Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What We Talk About When We Talk About Weight

At the risk of sounding terribly cliche: we talk about our own fears. When I notice that Lea Michele has lost weight (see yesterday's post), I start to think: Oh god, here goes another one. Do I have to lose weight again now too?

I've seen myself on camera and in photographs recently. I understand the urge to change everything about one's self, starting with just 5 pounds.

About 6 years ago, I decided that I was too fat. (To give you some context, I was about the weight I am now.) That feeling of "too fat" was so strong that I would have given anything to change myself. I went on a very restrictive diet (under 1,200 calories a day) and lost over 20 pounds.

I thought I looked fabulous. And so did everyone else. But honestly, I didn't feel fabulous. I felt rather frail. I wrote down my calorie intake every day in my notebook at work. (I even included coffee.) My digestive system was a bit messed up. I tried to self medicate to fix it.

I started to worry about gaining weight. I knew it was inevitable. How long could I maintain 1,200 calories a day? I knew my days as a skinny person were numbered. That dread of gaining weight defined my life for some time.

And then, at some point, I just gave in. It was terrifying. I still wrote down calories and panicked when they went over 2,000. I gained back the 20 pounds, and maybe then some. Life went on. I stopped writing down calories.

Before the photo shoot for my book in August (for which I had to model 27 garments, yikes), I went on a brief crash diet again. It felt good, knowing that I could do something about my weight. But it also felt horrible because I knew I could never do enough. I lost about 5 pounds, felt briefly triumphant, and then gained it back.

So. That's where I'm coming from when I talk about weight, and what I was thinking when I mentioned Lea Michele's weight yesterday. Another woman may see my post and think I'm slamming naturally thin women. While it may have felt good to get my own thoughts out, it feels bad to tap into someone else's insecurities.

And that's the interesting thing about the conversation about weight between women: it never really  feels better, does it?

While it's wonderful that we can have so many frank discussions about body image, too often we use language that makes us feel better, but simultaneously alienates another group. You know: "Real women have curves." Or: "It's not healthy to be so fat." And so on.

The best body image moments I've had in my life are when I've realized that we're all different, and it's all good. (No, I wasn't high. I think I was doing yoga. I have to get back to that.) I could look at a skinny woman and not feel less than--I just felt okay, like we all looked the way we were supposed to look.

Anyway, this post has probably gotten awfully hippie dippy. But I thought it was time to get back to our own experiences as a starting point for talking about weight, rather than feeling defensive (as I know I did when I wrote about Lea Michele yesterday). I hope you'll share your own experience.


  1. I really like what you're saying there. I feel that there are never any winners when it comes to the debate about weight and beauty ideals. On the one hand, of course we are inclined to defend our own weight and body image, because that's a part of our identity. But as you pointed out, it probably is making somebody else feel bad. And the end result is usually women badgering and isulting other women in the comments.

  2. your blog and the discussion you start here help me to concentrate more on the way I look like, and how to bring out the pretty, special parts in me instead of focusing on what I would like to change about me. it is more about what I am, not so much about what I (or "society") could be if I ____(exercised more, less eat more, less, had longer/shorter legs etc).
    for a long time, i didn't exercice because i build up muscles really fast, instead of the nice curves I would like to have, and was unhappy. I just love sports! so good-bye curvy body, hello shoulders of a rower! as long as i feel good, and now that I even now how to dress better according to my type, I'm way happier.

  3. Dear Gertie, I have always thought you looked just right. when I saw the images for the TV show etc. I thought to myself, isn't she lovely and so comfortable in front of the camera. Truly, weight had not even entered my thoughts. Of course we all have life-long issues with our weight. It seems our culture, our family, our Mothers, have transferred their insecurities to us just in case we don't have enough of our own.

    Talking about weight or avoiding the discussion are somewhat the same in the sense that it blurs the intended conversation. That was my point yesterday. I applaud the fact that you noticed how weight changes were rather obvious to the Glee cast this season, it was not meant to chastise the comment in the post. Hopefully, as mentioned in the subsequent comments, the weight loss by the cast was essentially due to the stress of the tour. As always,we have to find and define what is correct for us, for our lives, and our health. You look like the poster girl for vintage style. You express it and define it for those who emulate that genre. Your sewing skills have inspired many and hopefully will continue to do so. I listen, many listen, you do well here and in your other pursuits. Reading your posts and the comments is an excellent way to feel the pulse of women.

  4. Long time reader, first time commenting! I understand the pressure with weight, especially to look a certain way in the clothing that I make. 1950's curvy silhouette anyone? However, that was killing my self esteem. I'd decided to keep myself and my influences realistic, and that allows me to enjoy all of me at any size.

    Love the blog btw!!

  5. Interesting. When I read your post yesterday, my first thought was that we (my husband and I) had noticed that Lea Michele was somewhat slimmer than in the previous season. We didn't comment on whether either version of the lass was 'better'; just the difference. And so, whilst reading your post from yesterday I applied my thought process to what you had written and didn't think anything further was meant by yourself either.

    I suppose that shows a number of things, not least that a conversation (particularly one online perhaps) is as much a result of what remains unsaid as that which is spoken/written.

    It's hard to talk about weight with women (even if trying to be objective/rational rather than emotive) as everyone within that conversation may not be in the same boat. Sometimes, comments such as 'X has gained/lost weight' are not taken literally and can be given a subtext. I don't know why guys can say 'mate, you've gained weight' and not be offended, but in many ways it is a lot healthier.

  6. The sad truth is that there is still a HUGE stigma attached to being overweight, no matter how fit one may be. Personally, I could lose the weight of a small adult... then I'd be at or near my "ideal" weight. But dieting is pointless. Very few people can maintain the weight loss once a diet ends, and the whole process of dieting can end up damaging your health.

    Instead, I've been trying to gradually change my eating and exercise habits to a healthier lifestyle. The weight is coming off gradually... just the way it went on. I'm hopeful that I can at least lose the "obese" descriptor, maybe even get to the point where I enjoy how clothes look on me.

    While I tell myself I love myself just the way I am, it's a hard state-of-mind to maintain when society at large judges large people so negatively.

    To me you look healthy and beautiful (not to mention talented). I'm sorry to learn you have self-image issues, but I hope you can keep your current attitude.

  7. As a child and teenager I grew up being over weight. Not drasticly but enough to get a few jibes at school and to have a massive impact on my self esteem. Then when I was 17 I just stopped eating. One meal a day and plenty of fags and polo mints was what I survived on. Part of this was a reaction to stress and attempting to control areas of my life. I dropped down to a size 8 (UK size) and after a while of everyone saying how good I looked it turned into everyone asking if I was throwing up.
    Over time I'm back up to a size 12 and at least once a week I tell my boyfriend how I want to lose some weight (and then tuck into to his smoked salmon risotto and about a million calories per portion haha!).
    When I think about my body I feel constently conflicted between the self loathing still clinging on from my teenage years and also loving my body for what it is. Deep down I really do like my shape and waist and hips. Two of the main things that has helped me with this is appreciating 1950's fashion and the curvy shapes of ladies like Doris Day and Marilyn Monroe. Also seeing my housemate becoming so painfully thin that she's now in hospital.
    At least I'm healthy if not always happy and when the teenage thoughts kick in I usually tell them to be quiet and enjoy some more risotto!

  8. I think thee is areal difference between being (unhealthy) fat or struggling with the same couple of pounds over and over again.
    Although I am not 'fat' I used to be overweight. The first time I put myself on a diet at the age of 14... By now I am convinced that diets are not the right thing to regulate one's weight. I think the only thing truly helps is getting involved in some kind of exercise program! Whether you are running like me, going by bike to work or doing your work-out with a DVD in front of the TV, it doesn't matter. As long as you are doing something 3-4x a week.
    The body image is totally different from what one's weight is, isn't it? Even at my 'skinniest', I do have heavier thighs and I do have a tummy, and both my mom and grandma do have that too! It is genetical. We won't look like Beyonce or Kate Winslet (who both have fab. bodies) When we gain weight we don't look 'curvy', in my family women look like round apples when they gain weight... So finding a style that accentuates someones positive features is a must! Just choose the right clothes to cover some 'too curvy' areas and expose other parts of your body you are truly happy with. Anyway I feel like I could write a whole blog post about this...

