What Size are You?

I’ve been wanting to write a post like this for a long time. I’m SO tired of all the body image issues women have these days–myself included. And recently there have been a string of comments directed toward me that have caught me off-guard. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that, but I’m doing so up-front just to make it clear that I, too, fall victim to the string of frustration I’m about to lay out.

I have always been thin. Very thin. Skinny even. As a child I was knobby-kneed and gangly and no one let me forget it. Be it family or friends or strangers, someone was always reminding me that I looked “anorexic” or “too skinny”. I got a complex. I would consciously order the biggest, greasiest item off the menu to prove that I wasn’t skinny on purpose. I could often out-eat grown men. And I was proud of that. But at some point I realized that people might think I was bulimic the way I stuffed my face and never seemed to gain any weight. So I did my best not to go into a public restroom by myself–especially not at a restaurant–lest anyone think I was purging. I was embarrassed to eat a salad as a meal because I didn’t want people thinking I was on a diet. In other words, I was always worrying about what other people thought of me. And so my struggle was the same as an overweight person’s, only mine was diminished by others and therefore hidden deep within me.

Whenever I’ve tried to explain myself, people would roll their eyes, make sarcastic comments or do their best to explain why I shouldn’t be complaining. But in a culture where it is politically incorrect to call someone “fat” to their face, it’s perfectly acceptable to call someone “skinny”.

Even after I filled out a bit in high school and was at least shapely, I still got comments from friends and acquaintances about how “skinny” I was and that I needed some “meat on those bones”. And at the same time, people would comment about how they would “give anything” to be my size. Too bad all the years of being called anorexic had made me deaf to the underlying complement.

I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime during late adolescence, I gained a tremendous amount of confidence. My self-esteem was still fragile, but at least I had confidence. I’ve never been a terribly attractive person either, but even that didn’t seem to bother me much anymore. And once I gained my own confidence, I became increasingly annoyed by the lack of it in the people around me. Self-deprecating humor is EVERYWHERE!

But here’s where it gets interesting. Looking back at pictures, I can see just how skinny I was. At the time, though, I thought I looked pretty much like everyone else. In fact, I still feel like I look pretty much like everyone else. I have a hard time distinguishing between a size 2 and a size 6. I can’t tell the difference between a size 10 and a size 14. I remember a co-worker being on a diet because she needed to lose 15 pounds for some reason (a wedding?). I knew she wasn’t as thin as I was, but I was shocked that someone her size would want to lose weight. To me she looked perfectly thin–the ideal size, even! Why on earth would she want to be thinner?

And so I don’t trust my own judgement about others’ size. When a friend offered me her used maternity clothes, I didn’t think we were close enough in size for the clothes to fit, but I accepted them happily nonetheless. It turns out most of the clothes fit perfectly. And that’s the crux of my post.

As most of my readers know, I am currently 6 months pregnant. Over the last 6 months, I have gained over 30 pounds and my hips/butt have gained 5 inches. And I still have 3 months left to go! But if it weren’t for the numbers or the clothes not fitting, I wouldn’t even have noticed. Pre-pregnancy I wore a size XS or a 0/2. Pregnancy sizes are supposed to coincide with pre-pregnancy sizes given that women typically gain between 25-35 lbs during the course of a healthy pregnancy and maternity clothes reflect that “normal” change. But I’ve been dancing with pregnancy size mediums lately. The weight I’ve been gaining has been in MY body. The pregnancy itself only weighs a few pounds, tops.

So imagine my surprise when I get stopped by strangers on a regular basis so they can tell me how trim and thin I look. I’m not surprised that I still look thin. I’m surprised that other people think I still look thin. As it turns out, other people are just as blind to size as I am. According to several size charts (including Land’s End and Ann Taylor), my pre-pregnancy pants size should be 0/2. Today, my pants size would be 10/12. That’s a HUGE difference according to the numbers. But in reality, a size 2 doesn’t look all that different from a size 12. Of course I notice a difference, but not that much.

All you ladies out there who are not satisfied with the way your body looks, please STOP IT!!! A size 12 is perfectly respectable. Our priorities ought to be on our health NOT on our weight. A healthy weight will follow a healthy diet. If you are eating well and keeping active, your body will find its perfect size. For some that will be a size 2. For others, it will be a size 12. But if you are being healthy, then you are PERFECT the way you are. Stop longing to lose that “last 10 pounds”. If they’re that hard to lose, maybe your body needs them!

And for the love of all things holy, every woman (especially every mother) should be familiar with this website, it changed my life: theshapeofamother.com. You will NEVER look like that photo of an airbrushed celebrity. Even that celebrity doesn’t look like that.

So please, please, please, let us stop obsessing over our bodies. Let us worry about getting healthy, NOT about getting thin. Because thin does not equal healthy (trust me on this one), and healthy does not necessarily equal thin.


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Natalie Thomas said,

    So funny that you wrote this when Christopher and I were just talking about this a few days ago. I am that person who may try to lose weight but can never seem to shed more than a few pounds so after trying for so long I just accept that this is where I’m supposed to be. It’s obviously easier said than done but once I did that, I was much happier with my self-image and confidence.

    I think that each person is made differently and after looking at that website you linked, I love it! I mean, how completely true and beautiful is it that these women have real bodies and each reacts differently to pregnancy. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s to be celebrated!

    And I really like the point you made about calling people skinny but not calling people fat to their face – so true! Hmm I wonder though what we can do to change that. I think if we all just, like you said, stop obsessing over our bodies than we can achieve so much more happiness in life.

    I love you and think you’re beautiful!

  2. 2

    Rebecca said,

    This is a great post and discussion. I was just talking to my students about the power of language and using “skinny” as an example – so many of them think it’s a compliment (but a few spoke out to say that it’s not necessarily so).

    I have clothes in 4 different sizes (2-8) and some of the 6s and 8s are even tight . . . it’s so weird to me how clothing sizes are determined. My idea of what my “ideal” weight / size / shape has changed so much over the years. Someone told me once that you can either be a dieter or an athlete – I know that’s not true, there are many choices than just those two, but I made the choice to think of myself as an athlete. It helped me to think of food as fuel for activity and to make working out a part of my life on a consistent basis. It also made me not want to deprive my body by trying to diet. I try to eat healthfully (most of the time) and I still have to make a conscious effort to not try and count calories or restrict myself when I’m not feeling good about the way I look. I love “shape of a mother.” This one is different (different issues) but similar idea of photos of real women with their stories:

    The stuff about body issues kind of freaks me out having two little girls. I really hope they don’t struggle with this or have an eating disorder or anything.

  3. 3

    nanddhanson said,

    Rebecca, you always look fabulous! Honestly, I think you look amazing right now–better, even than when you were at your thinnest.

    I think you said it best when you said food is your fuel. That’s an excellent way to look at it.

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