My Life in the Fat Lane – Thoughts on Lane Bryant’s #I’m No Angel Campaign
Song inspiration: I’m No Angel – Gregg Allman
Once upon a time, I went to weight watchers. At each meeting, our coach would say, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Every time she said that, I would think…cake, she’s eaten cake, right? Or pizza? She has tried that before, right? I mean, what’s this nothing tastes as good as skinny feels crap. Food tastes good. If skinny was better, then no one would be at weight watchers. I mean maybe I should tell her about this Greek restaurant in Atlanta…but, I digress.
I feel like we have to talk about it. Get it out there in the open and just air out the mustiness. When I first started thinking about writing this blog, my husband was concerned that I’d get some backlash from those who don’t like a movement that empowers plus-size women. Fat-shamming is out there and folks, it’s here to stay in one form or another. No matter what, you can’t legislate morality. You can only educate about it. In our discussion, I told The Dane that I was sure I’d probably get some of it, but I’m almost 50 now and there isn’t much of it that I haven’t already heard. And even though I can’t change all the hearts and minds, hopefully I can help others.
Are their good arguments to lose weight? Heck yeah. But there is way more to it than just telling someone to lose the cake and hit the gym. Way more. So rather than bang anyone over the head by fat-shamming, I think it’s important that we humans teach people to love themselves, no matter what that self looks like or the number of pounds involved. I believe we should start by realizing that beauty is not measured on a scale. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s weightless.
I have worked with a variety of people who run the gambit with body-image issues. Here’s the real skinny – everybody has body-image issues. Well, what about that weight-lifter guy with the 6 pack abs. Yep, him too. Everybody. Here’s another reality check that most of us either don’t know or don’t learn until it’s too late. Ready. Here we go. Anybody who has ever said anything negative about someone’s physical appearance is telling you way more about themselves than they are about the person they are picking on. Remember that sales girl that I encountered at VS, here’s the other side of that story. She was a fat girl, just like me. And VS didn’t sell her size either. It’s called projection.
When we are young, we don’t know that most people aren’t really spending very much time thinking about us. Sure, there are a few that get obsessive. But, mostly what we think about is in terms of self. Someone doesn’t feel good about themselves, they lash out. (Haven’t we all been guilty of doing this when we’re feeling particular low?) Some people might call it bullying, but what’s beyond that label. What’s at the core? I believe that at the center of it, there’s insecurity on the part of the person saying the mean thing. If more of us understood that, then we’d realize that we have the power to not only stop the shaming, but to help the person doing the shaming. Because it doesn’t matter what they just said, they gave us a very powerful tool. They just told us the very thing that hurts them the most. The more venom involved, the more it bugs them about themselves. The trick is to learn how to turn it around in a way that keeps us from owning their words.
That brings me to the “I’m No Angel” campaign and the arguments about it. My thoughts on it are simple. I’m glad they did it. I don’t care if they made a boat-ton of money on it. In fact, I hope they did so there will be more options for me in the future. Do the models represent all the plus-size demographic? No. Are the models technically plus-size? Yes. In the fashion industry, I think anyone over a size 8 is considered too fat. Is that fair? No. Do ads of ultra skinny girls work? Absolutely. Think about the last time you looked at a magazine and thought, if only I looked that great. That’s how this works. It’s designed to make you feel bad so that you will think that you HAVE to have what they are selling to be more (happy, sexy, thin) like the girl in the picture. The bottom line is really all about the money. What sells and what doesn’t. Up till now, plus-size hasn’t sold magazine ads. It seems to be changing. Ashley Graham is smoking it with three magazine covers out. But it won’t all happen overnight. Does that mean we shouldn’t ask for the models to be more our size than what we consider mainstream? No. Using our voices is what finally got us this far. But don’t get frustrated if you still see the girls on the thinner side of plus for a while.
In the ’80’s when I was coming along, we had Brooke Shields. She was thin, but it didn’t seem that she was unnaturally thin. Most of the girls that I went to high school with were close to that size, give or take. It seems to me that for a while now the models have gotten skinnier and skinnier. By the time my girls started coming along, ultra thin was in. For me, this was a bit scary. I’d worked with people with anorexia and bulimia. I knew that this could be a deadly trend. You only have to see a person tube fed because they nearly starved themselves to death once before you understand that skinny does not equal healthy. I’m not saying that there aren’t naturally thin people, there are. But not everyone was made to be healthy and ultra thin. And if that’s true. Then shouldn’t we humans understand that you can be healthy at a size 12? (I picked that number because I read an article that said that a survey of woman showed that most were happier at a size 12).
We keep trying to tell ourselves that we are more than just a number on a scale, but then that argument about “promoting unhealthy lifestyles” comes up with a size 14 model. It makes me groan. If we want to be more than a number then we have to understand that we are more than just a number. Being healthy isn’t just about how thin we are or aren’t. It’s just way more complicated than that.
You can be a size 0 and physically healthy and hate yourself. And, if you do that, then you are not all the way healthy. And you can be a size 18 and have blood pressure problems and cholesterol issues, but be super happy and well-adjusted. Sure, you’ve still got some health issues, but you have the means to make that better in either case. It’s not like being a size 0 or 18 is final. It’s just where you are now and it can change. But it won’t change if we are constantly beating ourselves up about that bag of Oreo cookies we dunked into a glass of whole milk five years ago.
In order for us to start to get REALLY healthy, we have to find a starting place. Somewhere that’s safe for us all to come together and put all of our own baggage aside and say, I accept you just the way you are. Once we stop the shaming, we can begin the healing. I often wonder how many plus size girls (and boys) would get more physically active if they felt good about themselves and being in public situations. A place where they could have an ice cream without someone looking at them like, “Do you really want to eat that? I mean, you know, you ARE fat.” Come on, you know you’ve done that. Even us fat girls do that to each other because we’ve learned that’s what you do. I promise you, that look, it doesn’t make a person stop eating ice cream. It makes them go home and eat a pint where no one can see them and that’s how it gets worse.
Think I’m kidding? I used to eat bologna sandwiches in the closet because my roommate thought I was too fat to eat bread. I’m not proud of that, but it’s still true. A lot of weight issues come from not feeling good about ourselves. A lot of people, me included, use food as a substitute. Half a pizza used to be the cost of nothing fitting me at the mall. Body-image issues can make you physically sick. If that’s true, then couldn’t it be said that curing the body-image issue can begin to make us physically well?
The most freeing thing about getting close to 50 is the fact that I’m less influenced by what others think and I long ago gave up ever believing I could be a supermodel. When I stopped caring as much, I started getting out more. And right now, I’m probably the most active I’ve ever been. I sure know that I’m the happiest. And, you know what…I think I’m way better dressed. So, a big thank you goes out to all those voices that came before mine. You rock!
I posted a link to the commercial just because I think it’s super hot!
Oh, and if I had the chance to go back and tell my WW coach to get a new mantra, I might suggest – Be yourself, you’re the only one who can (because everything tastes good when you’re trying to get skinny).