The Spectrum of Threatening to Disgusting

5 Oct

Courtesy of About-Face

A fashion week/month is still in full swing. I love it because I love clothes and seeing what the designers have in store for the following season (even if I can’t afford the hems on those clothes).

The models that strut the runway are there to present the fashion. Their job is to sell the clothes. In order to to that, the clothes have to be appear appealing. Because all women aren’t shaped the same, it’s useful if the clothes appear on different body types. One day, the trend will change and designers will create pieces that look good on different body types.

Until then, we have to contend with the Joan Smallses, Jourdan Dunnes, Kendall Jenners and Gigi Hadids of the world. But just because these women all wear the essentially the same size, it doesn’t mean their all built the same. To the average woman, these are tall, thin women. But Gigi and Joan have larger busts. Kendall has longer legs. Jourdan has the better strut. It’s these pieces of these women that get picked apart by fashion bloggers and critics.

Gigi posted a photo of her walking in the Versace show lat week where (gasp) her thighs were touching. For shame! Gigi Hadid is a tall, thin model. She has a few more curves than some of her colleagues, but not as much as the Tyra Bankses of the world. A few comments on her Instagram led her to respond about the sea change in the fashion industry where her body type hasn’t been accepted in the industry for a long time.

A photo posted by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid) on

There are positives and negatives with this. First, good for her for having body confidence. So many women her age are still struggling with being confident in their shapes and size. She’s already ahead of the curve. The problem, however, is that, as she says, she still fits sample sizes. She has abs. Gigi, while still experiencing body shaming, sits on the threatening end of the body spectrum.

A recent article on New York Magazine’s site brought up why it’s so hard for people to discuss weight. Unlike some of our other metrics (age, height, shoe size), weight fluctuates so much for a variety of factors. Despite where you lie on the scale, your place on the spectrum of threatening (thin) to disgusting (obese) is solely at the discretion of others. It’s a wholly unfair system, but it’s how we see each other.

Gigi Hadid’s comments are the same as a size 2 woman complaining to her size 22 sister about how she can’t find the clothes she likes in her size. It’s not that the size 2 woman doesn’t have the right to complain, it’s that it’s coming from someone who seemingly has everything. It’s the poor-little-rich-girl syndrome.

I’ll admit that I have fallen prey and been victim of these judgements. My struggles with fluctuating weight are well documented on this here blog. I’ve been both the skinny and the fat friend. It’s easy to think others are living in glass houses when you’re trying to clear the sludge from your own windows. It takes a lot of personal effort not to focus on other people’s seeming successes while you’re working on your growth.

I wish I could offer an easy fix for this, but there isn’t one. It comes with time. You learn not to let others have their space to vent their issues without judging them for wanting better for themselves.

Seeking Fashion Inspiration

16 Sep

beverlyA couple of years ago, I got really excited about the prospects for the fashion industry. Models like Joan Smalls and Jourdan Dunn were killing it on the runways. Designers like Rick Owens were eschewing the standard of rail-thin models and the traditional catwalk for a more in-your-face strut by models of varying sizes. The clothes were great, the shows were inspiring and it left me hopeful for a future with more diversity on the runway.

Sadly, that was just a drop in the can. There hasn’t been much progress made since then. Rail-thin models are still the standard to trot down runways wearing samples that don’t consider different body types. Not only are designers ignoring the different ways women are shaped, they’re shaming women for wanting to wear their clothes. Earlier this summer, a former Hervé Leger executive said curvy women and lesbians have no place wearing the brand’s iconic bandage dress.

‘If you’re a committed lesbian and you are wearing trousers all your life, you won’t want to buy a Leger dress. Lesbians would want to be rather butch and leisurely,” he told the Daily Mail earlier this summer.

The bandage dress was everywhere in the late aughts. From rail thin to super curvy, just about every celebrity was wearing it or some knockoff version. I tried on a cheaper variety once or twice and, to be honest, it isn’t a very forgiving dress. Body shapers, Spanx and prayer are needed to look right. I liken the dress to a good twist out: it may work for you one day, but it will take you forever to replicate the magic of that one day.

But for the glitterati, the bandage dress was a badge of pride. If you could rock it, by all means rock the hell out of it. It’s disheartening when a designer who creates clothes can’t see real people wearing them. Majority of clothed women aren’t shaped like supermodels. If designers don’t want different body types wearing their clothes, they should just create them in one size and one body type.