  9. I wish it was easier for us all to find a place where we just accept ourselves. I have recently lost weight, not a lot, 5 pounds maybe, though it's very visible in my face. I have also spent a good portion of the last six months carefully tailoring all of my clothes, so all of formerly shapeless work slacks now fit and flatter me, all my baggy button up shirts are nipped in at the waist, all my sack-like sweaters are fitted all the way through the arms.

    I have been approached by coworkers and friends in recent weeks to ask if I've lost weight and tell me how good I look. And honestly I've been a little offended by it. I want to defend myself and say: no, I haven't lost weight, I just found a new flattering hairstyle and made an effort with my wardrobe. And yet, it feels almost embarrassing to say that to people, as if I'm using my hair and clothes to cover up how fat I am (I'm not fat, merely a little apple shaped at 5'3" and a RTW size 8/10). And then I am secondarily shamed by how little I clearly love my body if I am so influenced by what I think other people must think of me. Especially since I so champion body love to all my friends of all size and I don't judge them, even while I judge myself and assume everyone else does the same.

  10. I loved your comment about all looking how we are supposed to look. One massive issue I think we all have sometimes is that we won't accept that our bodies change shape at various times of life for various reasons.
    No, I will never be a (UK) size 10 again, but I was 19 when I was that size and I’m nearly 30 now. I don't want to spend every waking hour obsessing about getting back there. Yes sometimes I feel "guilty" for being bigger than I used to be, but I exercise regularly and eat healthy food, but do eat less healthy stuff too basically because I enjoy it. I think I have the food / exercise balance right and if my body shape still won't change I guess I’m the size I'm meant to be and I should just accept it. So now I try not to pin my happiness to my body shape.

    The problem is sometimes we all do judge ourselves by our appearance or feel that others just us on it too. And it is only natural to compare ourselves to others, be it positively or negatively. The problem of body image is very complex and highly personal. I wish we could all stop feeling bad about our own shapes, and not (even if it's subconscious) judge others on theirs but unfortunately I’m not sure we ever will.

  11. Great post Gertie! I read it whilst tucking into Leek and Potato soup with a white bread roll filled with cheese and tomato. I felt cold, hungry and my body told me I needed it.
    I'm going to stop there becuase I could rant and rant and rant on this topic.
    PS You REALLY don't need to lose any weight, you look great to us

  12. Have you heard of the HAES (Health at Every Size) movement? It might be helpful to read up on some of the things they are working towards. As a recovering dieter, it's been helpful for me to come to terms with why the diets worked and then didn't, and why it's ok to get off that cycle. Some days are better than others, obvs.

  13. It can be very difficult. For me I have found that making my own clothes has really helped with me not being freaked out by parts of my body. Certainly once you've get into fitting (and fitting other people too) it become very difficult to think that there is some "normal" proportion and size, there is only the size that you are, and being honest about that with yourself and looking past each little bit (because you have to alter everything!) makes everything fit and look a lot better. Having said that, making my own dress form caused a pretty horrible blip in my self-confidence for a week or so.. I think it's because it doesn't have legs or arms.. so looks massive and disproportional.. That's my story anyway! I have got used to it now -it looks a lot less terrifying with half finished clothes draped on it!

    It is good to have these conversations, as it is very easy to think that everyone else loves their body (as it looks very nice to you), but everyone has some kind of issue, if not about a hundred!

  14. These conversations would be so much easier if we (as a culture, not just as individuals) could get past the idea that a woman's value is primarily in her physical attractiveness and also develop a broader representation of what 'attractive' really is.

    (I mean, I can't be the only person who's heard someone express disagreement with someone a woman has said by insulting her appearance -- 'She's just a fat cow, what does she know?' -- as though her looks had anything to do with her abilities as, say, an economist).

    I frequently find myself thinking about your post on 'the good body' when I get frustrated about the way I look. This is the body I have. It may not look like a pin-up girl's body, but it's mine, it's strong and healthy, and in spite of all of the things about it that aren't 'perfect,' some people (including my husband, who's the only other person whose opinion really matters) seem to think it's lovely.

    So to hell with that 'extra' 20 pounds. They're my 20 pounds and I'll keep them if I want.

  15. A lot of these comments make me think part of the problem is ageism in Western culture. Women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and so on are not supposed to have the same bodies they did when they were in their teens, but it's very hard not to use previous versions of ourselves as a constant point for comparison. I am in my late 20s, and many of my friends already do this, and they are also in the habit of commenting on how old they are. I know they are intelligent women who deep down inside know their worth, but there is still this nagging cloud of negativity that seeps into our thoughts sometimes. It sucks! Because obviously there are so many beautiful, admirable women older than 19 - and it's not because they're striving to look like a teenager. They're just comfortable in their own skin.

  16. Bah. "with someTHING a woman has said," not someone.

  17. I'm sure you're going to get many many comments on this post today. I just want to tell you I went through the same thing with the 20 pounds, starting around the same age, but finally got off the dieting merry-go-round when I was about 20 years old -- to the benefit of my health and well-being. I ended up stabilizing at probably my highest weight, but I think I look pretty good for an old broad! So I generally feel good about myself, though the world sends terrible messages. You just have to ignore them -- or even better, laugh at them.

    As silly as it is, the key thing that helped me was the short-lived BBW Magazine and the accompanying book by Carole Shaw that came out in the 1980s. The idea that women of any size could wear cute, flattering clothes and make an effort to look their best in every way -- rather than don polyester sackcloth and ashes in navy blue, as penance for the sin of being fat -- was a revelation to me. It changed my life.

    The sewing blogosphere has helped further. I love seeing pictures of people of all sizes modeling their creations and writing about getting them to fit properly. The "ideal" exists only rarely.

    And by the way, my husband says to me now and then that he can't understand why I am always complaining about how fat women are treated because "you're not fat!"

  18. It really is too bad that society focuses more on what people look like than on whether they are healthy, and even then it's quick to pass judgement without any facts. The social view of 'beauty' has never been static and thus leaves us all aiming at a moving target. I've found that I have better success losing weight when I'm focused on being healthy rather than looking a particular way (easier said than done), but I've also had times where I was not well and couldn't gain weight (which is much scarier). Of course by 'weight' I mean 'inches/cm' because that really seems more important (to one who sews) than stepping on a scale.

    I may be overstepping here but you have had (what I would think is) a very busy (and probably stressful) last few months. Maybe you can take some small time out to make sure you feel good about you, de-stress a bit, idk. I'm willing to bet that all of us out here in reading-gertie's-blog land think your shape/size is fine.

  19. I think a person's body image/size is all about what makes her feel confident (assuming whatever she's aiming for is not detrimental to her health). And I think it also has a lot to do with what point in her life she's at. I would be ecstatic if I had the body I do now once I was done having kids, but I haven't had any yet. Plus, I'm not in shape. I don't want to be able to run a marathon or anything, but I'd like to enjoy taking the stairs rather than huffing and puffing up them.

    So, the hubby and I joined a gym and I'm trying not to focus on the numbers on the scale or the ones on the tape measure.

  20. I am normally a generous (UK) size 14, vergin on 16. I lost loads of weight after having my daughter 8 years ago because she had food allergies, which meant I was eating a superhealthy diet. I got down to a (uk) size12 and loved it, but being that size I had to deny myself so many things, which was fine whilst I had to, but not so when I no longer had to. In the end I decided that life is far too short to worry about being the ideal thin-ness and be unhappy because I couldn't eat what I wanted. I have had 3 beautiful children and my body is testament to that. I am meant to be a curvier lass and I celebrate that, and that I can have a good meal and enjoy life to the full! It's a shame the media didn't take the same attitude!

  21. When I got pregnant with my eldest (now 15) I was horrified to learn I weighed 130 pounds. I wore size 10 at the time, and at 5'8" knew I looked great, but my normal weight had always been 180-150, and getting down to 130 without trying was freaky. I weigh a lot more than that now, and except when I am told that losing weight will solve my borderline cholesterol reading, I feel like a higher weight is where my body thrives. I realize this may be delusional, but I like the way I look in my clothes, and one of the most fabulous things about participating in Self-Stitched September was taking daily pictures and realizing that both the pictures I love and the pictures I hate are both the way that I look. A huge part of that comfort-ability is brought by being able to express myself in clothing, and creating that clothing. I don't know where my ego came from, but I'm always grateful that I like my body and face as much as I do, since there are times I do not.

