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The Spectrum of Threatening to Disgusting

5 Oct
skinnyvcurvy

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 post shared 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.

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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

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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.

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This is what it says my body looks like.

visualizer

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.

visualizer_all_bodies

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.

Getting the Message Across

8 Sep
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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.

#WorkThatBody2015

24 Aug

tracee

There’s this thing that happens on your weight-loss journey where you really start to feel yourself. You start taking notice of the physical changes in your body and gain a new admiration for your skills. You know how to control your portions. You’ve mastered the art of balancing your fitness regimen with your calorie counting. You’ve perfectly tamed your crave monster.

And the results are showing in your stride, the cinch of your waist, the draping of your clothes. In essence, you look hot.

You admire your good works, as you should. You can receive the compliments that are lauded upon you for your new approach to life. You walk with your head held a little higher because you are owning this.

This is one of the perks of sticking with your health-minded plan and gaining new comfort and confidence in yourself. Admiration for the renewed you comes with the territory. The only downside is that it can be coupled with exploitation.

The new you that you’ve come to appreciate is also being ogled and objectified by people who know nothing about you. This may have been the case for your old body. But maybe now you notice it more. The leers, the suggestive gestures or even a random camera snapping pics (trust me, this happens).

How do you balance your new found confidence with not letting others taint your experience?

That’s the question that came to me when reading Tracee Ellis Ross’s blog post accompanying the tribute video she made for her mother, Diana Ross. Tracee has long been an advocate of women being comfortable within themselves without needing outside validation. From her Love Your Hair campaign to this #WorkThatBody2015 post, Tracee has been pushing women, especially women of color, to “feel the joy” of being inside their own bodies.

Tracee, who even says herself that she’s often encouraged women to shift our gaze from how we are seen to how we are seeing and, more important, feeling,” felt joy and pride in watching her mother prance, dance and shake it out to “Work That Body” a generation ago. And it’s that joy and confidence that filtered through her into the tribute video.

Just because her mother was in a leotard and pushing her tush to the camera didn’t mean she was begging to be ogled.

I saw a woman feeling joyful in herself as a whole being; she didn’t seem to be presenting her ass or saying look at all the ways I can make myself look appealing to YOU. She seems to be saying, “this is ME feeling good and I am strong and sexy and joyful in ME”!~Tracee Ellis Ross

Understand: finding joy in yourself doesn’t mean to have to shake it, whip it, nae nae it or even drop it like it’s hot. It’s about having the confidence inside shine through. Dance around the house naked. Put on your favorite shade of lipstick or gloss. Dress up super cute and take yourself out on a date.

Feel good and strong and strong and sexy in you!