September 28, 2011

Plus Size

I got my fall Talbots catalog the other day. I like their stuff. Ultra classic with an occasional pop or embellishment. Half way through looking at it, I realized they had this model in several of their shots--the red haired one. And in this particular shot, I see (gawsp) a slight bulge. This model must be at least a size 10, possibly 12.

I was pretty pleased with Talbots. So many companies talk about having a positive body image and being healthy, yet they still have their size 2 models in all the shots. So go Talbots! for putting a totally normal looking woman in there. Talbots does sell Womans sizes, so that is probably why they included this particular model in their fall catalog. Nothing more annoying than shopping for plus size clothing (which starts at size 12. Really? Because 12 seems pretty average to me.) and seeing some size 2 girl staring disdainfully out at you from the computer screen. Since I never shop Talbots due to a pricing dispute between Talbots and I (namely I think their pricing should be about 50% less) I decided to go on their website today to see if they have fab deals in their sale and outlet sections. Pricing is more agreeable, but still not my buy price. And there, I found THIS model. Origami-fold tee
I understand some people are thin. I grew up amongst 4 naturally thin friends. Fortunately I had three naturally not thin sisters with whom I could lament the treachery of biology Still, it is never easy or pleasant to be the fat girl. Not that my friends would EVER have said or hinted at that. I have really good pals. It was just a fact of life. Probably one they never even thought about much. (Do naturally thin people notice other peoples weight as much as naturally un-thin girls do? Hmm...) Growing up in this naturally thin group, I understand that some people are just really thin. Even when they eat a lot. But this here model looks unhealthy. Her arm looks awkward. My naturally thin friends never had arms like that. Or at least I never noticed them if they did.

 I think Talbots probably should have air-brushed some fat on her. Do they have a fat-ify button like they have the thin-ify button? Sometimes I honestly think that the fashion (and Hollywood!) world's fascination with ultra thinness is part of the reason the rest of America is so overweight. Since they are portraying as beautiful a state of thinness that is a biological impossiblity for most healthy people, people just give up.

There is no way I will ever be model thin. At my absolute thinnest, when my collarbone was starting to stick out awkwardly and I was toying with an eating disorder, I was a size 12. To be smaller than that would be verging on (if not flat out) unhealthy for me. And yet I was not even in the recommended weight range for my height. About a year ago, I read an article in the paper on a study that showed people who were overweight (10-20 pounds over their recommended weight) were actually healthier and had longer life expectancy than the people IN the recommended weight range. I just googled this and came up with a mixed bag of reputable studies showing being overweight increases or decreases your life expectancy. So take your pick. Still, there have been enough reputable studies to show that being overweight is actually better than being a healthy weight, that it might be time to reevaluate what the healthy weight IS. I am not sure this will empower people to make better choices, but it might.

I have very soft, crammed together teeth. As a result, I have had my fair share of cavities and extractions. The dentist I normally went to was sick one day, so a different dentist attended to me. The normal dentist always told me my teeth were in a terrible state and I needed to take better care of them because I was on the fast track for dentures at 30. The new dentist said my teeth weren't so bad, but I did need to be careful of them. I took a lot better care of my teeth after the new dentist than the old.  I think the medical world is doing the same thing with weight. Americans DO need to weigh less. But doctors often resort to scare tactics--listing heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressue, trying to scare people onto the treadmill. I don't think doctors understand that this is depressing instead of goading. And a lot of people have an emotional component to their eating. If they are depressed, they eat.  Being told that they are doing some things right might make people feel like more of a grown up, more confident in their choices, and interestingly enough make them make better choices. If society ever wants to follow through on this positive body image campaign, they need to change the tone of the weight discussion. Overweight can't be always Bad! Bad! Bad! in the medical world, and translate into, "You are beautiful at a size 14!" in the real world. Something's gotta give.

So keep the average models, Talbots, but let the ultra-thin ones go. They are depressing me with their awkward arms.


Mrs Starling said...

So I've been stalking your posts for a while now through Clover's blog...I love your writing style!!
And I had to comment on this post. Amen, amen, amen. I have the self esteem dilemma of having a thin mother and sister...definitely contributes to the depressive feeling, because how can I lament with them about the treachery of biology...don't we have the same biology? I however am gifted with cleavage, and they are not...but I'd give them my cleavage any day if it might mean having thin biology in my favor!