    You're great, and knowing that someone as ideal to me as you are is so human really adds to your appeal. People connect with that about you, your passion and insight as well as your ability to model the lovely garments you've created for yourself.

  22. Making your own clothes really brings it home to you the size you really are!

    If you are ever in the market for a sustainable diet thats not about starving yourself, I'd recommend Weight Watchers Online. It trains you to eat better/the right amount, even when you're not on the diet. I might be slightly biased since it works for me.

  23. Maybe I run with a different crowd, but when my friends and I talk about weight we talk about OUR weight, not any kind of comparison. It seems that is a healthier way to discuss it anyway--no one at the table (or the one next to it) could be offended because there are no put down type comparisons (two of my friends are ministers, maybe this helps =D).

    Also, there is a reason the curvy '50's woman had a petticoat and a waist corset. You can see the evidence in the old movies. Oh, and never forget the cone shaped bra! OMG dangerous weapons!

    Underwear/foundations make the dress. Hence the droopy styles that have been popular for a long time--we like comfort.

    But, back to weight; my parents would complain I was too skinny and the next day my mom would tell me to pull in my big caboose. I figured out I didn't have a fat behind when my baby girl was born with the same darned back end and thighs. She was curvy at birth because of them. I figured no one could accuse a newborn of being fat. So, I only use how I feel and how my clothes fit as my only judge of weight. We don't own a scale.

    But I was a lucky one. No one told me I was fat as a teenager. That is a cruel thing to say and often not true.

  24. For me, my weight has always been tied to my activity levels. If my pants start to get tight it's usually a sign that I've been spending all my time sewing and no time outside doing stuff. And while my husband will tell me that being a seamstress would be very valuable during a zombie apocalypse, it's only useful if I'm first able to out run said zombies.

    Yes, in our house we put most all things into the context of a zombie apocalypse. It's actually far more fun and useful than you might imagine. That brie and red wine? We better enjoy it while we can. How fast is your mile? Well, are we talking about Romero zombies or Dawn of the Dead zombies? (My husband can run faster backwards than I can forwards, so I actually tend to just focus on endurance)

    I'm not trying to be flippant (though I think I am), it's just that people take fitness and weight Very Seriously when it doesn't have to be that way. Many things are better as a game.

  25. I began a journey to lose weight and be healthier in March of this year. I have lost two stone and feel much better for it...in my head AND in my body. I hurt less and am able to do much more physically than I was before. I know that at 5ft tall, the weight I was carrying was killing me. I am still losing and to get withing my healthy zone, I need to lose about another 15lbs or so. BUT, my husband and inlaws are driving me batty about it! My MIL takes the mick out of me for not having any dessert at her house on a Friday and makes it a point to say 'Just don't lose too much weight'. Hubby likes to remind me all the time about how sad he is to see my ample bum getting smaller, but he is happy that I am feeling better. It is a conflict that is driving me bonkers, to be honest, but I am doing this for myself and my kids.

  26. People come in different shapes and sizes and it is something that we as a society just have to accept. I feel that people should think more about being a healthy size, than an attractive one. But, I too have fallen victim to an obsession about my weight and have had to learn to let it go. I found my happy weight, where I didn't have to struggle to maintain it and I felt ok about what I saw in the mirror. I used to flip out about the size of my clothes but then I realized that it didn't matter. Most people can't tell what size you wear, only if the garment looks good or bad on you. As far as talking about how skinny hollywood is, if an actresss is naturally skinny, that is one thing, but if she has to fight her weight constantly to meet an industry standard than that sends a bad message to the rest of us. We should celebrate a healthy weight ideal. For any given height there is a very wide range of healthy weights. We, as women, should build eachother up and support eachother and celebrate the beauty in each of us! You look like you are a perfectly healthy weight to me and you should celebrate all the things that make you, you. Your weight is only one part of who you are and it is by no means, what defines you!

  27. Gertie, you look fabulous. If you want to exercise to be more in shape, go for it, but I don't think you should lose weight, especially if it left you feeling crummy in the past.

    Also, you said that looking at pictures brought on your current thoughts about weight. Some of the optical effects of photos really do appear to make the subject look fatter than they really are; check out this Straight Dope column on the subject: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2905/does-the-camera-really-add-ten-pounds-plus

  28. Thank you so much, Gertie, this post was beautifully written. I know precisely what you mean, as I feel it every time I see someone like Jennifer Hudson or Adele suddenly start slimming down rapidly. It's not that I begrudge them their newfound bodies, but that I worry about the rapid transformation, that they might be doing it because they think they "must" and not because it makes them feel better and the message it sends to women everywhere that there is only one acceptable way to be.

  29. I really appreciate your general thoughts on talking/writing about body image and size. I agree with many of your ideas about where our own thoughts on the issue stem from and how we can read that into what other people say.

    I am hopeful that we will all learn these things about ourselves. However, these conversations always seem to venture into the specifics of our own history with diets and numbers and I don't think that's healthy to discuss at all. It seems we feel we have to justify our right to have an opinion. I feel like numbers games only encourages competition and comparison. I wish we could stick to generalities and abstract ideas.

    On a side note, for the past year or so I've been trying to tell all my friends that they look beautiful on a random basis - whether they've lost weight, or gained it, or are just the same as before. I want them to know that they don't have to do anything special or drastic to be beautiful.

  30. We were just discussing weight at our knitting group on Sunday. I love my mom, but she had quite a negative influence on my body image. She is naturally thin and has never had to exercise or diet in her life. Food just doesn't interest her. Being just half her DNA, I'm somewhat thin in places, but generally very curvy and short - 5'0". I've never dieted in my life, but have taken preventative measures against the diabetes that runs in my family, and the heart disease, too. I've come to terms with my shape, and have not weighed myself in years.

    I think very similarly to a lot of the people who have posted here with the idea that people's worth is not (and should not be) tied to their weight. It's hard, though, to separate your self-worth from your looks... with the constant barrage of photoshop-ed images and cult of celebrity that surround us.

  31. I am naturally thin (a size 0-1)...I've always been thin...my dad and brothers are, too, but I'm the only girl. I have to hear comments constantly from family like "Oh, you looked so good when you were pregnant and your face was filled out.", and "Well, if you gained weight, you might have some breasts." :-\. I'm healthy, I eat what I want when I want, I don't even own a scale and have stayed at the same weight for about 13 years (since I was 19). I have no personal issues with my body image...it just seems everyone else does. The fact is, even IF I gained the weight they think I should, they would just find something else to critique me about...and they might start taking it out on my sewing, and THAT would REALLY hurt my feelings :-P.

  32. I feel like I come in at the opposite spectrum but still hold the same insecurities. I'm a very thin person, I always have been and by looking at my mom I think I always will be. I'm 5'7 and weigh 120 lbs, I've had two kids. When I wear a cute outfit (usually one I made or vintage) my friends will say "oh you look cute and sooo skinny" with a sneer (i don't think they even realize it comes out that nasty). And it hurts every time. They always are asking me what I eat and how much and how i stay so thin. i feel like they are judging me constantly; its such obsessive behavior. every cookie and french fry is watched. These friends are just just normal sized women. I hope all this doesn't come out sounding stupid and conceited. I feel pressure to not say anything about anyone's appearance ever bc i am thin therefore i feel i should have no say. but you were right, talking about your body never feels good and i hate that i feel guilty about venting about my thin self when someone would give a right arm for what i have.

    there are some big downsides to being of a slight build (not necessarily skinny), one namely is childbirth. I nearly lost both kids in labor bc they got stuck between my stupid small hips. we as women are built the way we are for this one single purpose, procreation. without superior modern medical attention my 'thin' genes would not have been passed down bc my kids and i would have died in childbirth.

    so really, is the apparent sudden rise of overly thin women in our society directly proportional to the rise in superior obstetrics?

  33. I agree that talking frankly about weight is difficult, it's often a bit of a mine-field to own up to your own insecurities and not-so-healthy desires without seeming to bash others.

    I was once buying a pair of jeans (size 8 tall) and the clerk said "Oh hey, we wear the same size!" and I blurted out something IDIOTIC like "Yeah, but I'd like to be a size smaller"... the girl just glared at me, and rightly so.

