News Flash! Average Is Beautiful! (Then Why Am I Having A Fat Day?)

I had planned to be a bit more timely with this topic. When I sat down to write as Glamour magazine’s plus sized picture first created its stir (Sept. 2009), I found I didn’t have much to say. But today, catching sight of myself in the mirror (naked!) and then trying to find something to wear that felt good, looked flattering; I felt myself spin into the dreaded spiral, landing smack dab on my chubby butt. Ugh. I’m having a fat day.

I have a confession to make. Something I’ve told very few people. When I was in my twenties and I saw overweight people I thought, “Oh. No self discipline.”  I was the skinny kid. The pencil thin teen. I was so skinny in high school my parents were afraid I might have an eating disorder. They took me to the doctor and he told them I was a healthy, very active (I was a competitive swimmer) typical teenager with an enviable metabolism.

When this “thin” trend continued into my twenties – when I wasn’t even working out  – I patted myself on the back and attributed it to healthy eating (Seriously? I drank Coke with almost every meal!) and discipline. I simply didn’t over eat.

I was also diagnosed as infertile at this time. Every doctor, every specialist said, “You need more body fat.” So I tried. I really did. Ice cream is my weakness and I treated myself every day. I may have gained a couple of pounds but it didn’t make much of a difference and I couldn’t seem to gain any more. (I know. Tragic, huh?)

Then I hit age 35. And my periods slowed to about 3 a year. And I was tested. And this time the doctors and specialists said, “You’ve hit early on-set menopause. And weight gain is a part of it. You’ll need to be careful with what you eat.” I wasn’t worried. I’ve never had to worry. If I even THOUGHT about losing weight, wished I were a little lighter; the pounds simply melted away. So when the numbers started creeping up the scale I started thinking. I started wishing. As hard as I could. It didn’t work.

And then, the kicker. I got pregnant at age 40. “Pregnant?” You ask, “I thought you were going through menopause.” That’s what I said to the midwife. She laughed and asked me if I slept through 10th grade biology class? “If you have a period, no matter how sporadic, you can get pregnant,” she said. But I’m infertile, I said. “Evidently not,” she smiled.

I gained 35 pounds with my pregnancy and I’m still struggling with the last 15. Not bad? No. Because I was near the top of my healthy weight range when I got pregnant. This sent me over.


I wear the same size as Glamour’s plus sized model. A size 12. I wish I were back in a size 8 but as I’ve learned, that method doesn’t work for me anymore. What annoyed me about this picture is that she looks pretty healthy to me. Oh sure, she has a little tummy but no back fat, no thunder thighs, her arms look fairly toned. Ok. So she’s in her twenties and I’m 45. I’ve been through childbirth. She probably hasn’t. But a size 12 is plus sized? Are you kidding me?

Now thank goodness she doesn’t look heroin-thin. That’s just scary to me. In fact, whenever I see models that are heroin-thin I have to turn the page as fast as I can. I can’t even get a good look at the clothes they’re trying to sell me. I’m just too weirded out.

Don’t get me wrong. I am positively thrilled for the Dove soap ads of real women. I’m glad the media is even questioning our portrayal of what “real” is. But all this cheering and amazement that we could find a normal, average sized woman beautiful is downright scary.

And frankly, it still made me feel fat. I looked in the mirror this morning, saw the same tummy she has and I feel fat. And frumpy. And plus sized. Yeah, I should lose a few pounds. But that is getting so much harder as I’ve aged.

So, I sit here.

Feeling fat.

And all this media coverage saying size 12 is beautiful hasn’t made me feel much better at all.

(To celebrate her high school graduation, my daughter and I are on a little hiatus together. A mother/daughter hiatus. I will be posting some of my favorite posts in the interim. Enjoy!)


Filed under Self Image

7 responses to “News Flash! Average Is Beautiful! (Then Why Am I Having A Fat Day?)

  1. Ugh, the backfat and the belly–those gifts our babies gave us that keep on giving. I’m with you; nothing is worse than looking at yourself naked in a mirror. Which is why I avoid it at all costs.

    Hope you and your daughter enjoy your time together!

  2. That model in the photo above probably DID have a child–that loose tummy and fat roll is pretty indicative of it. I have it, and I’m a size 8. Of course, proportionally, I look different from her. (I have NO butt. And I have butt-envy.)

    The problem with average is that it changes based on the demographic sampled. Average for California is different than average for Nova Scotia…. different gene pool, different lifestyle, etc. And even in one place, average for Hollywood or Beverly Hills is going to be different than San Bernardino or Moreno Valley.

    The thing to find is average for you. What does your body do/look like/feel like when you’re not dieting and eating healthy (right for you) and exercising? That’s your normal. And unfortunately, it changes as you get older. What bothers me is the continuation of holding up a skinny 19-year-old as “the norm” or representative of women. For instance, I was skinny until I hit puberty, and didn’t get skinny again until it was all over in my early 20’s. (Hormones are still not my friend.) I’m still struggling with my post-baby tummy and stabilizing my hormones… 5 years after giving birth. If there were more photos in the media like the one above — not celebrating gluttony or an excessive lifestyle — I think over time women would start to accept themselves more where they’re at. If the pressure were off and people just ate what was good for them and were active the look of women overall would change dramatically — I fully believe that. And then we’d feel even better about ourselves.

  3. Oh, Jane. I had the same Skinny Girl Syndrome growing up. I ran and danced competitively, ate like a pig with a six-pack, and was always super thin. It’s hard to shake that image of what exactly is healthy or thin or the perfect size. Take a little comfort in knowing that we have fat days, too 🙂

  4. I never had the skinny girl syndrome – ever. If anything, I was normal, and was told I was fat, from the time I was a child. How to fuck up a kid’s sense of self, right? Add to that years of being a dancer, and you get any number of (expected) body image issues.

    Stir in a cosmetic surgery-obsessed culture, and I wonder how many scars and stitches would be revealed beneath the cute clothes on some all-too-young backs?

    We don’t seem to have learned much in a generation.

  5. Fat clothes are my salvation along with avoiding mirrors! I had a very over active thyroid growing up—and I know healthy is better but sometimes I do wish it would be a little more active again!

  6. Size 12 is plus size? Probably nowhere except in the rail-thin obsessed fashion industry. I used to be 100 lbs soaking wet in my twenties, but thanks to hypothyroidism I now constantly do battle with my metabolism. I would love to be a size 4 again, but those days are long gone. 😉

  7. Oh, Jane I’m right there. And some days I think, “You know what? For almost 40 with two kids, I look awesome! And I’m a good person with a great brain so how I look matters not.” And others I think, “Good Gawd, HOW did this happen? I know it’s only 15 pounds, but it looks like 50. I feel like a ‘before’ photo but have no hope of being ‘after.’ I wish the perspective days won out or that I could just live life and hope the body settles out where it needs to be (10 pounds thinner feels better for energy and posture and sleep and whatnot). What kills me is the time and energy I waste focusing on those extra 15. If I spent that time and energy on a PRIORITY instead of self loathing, I might move the world.
    Is it wrong to think that moving the world might be enough exercise to shave off a few lbs?

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