Bethaney said...

hahaha Jami! I have the misfortune of being plus size AND flat-ish chested. I have a fear that one of our girls is going to have the Vaughan physique (naturally UN-thin) and the other the Cotten one (naturally thin). I feel guilty about this. :-) Obviously I messed up their biology!

laura said...

Well put!

Virginia said...

That scary skinny model is pretty disturbing. As a naturally slender person, I, too, really hate the sickeningly skinny models. There's a catalogue that I get that has disgustingly small people in it and it grosses me out. I feel so bad for these girls. On their website, they list the model's height and what size she's wearing in the pic, which is good b/c it's nice to have some perspective, but they don't list weight, which is just as important as height when trying to figure out how that would apply to you.

Mom has new patients all the time who come in and tell her no other health practitioner has ever told them that smoking is causing their illness or that excessive sugar is the root cause of their whatever. I actually think doctors get a little too worried about not insulting people, or maybe they assume that society already tells them these things all the time so there's no need for a doctor to tell anyone anything common sense like that. And then you also have the doctors who are flat out insulting about stuff, like your normal dentist, which in no way endears them to you and their advice is automatically disregarded b/c it's kind of mean. AND you've got consumer goods that are kind of fighting for people to be unhealthy, i.e. motorized wheelchairs, unhealthy foods being the cheapest, etc. So it's one extreme against the other extreme and I think a lot of times it's hard to find the happy medium.

Bethaney said...

I don't think doctors should sugar coat things, but telling people "you are going to have ____ in a few years" is pointless. If doctors gave them something specific (ie, your mom's "It's sugar/smoking!") I think there would be a much more positive reaction. Vauge threats are pointless. Maybe I am just thinking about media doctors who rattle off these lists of problems to people they don't know and and so can't give them a starting point. I remember reading about doctors who won't tell Breast cancer patients that maybe they caused their own illness by the way they eat, how much they exercised, etc. They didn't want to make them feel guilty. Yet for some reason, weight is this thing that gives the doctor a guilt-free card. Maybe I am not making sense. :-) Suprise, surprise. ;-)

Verity Earl said...

I don't know that I have any amazing insights here, but I would like to comment anyway. :) First off, I think you're right, that including bigger-but-still normal-sized models in catalogs along side the smaller models is a smart move. I'm sorry that women feel like they need to feel bad about themselves because every image ever that they see of a female is about half their size. That is something that I do find really upsetting. It really bothers me when people hate themselves because of their natural weight. But, that being said, I used to know several people in college who would constantly comment on my weight. One girl in particular was really obsessed with the number of inches my waist was, what size I was wearing, and she almost daily made demeaning comments about how I would never understand blah blah blah because I was thin. She seemed to think that all my life problems were automatically solved or nonexistent, because I'm thin. And frankly, not only was it annoying, but it was also really upsetting, because she was always trying to bring me down to make herself feel better. Not exactly how it works, person. Now we both feel bad. And just for the record, she was NOT overweight. If I had to guess I'd say she was a size 8 or 10 at the most. So basically, very normal. Also, continuing on the it's-not-all-peaches-and-cream bit, I frequently can't find things that are small enough to fit me. Stores like even Ann Taylor very rarely carry anything that I fit into. So I end up shopping at like, American Eagle, and Aereopostale (read: teeny bopper), because they actually have my size. Even saying these things I feel bad because I feel like someone's going to tell me I shouldn't be allowed to say them. Being too small to fit into most clothes would be something to which most women would (and often do) respond, "I WISH I had that problem!" What I hear: "Shut up! That's not a real issue!" So there are both sides to the coin. I try not to loathe anything about myself, and honestly, it can be a big struggle for anyone, including thin people. Maybe it's not your weight, but there are lots of things to find about yourself that you don't like. Maybe you have crooked teeth or wild hair or bad skin. It's just easy for thin women to find things about their bodies they hate as it is for women who aren't as thin. So to boil this all down, let's none of us hate ourselves. Yay to Talbots for the normal-sized model!