    I will say, I've found that when my "life is in order", which means low stress levels, prioritizing (fun) exercise and eating whole, fresh foods, I do often lose weight without trying. And I feel strong, not weak. I think doing it with "self love" is the only real way to go... I stopped the punishing diets years ago.

  34. The skinniest I ever was, when I can look back at those pictures and think I looked good, was when I was actually pretty miserable. I wasn't eating enough calories because I was so stressed about my job and personal life. I had trouble sleeping and my digestive system was also pretty messed up. I weighed about 30 lbs less than I do now and at least I liked that. But I knew I was unhealthy and unhappy and I'm glad it didn't last. I wish I could be thinner that easily while being healthy, but I don't stress about it until I can't fit into my clothes.

  35. Hello Gertie,

    I struggled with body image for a while in middle school, going so far as to skip meals and only eat carrots and low-fat yogurt for the meals I did eat. It was horrible bondage. Then I had an epiphany one day. I realized that I was obsessed with my self-image, and all of my time and energy was spent focused on ME. Ouch! From that point on, I decided to own my life and my body. I took my self-degrading thoughts captive, focusing instead on the other people in my life, causes outside of myself, and on developing my interests and talents. It was a process of literally changing my mindset.

    Now, ten + years later, I rarely think about my body in a negative way. I love the way I look, I take care of myself, and I live my life. It's great. My hope and prayer is that other women will find the same liberation in their lives, and be able to love and live happily in how they are made.

    Thanks for such a great post! :)

  36. Unfortunately, weight is a huge issue in our society. I am extremely aware of this now having 3 teenage daughters. Two of them are what society would call thin and the third one is significantly overweight. I try to stress health and not looks. My daughter that is overweight is a large boned girl and will never be stick thin, it would be unhealthy for her. My oldest daughter is like I was and just really skinny naturally, she eats whatever she wants and is still a size 2. I try to tell all 3 girls that they need to eat healthy food in healthy amounts and to get decent exercise. I try to model this for them. I would like youngest girl to lose about 20 lbs. but have not actually said this to her. I am paranoid about causing any kind of eating disorder or making her feel badly about herself. She is a naturally confident and beautiful young girl : ) However she weighs 155 lbs. and is about 5'2" and only 12 years old. I know this is not a healthy weight. I, on the other hand, after years of being told I was soooo skinny, have put on about 15 unwanted lbs. since turning 40. I feel uncomfortable in my body, and would really like to lose at least 10. I fear this will take more work than I feel like putting forth (meaning cardio, which I really hate lol) It is so hard to be and raise girls with a healthy body image in America :( Every woman I know has some sort of body issue.

  37. If only we could focus on what healthy is, and that it's different for everyone! I'm 5'7", and at my healthiest, I was 175 lbs - technically, overweight. Apparently I should be around 145 lbs. Whatever. I personally feel like the body image in the media is getting better. There are more and more ladies with softer edges now. Interestingly, making my own clothes has helped me come to terms with my own size. I'm ok with buying a pattern in a size 18, cause I can make something that actually fits, and flatters me! We just need to keep health in mind, and tell each other we're beautiful!

  38. You are beautiful, andI don't think you need to lose any weight. On the other hand, I do understand the feeling of self-consciousness, and the idea of not feeling at your best. Personally, I think health should be the focus, and I know that when I have been in better shape from exercise, I have been a bit thinner. I would like to get back there again, especially since it would prevent me from needing a whole new wardrobe. I agree with Fairevergreen, though; it has to be about sustainable lifestyle change, not dieting or some kind of exercise crash course. (Of course, I can't help but think of my friend One Hungry Dietitian here, since she's all about maintaining healthy change.)

    It's sad that we judge so much from appearance, but it is almost always the first impression we have of a person. I think, though, that we judge people just as much by the care apparent in their wardrobes as by their actual weight. Part of what people are assessing in appearance is how much self-respect a person has, how much they think they are worthy of making an effort.

  39. Since I became an adult, I thought I was fat. I weighed between 135 and 140 on any given day and I'm 5'7." I cannot believe that I spent two full decades feeling bad about my body. Consequently, I would go on a diet and then gain it all -- and more -- back. Because that's the science of a diet, I think. Now, I'm reaching 60 years old and weight about 205, a 15 pound weight loss. I'd like to lose 30 more, not because I hate myself -- I actually feel pretty good about my body, go figure -- but because as a woman ages, all the numbers automatically rise. I became dangerously close to diabetes 2 and weight loss makes that go away, usually. But, as I look back on myself crying over a 150 pound scale verdict, I simply cannot believe it. For me, I plan to get to 175 and then monitor myself, sure, probably for the rest of my life. But, NOT on a 1,200 calorie daily allowance. I watch my daughter -- a size 6 -- worry over herself and I feel bad that she may have heard me call myself fat in her first moments of understanding. Is this just something that women do? Almost every woman I know has those times of self-hating. Why do we do it? We can't just blame the fashion industry because, as a young hippie girl, I didn't pay attention to any of that. What is it?

  40. What a great post. Last January I weighed 55 kilos (121 pounds). I am 167 cm tall (5'6"). I had gotten that thin because I was very stressed and nervous about my job and about buying an apartment (which I eventually didn't buy). I couldn't sleep or eat and I was distressed and depressed. Then I met my (ex) BF, and he liked me all thin and slim fitting into my pants like that. And I did too. We ate out a lot, and I gained weight more and more till I was 64 kilos (141 pounds). He started making remarks about my weight. Eventually we broke up. I couldn't eat due to the breakup, and lost 4 kilos. My hair came out in quantities. I'm over it now (well, somewhat over it) and I've gone on a super-healthy diet inspired by the book "eat to live". I live in Israel and our diet is generally healthy, Mediterranean. At home I eat super healthy, veggies mostly, no processed foods, very little sugar, no fat, no meat, no dairy, and no white flour. When I go out or I am at a friend's house, I might eat other stuff. I don't feel hungry, and my digestion is much better (I have problems with dairy and with white flour). I exercise moderately and regularly, doing stuff I love (yoga, swimming, walking). I am now 58 kilos (128 pounds), hoping to lose two kilos more. For me going back to that weight is a symbolic way of getting over my relationship... But there's no rush.

    It's a complicated relationship between us and our weight. Sometimes we can't fight our urges. Sometimes we hate ourselves. Sometimes we're proud of ourselves for our regime. Sometimes we just don't care. It's important not to punish ourselves about our weight and food. I try. I have a long way to go :-)

    And let's not forget our genes! I get fat in my butt and thigh area. But I have rather "thin" genes. It's not fair to compare oneself to the naturally thin or the genetically-fat-inclined.

  41. oh heck weight and women, I say this as a woman! I've sadly been overweight most of my life I have lost weight but it's been unsustainable, no I don't eat rubbish, I'm veggie, I cook from scratch, I very rarely eat ready meals, I eat pizza only occasionally, but I'm overweight. I'm really struggling with this right now, I'm 45, I'm not going to look like I did at 25 anymore those are the facts!

    I wish I could accept myself as I am, but I can't, I'm trying and continue to exercise and eat healthy with the occasional treat and just think that the lessons I'm learning must be valuable!

    I remember a friends mother telling me when I was a teenager not to worry about my weight, she must have been about the age I am now, she said I have worried my whole life about my weight and it hasn't made one bit of difference, I am who I am, please don't go down the track I did, sadly I have!

  42. I have such a complicated relationship with my weight and body image. I've always been a bit chubby, save for my late teens and early twenties. I've also had knee, hip and back trouble since my early teens (exacerbated by extra weight.) I'm 38 now, have had a kid, and am trying to really make a concerted effort to eat less and better and exercise more. I've lost about fifteen pounds so far and I almost hate to admit it, but I feel so. Much. Better. Now. As in, my knees and back don't give me as many problems now (knock on wood), I stand up straighter, sex is better. All because my body is stronger and lighter.
    Also for me, I've been heavier when I'm not happy with my life (rough teenage years, unhappy post-college years at a miserable job.) So for me,there is a definite correlation between unhappiness and my weight.
    I started sewing at my heaviest (180 lbs at 5'5", even though a lot of that was heavier muscle) because I couldn't find cute things to wear. I was chagrined to cut out size 20 patterns, but more chagrined to alter everything for my long torso and short legs :)

  43. I second so much of what your readers had to say about weight. The whole topic makes me weary!!! Whether you're losing or gaining, thin or not, there's such division over weight. I came up with these affirmations to help me deal with the topic of weight:
    They are the only principles I know that offset the unfairness of weight discrimination.