Luckily, model legend Beverly Johnson disagreed as she rocked the frock at the Hervé Leger show over the weekend. “I’m a curvy woman, so I embrace it. I think that they make dresses for curvy women,” she said. She did follow it up by saying the dress wouldn’t look right on a “stick-thin” woman, but I don’t totally agree. It really depends on the body.

chromatWhich is another reason I saw some small ray of hope with another fashion show during New York Fashion Week. The Chromat collection, meant to be a “structural experiment for the human body,” took more bodies into mind when the pieces were presented. A mix between athletic and couture, the Chromat designs had a futuristic bondage theme and were all exquisitely tailored to the models’ forms. There were pear shapes, thick thighs, large boobs, flat chests, skinny legs, etc. on display. And they all rocked out.

It’s amazing what can happen when designers remember to step out of their comfort zone and try to design for a different shape. The challenge helps acknowledge women who appreciate the aesthetic and artistry of fashion while not excluding them from the process.

That’s all we want: acknowledgement and inclusion in the things we enjoy.

BMI Is Bullsh–

14 Sep


We are data-centric creatures. As much as many of us cringed at the thought of algebra, we all love numbers. Numbers are definite. Two plus two will always be four. You will always be one year older on your birthday. It took two humans to create one human you. All of these things are facts for us to base future decisions off of.

Much like the BMI. Your body mass index is there solely to help you make future decisions. But recognize that the BMI is also bullshit.

Think of it this way: A 5-foot-8, 140-pound woman and her 5-foot-2, 115-pound friend can easily wear the same size 4 dress. How? Because the way our bodies are shaped help determine what fits, not necessarily the numbers involved with it. Your size 10 jeans from the Gap may fit like a dream. Buy those jeans in the same cut from Levi’s and you’ll probably need a different size. It’s not that your body changed significantly. It’s just that the jeans were made differently.

This point was proven further earlier this year when Body Labs released its BMI Visualizer. The visualizer creates a 3D composite of a person’s body based on three factors: gender, height and weight. That’s it. Like most BMI calculators, it doesn’t take into account activity level, fat vs. muscle mass or mass distribution.

When I did my visualizer, it looked nothing like my current body shape. For example, this was taken a few weeks ago before a race.


This is what it says my body looks like.


Obviously, there are a few differences. I’m short, but I’m not that squat-shaped. I’ve got a tummy, but not that much of a gut. It got the pear shape right, though. The Visualizer also doesn’t look like I work out much, which we all know is a flat-out lie.

The folks at Body Labs took several body scans of people with similar heights and weight and came up with different proportions for all of them. How is this possible? Because the BMI is bullshit.


Don’t worry so much about what the BMI is telling you. If you are truly concerned about your health and weight, stay in contact with your physician. Have your doctor refer you to a nutritionist. The best way to monitor your weight is to take care with your caloric intake. Cutting calories will help you lose weight faster, exercise will help you shape your body.

If you really want to concern yourself with a number, calories should be your No. 1 priority. Calories fuel the body, but you don’t want to top off your tank. Get enough to get you where you need to be, not so much that you’re just sitting around on useless fuel. Then worry about he amount of fat, next cholesterol then sodium. The thing is that you need all of these things, but in moderation.

The BMI is a tool, not the toolkit. Think of your health as building a house, and the BMI is your hammer. You still need wood, a level, nails, screwdriver, etc. The hammer is useless without everything else.

Just Have Fun With It

10 Sep

have_funI’m an editor at a newspaper. When I began my career at a small publication outside Atlanta, I had one of the perkiest bosses known to man. This was strange for two reasons: 1) I don’t really like perky people and 2) perky people aren’t usually found in newsrooms. We’re a grumpy, cynical bunch.

Whenever I’d come across a story that just didn’t make sense or a headline that was giving me trouble, she’d say, “Just have fun with it.” At first, this annoyed the hell out of me. I’m in my early 20s working late hours at a cruddy newspaper writing headlines for sometimes shoddy work, and she wants me to have fun with it. The hell?!

One day, I decided to let go of my grumpy, cynical armor and “just have fun with it.” I started writing better headlines. I started making sense of non-sensical copy. I even started to warm up to her. She’s really a nice person, and we’re Facebook friends to this day.

I took that mantra of “just have fun with it” with me when I began my weight-loss journey. In the beginning, it was absurdly difficult. I’m the woman who had at least three tubs of ice cream in the freezer at all times, complete with fudge sauce just in case. I kept boxes of brownie and cake mix in the cabinets because you never know when you need to bake a cake. I would come home after my late shifts and wind down like most people: fix a plate, watch some television, cuddle with my dog and go to sleep, only to start the cycle all over again.

