Being a “big girl” in a society that is obsessed with the “ideal” body (petite, uniform, thigh gap like the Grand Canyon) definitely has its challenges. Besides the fact that places like the pool or the beach cause a tremendous amount of anxiety and self-loathing – and most “trendy” stores do not design clothes to compliment your curves – the biggest hurdle is by far, the feeling that, by society’s standards, you’re just not good enough.
Now, I consider myself an intelligent woman. I graduated summa cum laude from college, I have two degrees, and have won awards for my work. I consider myself strong. I have overcome some seriously messed up shit, weathered a divorce, got myself fired, and still I managed to come out on the other side, with my feathers ruffled, but intact. I am also fortunate. I have a beautiful family, a loyal husband who is happy with me the way I am, and an extended family that rivals the Kennedys (without all of the weird illegal stuff and infidelity). Life is good.
Despite all of this Zen, there is always the proverbial, and forgive my pun, “elephant” in the room. My weight has continued to be the constant struggle that plagues my days. It has been this way since I gave birth to my first child. There have been several attempts at weight loss, some more whole-hearted than others, but there has been little change. Because of this, there’s that nagging feeling, that in the eyes of our society, I am just not good enough. I am fat, therefore I am weak, I lack self-discipline, I “let myself go.” Many times, I start to feel comfortable in my skin, and then someone makes a comment like, “big girls like us know what it’s like,” or, to my daughter, “why is your mom so chubby?” My personal favorite came from a golf buddy of my dad’s who has a daughter that looks like Malibu Barbie, “Bigger people like us have to rely on our intelligence not our sex appeal.”
Comments like these cause me to continuously be reminded that for some, it really doesn’t matter how intelligent, strong, and philanthropic I am, because, to society, I am first and foremost, a fat girl.
In recent weeks, Sports Illustrated, and now Lane Bryant are receiving both accolades and criticism for photo shoots and ad campaigns featuring plus-size models. Lane Bryant is a store that features plus-size clothing, but they are taking it a step further by featuring their models in lingerie with the tagline “This body is meant to be uncovered.” These companies have made a statement that women of all sizes have the right to feel sexy, and worthy of love regardless of the size of their waist. That women should celebrate their curves and be unapologetic even if they have a little extra junk in their trunk.
Not everyone is buying it. Critics are firing back that being overweight is not just unattractive and undesirable, it’s unhealthy, and Sports Illustrated should not be promoting sub-optimal health due to a high BMI. Others wonder why bigger women should be viewed as sexy while bigger men are categorized as lazy slobs. To be honest, despite the fact that I am a larger woman, my thoughts on this are hazy. I believe that “sexy” is different for everyone. For me, sexy is feeling good. When I’m eating unhealthily and not nurturing my body, I don’t feel sexy. When I am treating my body kindly, my physical size isn’t as important. When I’m treating my body kindly, I feel sexy. When I feel sexy, the comments, the critics, the self-loathing, seem to fade, and I can channel all of that intelligence, strength, and good fortune into knowing my true-self worth. So find your own sexy. Treat your body kindly. Nurture your soul. It starts with you. Tell that elephant to hit the road, and flaunt your sexy all over the place.