    •I am not my body. And neither are you.
    •Our bodies are shells for our spirits. We use them to live out our lives here on earth. Other than that, they have no significance at all.
    •I respect my body as a created work that I had nothing to do with. Occasionally, I may loathe some aspect of it and wish to improve it. That’s common to all people.
    •I am not superior/inferior to anyone for any reason, but especially not because of a body type that’s currently deemed socially acceptable/unacceptable.
    •I can achieve happiness, healthiness, and better character regardless of my weight.
    I accept others for who they are inside and out. •When I accept them, I learn to love them, despite all differences.
    •I perform better and with greater ease when I am accepted, but I can be happy whether I am accepted or not.
    •Whether I have benefitted unfairly or been penalized unfairly, I strive to bridge any gap that divides me from other people.
    •I assume the best in other people.
    •I take responsibility for the intentional and the unintentional aspects of my deeds. When I realize my errors, I try to correct them.

  44. Hey Gertie,
    What makes me sad is how we seem to tie our happiness up with our weight (something I'm totally guilty of). I posted briefly about it this weekend because I've been sorting through old photos and found one of myself in 2004 when I was probably 90lbs less than I am now. Looking at it I just remember how sad I was (for non-weight related reasons). It was a really rough period of my life but it was also when other people were saying I looked the best.

    At the start of that year I'd lost 30lbs with a Cinderella mindset that things would be so much better if I could lose the weight. I did it but the pounds don't take you're problems with them. I have been heavy and happy and I've been heavy and sad. My feeling is that happiness and weight are not inversely-proportional to each other.

    Now, I'm at my heaviest weight and it's uncomfortable not from an emotional aspect as much as a physical one. I joined a local health centre last week and enjoyed the perplexed look on the trainers face when I told him I wasn't interested in losing weight but damn it, I wanted to be able to run for a solid 30 minutes.

    Thank you for opening a forum for such a personal subject. Reading everyone's own takes is fantastic and eye-opening.
    x Alana

  45. Hi Gertie,
    I am a longtime lurker. But I have strong opinions about this, and wanted to weigh in. Sally at alreadypretty.com had a great post I read somewhat recently about why women's bodies are considered the subject of public discourse. Or to state it another way, how a discourse of "health" somehow makes it ok for us to comment publicly on women's appearances, couched in concerns for "health". Why is other women's "health"--particularly those we don't know--considered appropriate for us to comment upon? Sally's point, which I totally agree with, was that "health" is private. Is the heavy woman you see on the bus every day unhealthy? Perhaps; maybe not, but why does either situation make her body an acceptable subject of public commentary? My point is not so much that weight doesn't equal health, which we all know, but that "concerns" for a woman's weight or health do not make her body public property. They don't need to be the concern for public discussion, unless the person in question makes them--as you have eloquently done in today's post.

  46. As someone who is curvy (and currently overweight) I can relate to this. I've learned to work with what I've got at the moment, and sewing one's one clothing really helps alleviate (I think) some of the anxiety we have when looking at ourselves in the mirror. Because, realistically, a person who is carrying extra weight is going to look better in clothes that fit her well than a skinnier woman in ill-fitting garments.

    I've been wanting to lose weight - not just so that I can meet some arbitrary goal, but just to be healthier overall. Then I got sick in July and had to go on a severely restricted diet. I hardly ate anything - mostly because I wasn't feeling well but also because I was afraid of experiencing the pain I'd had with the illness. I lost a little weight. Even when I could eat a larger variety of foods, I was still not eating large portions for fear of overeating and having the pain again. So I simply started cutting back the amount of food that I eat. By that, I mean I take a smaller portion and wait until I've finished my entire plate to decide whether or not I want seconds. And I haven't wanted them.

    So now I've lost about 10 pounds since July and I haven't done much other than change my eating habits and walk a little more/farther. I figure this is something that I can maintain and is healthier than severely restricting my intake. Plus, it's not a diet. It's not something I will stop doing once I reach some arbitrary number, and I think that's what's important. I don't have a particular goal other than being healthy and not making another visit to the hospital. Maybe that's part of the key - to not think about it in terms of numbers. I'll be happy if I can lose a bit more weight because it's good for me health-wise. But I'll still be happy if I don't. And anyway, my husband said he didn't want me to lose too much weight. His reason? He likes me curvy.

    Plus, people all over are getting bigger on average and I don't just mean weight-wise. Superior nutrition and sometimes an over-abundance of food (healthy or not) has meant that our society is producing larger people. My older daughter turned 11 in Aug. and wears a women's size 8.5 shoe. That's bigger than my foot. She's also almost as tall as me (I'm 5'3"). My son is 2 1/2 but he's already in a size 3T in RTW clothes and if I make him something I have to alter it to accommodate his broad shoulders and torso. He's been bigger since he was born - he was 9 lbs and his head was 14". Superior pre-natal care means healthier and generally bigger babies. We need to stop comparing ourselves to images from the past when those women didn't have good nutrition.

  47. I think you're on the right track here. As women, we're unhealthily obsessed with weight, especially when you compare it to other measurements that figure in to our overall look. Maybe it's because we can change our weight -- or we've been marketed to enough times that we think we *can* or *should* change our weight. I'm 5'1", definitely on the short side. I have a female friend who is, as she says, 5'12" (aka 6' in some circles). Are either of us more or less desirable because of our height? Is it healthy for me to wear the highest heels I can find, or for her to slouch uncomfortably to try to appeal to some mythical "best" height?

    In shoes I wear a 6 wide, which can be a difficult size to find -- but I would never consider surgery to be able to fit into a regular size 6 shoe, much less a 4 or a 2. And yet women undertake drastic measures to fit into one dress size smaller, rather than just accepting that this is the dress size they wear, and the number shouldn't matter any more than their shoe size does.

    In most circles it's considered rude to talk about a woman's bra size -- see also this HuffPo post on women working in a lingerie shop being asked to display their bra size on their name tags: http://huff.to/svoeNG -- yet we have no problem commenting on waist size. They can both play a part in sewing for yourself, sure, and yet we're somehow able to talk about full bust and small bust adjustments (and sway back, no butt, tall, short adjustments) without bringing into question our worth as women.

    And while I do think that when you make your living displaying your body to create art, as with actresses and models, you open yourself up to people commenting on your looks, I also think that we as the audience need to grow up a bit, and stop focusing on weight. Lea Michele may have lost weight, and if you watch her week to week over the course of months and years, that sort of thing becomes easily apparent. But has she lost weight because of illness (none of our business), personal stress (none of our business), her shooting schedule (none of our business), or because her manager/employer/the Hollywood machine has told her she must be thinner to make it big? That last one kinda is our business, because *our* obsession with weight is what keeps the Hollywood obsession with weight going. Are we buying magazines with "Top 10 tips to get a bikini body FAST!" on the cover? Are we clicking on links to online articles about how a celebrity lost so much weight so quickly, or looking at paparazzi pictures of some starlet's cellulite thighs (oh the horror!)?

    Here are some things I care about Lea Michele or any other actress: How old was she when she knew she wanted to be an actress? How many years did she work to get to where she is now? How many auditions did she flunk before landing this one? What other projects is she working on now? What role would she love to play someday? Here's what I don't care about: how often the costume department needs to take in or let out her wardrobe.

    And that extends to bloggers too, Gertie. I'm a big fan of yours, and I love that you write about body image and feminism and how they relate to retro sewing. But I no more need to know your waist size or how much it fluctuates than I need to know your shoe size or bra size or height. It's a non-issue. What I want to know is what new designs are you dreaming up? What sewing problem have you been turning over and over in your head the last few weeks? How's the book going? How are you adjusting to working from home? You make wonderful, beautiful clothes, and look terribly cute in them -- but it's your brain I care about, not your weight.