Taking an active role in my health not only shook up my routine, it wasn’t a lot of fun. Burgers are more fun than kale. Television marathons are more fun than actual marathons. But the “fun” things weren’t doing me any good. I had to find the fun in order to continue on my weight-loss journey and achieve my goals.

My first step was playlists. Nothing keeps the body moving like a good playlist. Everyone has their preference. Mine goes somewhere between Beyonce and trap music. Either way, I need a good beat from a familiar song to keep me moving. And if I’m humming along to some Mike Will Made It beat, then I won’t be so focused on the sweat dripping in my eyes.

The next thing I did was make sure to try new things. It’s so easy to fall into a rut (see above with the burgers and TV). The gym, while beneficial, can seem like a scene from “Office Space,” with the fluorescent lights, horrible music and monotone instructors. I try to keep my gym visits to once or twice a week. In between, I’m running, at spin class (much different from being on the machines in the gym), swimming, yoga, etc. I avoid doing the same workout two days in a row so I don’t become too used to a routine and to shock my body with another workout.

Another way to keep the fun quotient high is to have a buddy. I have my workout nanny. You could have a friend who looks up to your good works. Or a relative who, well meaningingly, makes snide comments about your appearance and you want to shut them up. Or you and your significant other share a passion for CrossFit. Whatever it is, it’s best to have someone in your corner. There’s a reason there are people on the sidelines at races cheering people on. Because when you’re on a never-ending hill, it’s nice to look up and see someone telling you to keep going.

There’s fun to be had on this journey, especially when you reach your goal. Take it serious enough to understand how your body reacts to different workouts and diets, but not so seriously that you can’t find the joy in it. Just have fun with it.

Getting the Message Across

8 Sep
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 11.10.50 PM

Comedienne Nicole Arbour

When I began this blog, it was to document the journey I’ve taken on my road to weight loss. It has been up and down the entire time. It was when I realized that it would always be up and down that I knew I could speak to others about this process. I was never morbidly obese, but I did have conversations with my doctors in the past that revolved around the need to take better care of myself. It was hinted at by friends and family members that my weight had taken a turn. But it wasn’t until I decided that I needed to take better care of myself that it clicked with me.

Not once did anyone curse me out about my body. Not once did anyone make me feel like I was less than a real human being. I still dated, I still hung with friends, I still went clubbing and dropped my 200-pound butt like it was hot. Losing weight was more about ensuring a better future for myself and feeling more confident within myself than it was about pleasing others.

And that’s where I have a problem with “comedienne” Nicole Arbour‘s  viral video that fat shames people she believes aren’t making the right decisions for themselves. Nicole, who is a slender woman, devoted six minutes and eight seconds in what she claims is satire to demean, dehumanize and shame people whom she considers fat. She compared overweight and obese people to Frankenstein’s monster. She claimed that a family she’d seen at the airport received preferential treatment not because they were disabled but because they were overweight. What annoyed me most is that she says fat shaming is not a thing, at lease not to people who don’t have a medical predisposition to weight gain.

Good for her that she realizes some people are different.

Let me set some facts straight: I do not, nor will I ever condone fat shaming. Having been on this journey for so long, I understand the pitfalls that come with trying to lose weight. I know what happens when you hit a brick wall after working so hard. And I fully get that it takes much longer to learn to maintain healthy habits than it does to embark on them.

What people like Nicole fail to realize is that prejudging, shaming and dehumanizing people who are fully aware of what they look like doesn’t help them. When was the last time a negative comment from a stranger positively affected you? When was the last time being called fat, disgusting, slow, or “Jabba the Son” made you want to do laps around the park?

Telling people what you don’t like about them and hiding it under the mask of “I accept everybody” isn’t just lying, it’s hurtful. Passing it off as comedy and satire only makes the jokester look like the true asshole. Nicole says in her video that only racial minorities, people with disabilities and the LGBT community are the only ones who are discriminated against. Everyone else (I’m looking at you women, religious community, poor, etc.) has no right to complain, especially overweight people.

Overweight and obese people are judged and commented on every day. Walk down the street and you’ll hear people commenting on another person’s size, possibly within earshot, every other block. It’s one of the last ways to criticize people that is still socially acceptable. And it shouldn’t be.

People like Nicole and John Burk, who released a similar video earlier this summer, need to take a good look at their methods of encouragement. If you want a healthier society, make a better effort to work within that society instead of ridiculing people you know nothing about. If you see an overweight person struggling, talk to them instead of berating them. Give then your personal trainer’s card. Offer your own services. But don’t be the dick who continues to beat people while they’re down.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 414 other followers