.
YET, I doubt at times why people would like me, because obviously my excess weight shows I’m flawed and not worthy. In my brain I don’t expect that acceptance in myself that i expect from society. I still want to be “thin”. I like the fitness classes for all bodies, but the chatter in my brain is, if we accept ourselves as is, we will never change and we are just enabling each other to stay the same.
And now I go do more All or Nothing work on that last statement!
Thank you for taking the time to share here.
You’re right, the assumption that accepting yourself equals complacency and giving up is an all or nothing one.
It does not take into consideration the reality that you can see yourself as equal to others in terms of rights and basic considerations while still working to be the best that you can be: Which is the reality of life- we are always growing and improving if we are doing life right but that doesn’t mean we are not equal to others while we are on the path.
Think of it as everyone has a right to the same basic considerations and opportunities- there will be some who are better at certain things than you and vice versus.
Personally I found that when I began to appreciate the reality of my ‘equal-ness’ to all others I became much less anxious and insecure without becoming egotistical. It freed me to not feel so bad and wrong and ‘judged’ by ‘everyone’ – instead i really saw that the person I most needed to consider and impress was myself and the best way to do that was to set reasonable goals for the things I wanted and to see myself taking steps towards their fulfillment.
Accepting my worth then did not mean I was saying my extra 40pounds were ‘ok’ – I was simply accepting the reality- “I’m a good person with some good traits to offer who has been using food to cope with stress and pain and loneliness and insecurity. I don’t have to keep doing that and if I stop doing that my weight will naturally change.”
And it has- and it has stayed balanced and effortless for over 20 years.
So whenever you are feeling unsettled about what others think- ask yourself: am I happy about this? How do I feel about myself in this area? And if you like it- it’s good- chalk it up to a difference of opinions. And if you aren’t happy with whatever it is just ask yourself what would need to happen in order to feel peaceful in time with this thing. And then plan small steps to get you there.
Thank you so much for the article and your thoughts on it. I loved it all!
I used to try and squeeze into the smallest possible size, because that was how I measured my worth! I want to happily share that I shop in the ‘regular’ and ‘plus sized’ section of stores all the time now (being 6 ft. with and athletic build) and often find that I prefer to buy ‘plus sized’ clothes cause they’re looser more comfy. And I truly don’t give a damn anymore, im happy as a clam doing it;)
thanks so much for sharing your experience here. It is so great to hear that you’ve let that old size-ism go! And I’m happy as a clam about that! 🙂