  48. When I was pregnant and having babies and nursing them I felt great about my body. For the first time in my life I appreciated my body for what it could do instead of just how it looked. Of course now that my youngest is a toddler I'm back to wondering how on earth I can get back into shape, comfortably fit into those pre-baby jeans etc. I just can't seem to recapture that triumphant attitude I had about my body at the time. Your post reminded me of the conversation I've been having with myself alot lately - I know I could/should loose weight, would I gain it back, do I want to look like this forever or do I need to be thinner to feel better etc. Ugh.

  49. I too had one of those diets where I trimmed off weight and I felt great all the time I was doing it. However, I hit a point where maybe I wasn't feeling as well as I had been.

    Weight will always be a battle with me and I so wish that I could create my own clothing, a talent which I'm extremely jealous of, so that I could wear clothing that I love, instead of clothing that I just kind of like.

  50. The first thing I thought when you commented on Lea Michele yesterday was a comment her character makes in Episode 1 of this season...she is reflecting back on who she was when she first joined the glee club and she mentions that at the time she still had a layer of baby fat and no bangs. It is interesting that these are the things the character chooses to highlight. Further reinforcing the notion that superficial aspects are more significant than personal growth and emotional change. So many people are dissatisfied in society today, it is really sad. Maybe because other people's lives and circumstances are right there for us to see and we are constantly comparing ourselves. This is why I don't have TV and I don't have a scale in my home. It is not healthy for me to obsess on a number, it would drive me mad.

  51. I think healthy women of all sizes are gorgous. I tend to think the women who induce ultra thin unhealthfully don't look sexy, but this is just my opinion induced by being a nutritionist.

    I am fat and have been most of my adult life. At 17-22 I was able to keep my weight down to a "healthy" weight (150). I ate about 700-1000 calories per day and worked out around 3 hours a day. Then at 23 I dropped down to 130 by eating 300-700 calories every other day and working out about 8 hours a day (I was homeless, this was not on purpose). I thought I looked great and so did everyone around me but I was never flirted with. As soon as I started gaining weight people started putting me down for being so "unhealthy". I increased my intake up to 1500-2000 calories per day and dropped my excercise off to 30 min to an hour. I gained up to 200-220 and looked great. I didn't feel as good but men and women both flirted with me and it was incredable how many elbows hit rib cages of loved ones when I walked by.

    Women tend to feel that we need to look like the steriotypical beauty to be loved. It is not true. If we could learn to love ourselves the way we are and be as healthy as we can be for our body type we would find someone or many someones that can and will love us. And isn't love, respect, and comfort why we alter our looks?

  52. Gertie I think you look beautiful. You are not a skinny model but a real woman. However if you are unhappy with the 20 pounds extra I will tell you what works for me to keep my weight right where I want it. I cut out all processed foods and only eat real food like meats, fish, etc. vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, and eggs. Very limited on the sugar and all the white carbs like potatoes and corn. It's basically a Primal or Paleo type diet. I know how much I can cheat to eat a cookie or two. You are so right what works for one may not for another. I wish you the best sweet lady.

  53. Gertie I think you look beautiful. You are not a skinny model but a real woman. However if you are unhappy with the 20 pounds extra I will tell you what works for me to keep my weight right where I want it. I cut out all processed foods and only eat real food like meats, fish, etc. vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, and eggs. Very limited on the sugar and all the white carbs like potatoes and corn. It's basically a Primal or Paleo type diet. I know how much I can cheat to eat a cookie or two. You are so right what works for one may not for another. I wish you the best sweet lady.

  54. I don't understand why we have to look skinny or fat. The best look you get - when you look healthy :) You look healty and that's great!
    Ps. I love your blog and your work!

  55. Thank you, thank you thank you for a necessary post, and so gracefully said.

    I hate to see body-positive talk among women (of any weight) come at the expense of women of any other weight. We are all women together, and all subject to false and destructive beauty standards. Let's rise above them, not ratify them.

    When bloggers bash thin women, I wonder if they can know how absolutely unwinnable that game is. All "thin" can ever be is "not yet fat today", and "not as thin as I could be". Only when we walk away from it do we remember how to live and be happy.

  56. Good Grief did you open up a can of worms or what?! 54 comments and counting! I have been on a diet since I was 12-teased for being chubby....The more I try NOT to think about my weight the more I THINK about my weight!!!! At what point do you finally go.. OKAY ENOUGH ALREADY!!!??? I am 45 now- I think maybe enough already? If it I could just say anything to you Gertie- I met you in person, and you are a very striking lady, You are so photogenic your smile lights up a room... Overweight, never, never entered my head!
    Have a great day to you and all your readers out there- oh and have a cupcake....

  57. I feel like every woman (and man) struggle with how they look, and the first place they look at is weight. Mass media isn't the best place to be looking for inspiration. Everyone there is stick thin with giant breasts. However, that's not to say that a proper diet and exercise isn't important because in all honesty, there are a lot of risks that come with eating unhealthy and being overweight (not fat...overweight, just a bit of my pre-med mind coming in). This whole concept of weight and image really got me making my own clothes that suit my body type. I don't feel pressured to struggle to fit into someone else's size like how forever21 keeps getting smaller and smaller. It takes a lot of courage to talk about your own weight and your own self-image, and I thank you so much for being so open and honest to the readers. It really makes me think about my own experiences, but most importantly reminds me of why I love sewing so much.

  58. I thought I'd join in on the conversation-- I personally like being the thinner me. I'm pre-diabetic because I was overweight most of my childhood. My mom is very negative about skinny people and exercise and I thought I was at the weight I was meant to be. I lost a lot due to stress and felt horrible when people told me I looked great because I was so unhappy. Then I gained a lot back due to stress. Then I met my husband and he (very cautiously) let me know it's ok to diet and exercise and be healthy. That being healthy doesn't mean I'm a mean person- like my mom would think. I've lost about 50 pounds over the last 2 years and hope to lose another 25. For me, I'm not happier because I lost weight, I lost weight because I'm happier now. And I think it's strange that so many women think that men don't worry about their own weight- a lot of them do. I wish everyone could just do what is best for them and not judge. I think you're awesome, Gertie, and I didn't think you were trying to be mean about Lea Michelle-- the topic of weight just seems to bring up a lot of issues for a lot of readers (and people in general).

  59. I felt just as bad about myself when I was a twig as I do now that I am overweight. We need to love ourselves, not some stupid number (weight or dress size) we think should define us. When I was skinny it was because I was so much taller than everyone else. My issue isn't my weight, but that I don't love myself. I'm working on that, and hopefully as I eat healthy foods and try to stay active my weight will drop a bit and I will become healthier. I try not to compare myself to others, but unfortunately I still compare myself to my teenage self! I don't expect to ever be 125 lbs (at 5'9") again. I want to be in the healthy range (which is up to 169 lbs) and to feel good, with energy and no pain. I decide what I think looks good, and it isn't being a stick figure. :)

  60. When a woman, like Lea Michele, who is a normal, healthy weight (medically speaking) loses weight, I think it's normal to wonder why - work stress? Hollywood pressure? a life event? illness? I did not think you were "skinny bashing", just observing. Was it intentional that you posted a photo of her with Amber Riley? Together they represent the only two female body types that Hollywood seems to accept or acknowledge.

    My weight has fluctuated over the years, but I've been a normal, healthy weight for my height (again, medically speaking) for the last 3-4 years. And in that time, I've realized how there are lots of words both complimentary and derogatory to describe those who are either overweight or underweight, but not so many to describe the middle range that doctors would say is "normal". I kind of feel like I'm in limbo with how to describe myself these days - I'm not "fat" or "skinny". I'm somewhere in the middle. And I wonder how that lack of language and that lack of discussion about the middle affects the dialogue about weight in general.

    We all come in different heights, weights and proportions. I don't believe that one size or body type holds a monopoly on beauty. But I wonder whether we can accept all body types and sizes as beautiful when the whole middle is missing from what we see in the media.

  61. You are right we are all different. Its a shame that people just can't accept it and embrace it. I have a friend who is skinny as a rake and sometimes I think I'd love to be like that but then she is insecure about her body too and is desperate to put on weight and feels like a boy. Us women can never win! You find that even if you go on the crash diets and lose loads you may be happy that you are skinny but not really happy inside because you are depriving yourself every day. You are a beautiful writer and I'm sure you are a beautiful person too. XxxX http://thesecondhandrose.blogspot.com/

  62. Dear Gertie, I never watched "Glee" and so I can't comment on that, but as many people here seemed to talk about being "fat" (though I admit I didn't read all the comments here), I want to share my experiences with being "thin".

    My lowest weight was 47 kilos, and I'm 168 cm tall. When I was so thin (when I was 21, few years ago), people around me envied me and I received compliments, but in fact I didn't feel comfortable - I had lost so much weight because of permanent stress and severe personal problems. I thought it quite sick and felt weird about people envying a sick person who had unhealthy weight. I gained 10 kilos when I got better. Now I have 55 kilos and I feel so much better. I'm still considered very thin, but I eat and feel healthy and accept my body now the way it is.
    I can tell you that being thin is not always equal to being liked, loved, admired or accepted. It was in fact really difficult for me, even with a weight similar to the (strange) ideals we see in magazines. When I was a teenager (with about 50 kilos), I got laughed at because of my rather thin body and small breasts.
    People are different, and so are their bodies. Why can't we (or "society") accept that? I remember something you wrote about body issues in your blog somewhere: "This is what I've got. Deal with it, world." That really made me smile & think, and it gave me confidence. It still comes to my mind sometimes, and I memorized it like a mantra for situations when I feel insecure.
    So some women are curvy, some are not. That's nature. Why all the fuss? I learned to like myself and my body the way it is. Sometimes I wish I had a curvy body (so much prettier in 50s look, I think ;D), but most of the time I'm happy with what I've got.
    I think the "weight problem" has a lot to do with self-confidence. If you are unhappy, no matter if you're "fat" or "thin", you are more likely to feel uncomfortable.
    I think we should learn to love ourselves the way we are, and if we FEEL comfortable, healthy and pretty, we ARE pretty because we "radiate" confidence and healthiness.
    Gertie, you are pretty the way you are, and though I don't know you personally, I can feel (and tell from your blog posts ;P) that you're a nice and smart person. There's no reason for feeling uncomfortable or insecure about weight or anything else! Keep up the good work with your blog! (I'm a long-time reader here. And I will purchase your book, too ;D Hopefully I will be able to get it in my country) My best wishes and many thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge!
    I hope I made everything clear, my English is not the best ;/

  63. I believe that ordinary women should try to accept themselves at their natural weight, but it has to be a HEALTHY weight. A BMI of 30 is not healthy. I lose patience with "Fat Acceptance " proponents because they are denying evidence about the effect of obesity on the body. They are also sending a terrible message to kids.

    People on TV, film, and the stage, especially women, are held to a different standard, one which many women seem all-too-happy to enforce. I don't like it, but I'm not going to get overly worked up about it. The problem of a lookist culture is that everyone is judged on their looks even if they don't have the genetic heritage, money, and leisure to meet whatever ridiculous standard is in place at the moment.

    I'm trim. Sure, I could always lose five pounds, even 10 pounds, but objectively, I'm thin and I'm not on TV. I do it by watching what I eat and by trying to get some activity.

    Some people write down everything they eat. (Of course you would record coffee, if it has milk in it, it has calories. Or you might want to be aware of what effect that kind of stimulant has.)

    Some people stick to certain food groups, or certain types of foods (you know which ones) are rarely eaten.

    They weigh themselves frequently, using a fat percentage scale.

    Whatever works.

  64. I've expanded the rule about what not to discuss in polite company: Religion, politics, and diets.

    I'll 'fess up: I lost forty pounds last year. I was far from huge but I was clinically overweight, had developed some very bad eating habits, and, worst, was completely out of shape. Honestly, being out of shape bothered me a lot more than my weight did. I did the calorie counting thing (I never went below 1600 calories) and got out the running shoes.

    I made a point, though, of not discussing weight with anyone except the other people on the calorie website message boards. Obviously, people eventually noticed, but I'd say, "Oh, I started jogging again," and change the subject. I wasn't ashamed of it, I just didn't want it to be that big a part of my life, and that's a hard thing to avoid. Keeping it under wraps spared me a lot of bother.

    I go by pants: If my newest jeans fit, I'm OK. I haven't weighed myself in about four months, and I don't feel like I'm having trouble maintaining.

    And, sorry, I'm tired of "curvy" being a sugarcoating for, um, not thin. My mother is thick but not curvy. I'm [relatively] thin but am still curvy. Curvy is a shape, not a weight category.

  65. The best thing about learning to sew well is that you can figure out how to accommodate your body type if it's not the "ideal."

    Although I enjoy certain aspects of this blog, I think that most '50s styles are unflattering to contemporary American women. I also find the spirit of the '50s to be thoroughly uncongenial to the way I approach life.

  66. I just love this post!

    I am an almost 30 year old woman who has struggled all my life with being underweight, and unfortunately, this means I have been harassed and insulted just as overweight people have been harassed and insulted about their weight. I understand being underweight is not something that people really want to address in the media or any public forum for that matter. But this problem, just as being overweight, has its issues as well, just as you have mentioned about not feeling great being 20lbs lighter.

    Fortunately enough, I have had the strength to resist/ignore people accusing me of having eating disorders and calling me "skinny b*tch" among many other things. I just so happen to have a faster metabolism than most. I also, after months and months of searching for ways to gain at least a little bit of weight, just figured it out on my own. Sadly, I was too scared to go to my doctor to ask. Amazingly, it is the same answer as to losing weight; exercising, eating healthy and drinking lots of water.

    Underweight or overweight, in the end it comes down to your own confidence in yourself. Do not let others dictate what you "should" look like, let yourself do that. I have found that your confidence is what people find the most attractive about you.

    As for celebrities and TV/movie stars, they can keep losing weight since it now seems to be a required work hazard for them. I thought Lea Michelle looked better before she started losing weight, but what does it matter? I for one will never ever, envy their situation.

    Gertie, I love your look and love seeing your pictures on Burdastyle and here on your blog. Please just keep doing what you are doing because you look fabulous and are an inspiration!

  67. It's never about weight in my book, but how you look and feel. You look damn hot. And it feels amazing to wear what one has made with out falling over from exhaustion. Fabulous post.
    Work what you have.

  68. What a fabulous post - I couldnn't agree more, and I go through the same struggle on regular basis, so I'm assuming many others do too. Sometimes I 'win' (I feel like a million bucks in my own skin), other days I give into the pressure and use intake restriction to try to 'control the situation'. Beauty ideals are a vicious cycle.

  69. Thanks so much for posting this - it is so honest and vulnerable! I spent most of my life, from preteen to young adult, going on diets and having a pretty effed up image of myself. When I discovered the fat acceptance movement via the fatshionista.livejournal.com community and through some other blogs, I felt like I had finally found a place where I could celebrate my fatness without feeling like I needed to change, to make myself smaller, etc.

    Now I blog about fat fatshion (at wearelargepeople.blogspot.com) and even started my own business as a personal stylist to help women of ALL shapes and sizes feel fabulous about themselves.

    I think the biggest thing that helped me in my road to self-love (which I have by no means arrived at on a consistent basis, there are still bad days!) was to realize that EVERY BODY is valid. Thin folks, fat folks, folks with mobility issues, old folks, etc. We are all valid, we all have bodily autonomy and we are all the final word on our own health and wellness. Like you said in a post a while back - we live in a good body. Our bodies enable us to be present in the world.

    Wow, long comment :)

  70. I couldn't agree more with your thoughts here. Because the media tends to portray both ideals - ie. "women have real curves" or "skinny is healthy" - it's hard to remember that whether you have curves, or are naturally thin, you are beautiful. Our concept of what is healthy or beautiful changes so much anyway, it's stupid to base how we feel about ourselves off of the ever changing tides of a fickle society. Excellent post. :)

    I actually found your blog from a friend because I wrote a very similar post on my own blog today.


  71. Something you said a long time ago comes back to me again and again. This is the first time in history that we are expected to look the "ideal" without undergarments doing the trick for us.

    I am not happy with the way I look right now because I'm comparing myself to me - albeit a younger version of me. I don't care what other women look like, but I get jealous when they have motivation to move when I don't.

    I'm also able to make myself look good at this size and I'm making the best of my flaws. And I still eat what I like - because life is too short to give up the pleasure of eating good food.

  72. Thank you so much for addressing this Gertie! You've done it in a really positive and sensitive way, too. As a naturally thinner person, I've often been told off for feeling insecure about my weight and wanting to lose some pounds. It seems pretty sad that society as a whole is always feeling bad about how they look regardless of how they look. And other people jumping on them for having insecurities only makes it worse. I'm totally with you on the embracing of the differences. We're all different! It's great!

  73. At our house, I have banned the F-word and the S-word. My younger children squirm when they hear others say them... Fat and Skinny.

    Instead we talk about healthy bodies versus unhealthy bodies. Cuz lets face it, skinny can be just as unhealthy as fat.

    Dieting is a disaster. The only "diet" that works is one that you can realistically live with for the rest of your life; not some crazy 500 calorie diet or where you can only eat bean sprouts for a week...No one is going to live like that for the rest of their lives, nor should they.

    Its about being confident in the body you've got. Not having confidence sucks. Starving yourself isn't fun either. For whatever reason, the reality of eating reasonably, responsibly, healthily and moving your body doesn't seem to be satisfying to the masses. In most cases, if you do that your body will be exactly the way it is supposed to be. :)

  74. After reading through all the comments, there was one more thing that I realized I wanted to say. The talk about a "healthy weight" as what's beautiful. Something about it has always rubbed me the wrong way. Like there's something inherently ugly about being unhealthy. Some people suffer from ill-health through no fault of their own. I know that it's not the intention of the people who use the term "healthy weight" to put down these people, but I think it's an angle that we should be aware of.

  75. Gertie, this is something I'd love to write about like you do, but as soon as I sit down, everything I write seems flat or cliched. So thank you for starting a discussion!

    I lost a lot of weight by joining weight watchers about 4 years ago. I dropped 25kg over 12 months (I had quite a lot to loose!). But I had a totally different response to you and your weight loss - I felt great! I had gotten into an exercise regime I loved and felt full of energy.

    Over the four years since I hit my goal weight I have gained a few kilos, but I find my eating and exercise habits have changed so that I really don't think about needing to "keep thin" at all. I recently gained 2 kgs while travelling, but now I am home and back into my old routine, it seems to be sliding off again without any effort.

    But the thing that really changed the way I think about my body, wasn't weight watchers, but discovering vintage fashion. I don't think I had ever really dressed for my shape before. Finding clothes that fit me, and made me look good, make me realise I didn't need to change my body for the clothes, but the clothes for my body. I feel much more at ease with the way I look now that I have a wardrobe of lovely things that I feel beautiful in. I think the style blogging world opens us up to a whole bunch of wonderful aesthetic possibilities, so that we're not just consuming the super slim clothes and figures in magazines.

  76. mala_14:

    There's nothing wrong with the phrase "healthy weight." Although weight is not a perfect proxy for health, it is strongly associated with a person's health. One reason bad skin repels people is because during the evolution of human beings having a skin disease signaled illness.

    And if you're overweight because of an illness or a medication, you're still unhealthy.

    When people speak of "healthy weight," they mean a weight appropriate for one's bone structure and age. Some people are not built like Twiggy, back when Twiggy was thin.

  77. Little Black Car:

    I tend to avoid the topic as well. But very often someone who is clinically overweight and doesn't exercise starts opining on other fit and trim people's food and activity choices. It never fails to astonish.


    Putting aside people with anorexia or individuals whose illness has made them lose weight, the people with weight-related health problems are usually fat. Ask any doctor. No one is talking about unhealthily or unhealthy thin people.

  78. I used to be insecure about my body, not so much b/c I thought I was fat but b/c I didn't like my muscular legs. So until, oh, high school, I refused to wear shorts. I remember my friends essentially bribing me into wearing shorts at the end of the school year, and how embarrassed I was the whole time... until one of my guy friends told me I had "great calves". That definitely changed how I viewed myself! These days I'm comfortable with my body, thanks in large part to sewing and being able to adjust clothes to my personal style - and also b/c it took me this long to develop one, and to stop caring about what (I thought) others thought! Anyway. Thank you for such a great post =)

  79. I think it is good to focus on 'healthy' rather than weight. When people say they want to lose kilos/lbs I suggest they measure themselves instead because muscle weighs more than fat so if you are exercising you will probably get some muscle definition but get on the scales and get bummed because it doesn't register a lot of weight loss.

    Really, anyone can be unhealthy - fat, skinny or inbetween. It;s about knowing your body shape and accepting that no matter how fat or skinny you are you will always be bigger in the hips and thighs for some or bigger in the boobs for others. Some are short, some are tall.

    I have a 6 year old daughter and I have had to change the way I talk about body image because little people have big ears!! She says to me 'Do you need to exercise to lose weight, mum?' And I have to take a deep breath and say 'No, I need to exercise to keep my heart healthy and my body working right.' Love your body, don't beat it up. For everyone this will mean something different!

    Real women have curves isn't true and real women are size 0 isn't true. The truth is Real Women Come in Different Sizes - just work out how that translates to healthy for yourself.

  80. Anonymous 5:43 p.m.:

    Somebody will always have an opinion, complaint, unsolicited advice, etc. In my case, it's two of my mother's friends telling me I don't look well. I look fine. I feel great. I ignore them. They have both admitted to Mom that they're jealous, but I don't flaunt the loss and how they react is not my fault and should not be my problem.

    RebeccaK: Vintage sewing did wonders for my body image, even before I lost weight. Nothing ever fit me properly. Turns out, 1940's patterns fit me with almost no alteration (let the hips out a little, is all). I can now make adorable clothes that fit me. I no longer have to be uncomfortable, physically and psychologically, every day because of my build. Even if I'd never lost an ounce, my life has improved dramatically because of sewing.

  81. Gertie,

    I'm also a dressmaker, and my best friend is a professional photographer, and it's been a great and difficult journey for both of us to grow healthier in the way we see ourselves (which takes much longer than learning to see OTHERS in a healthy way!) Anyway, I just got around to reading this post today, which was lovely especially after reading my photog buddy's post here - http://blog.emilylapish.com/2011/11/be-kind-a-quick-little-post-for-your-day/ - I highly recommend the quick read, if you have a second.

  82. Crazy!!!! I just blogged on this EXACT subject this morning (http://blog.emilylapish.com/2011/11/be-kind-a-quick-little-post-for-your-day/), and a friend pointed me to this post since it was in the same vein. It's so heavy on my heart, this self-image issue. It saddens me to see so many (MYSELF included) speaking such negative words to ourselves and others. Thank you for this post!

  83. I think that you're lovely, Gertie, and thank you for this honest post.

    When I was 15, I lost nearly 20 pounds and was very thin ( I wasn't overweight to begin with). After I lost that weight I fell in love for the first time in a big way. I thought I had the world in my pocket.

    Of course I gained the weight back and the boyfriend didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore. I cringe when I think of the trauma and self-loathing I heaped on myself.

    I can't do anything to change what happened in the past. What I CAN do is love my body now to the best of my ability and talk with my daughter about how she feels about her body.

    My little girl is just seven, and already struggling to accept the shape of her body. It's heartbreaking, but we all have to keep talking about this issue to get past it.

  84. Gertie, I think you are GORGEOUS and don't need to lose a pound! As women, it's so common for us to talk about our weight and how we feel about it, but I try not to do it. After reading the book "Losing It" I realized that the diet industry is hugely responsible for how we women feel about our bodies. Since reading that book, I never talk about "how fat I am" or that I would love to lose 5 pounds.* I also don't say to anyone, "Have you lost weight? You look great!" People look great no matter what their body size is.

    Bravo to you, Gertie for writing about your experience! I always love your honesty!

    *For the record, I have had two babies, as have most of my friends, and being pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum does a doozie on your body. It is extremely hard not to talk about how you feel about your weight after that. I only wish our society could accept that making a baby is a miraculous thing and, yeah, it changes your body. But look at what you've done: made a human being!!

  85. I have a wide circle of female friends and acquaintances. Almost everyone I know sews, embroiders, quilts, or is in some way creative. Through "respect for the cloth," I reached some point of equilibrium.

    Some of my friends are post-menopausal. Some are married, others single.

    The women I know and dress come in every imaginable shape and size and coloring. In my work, I focus on bringing out the positive aspects of every woman I work with- clients, colleagues, etc. The thing is, I respect these people and they respect me. It's a mutual respect based on knowledge and hard work.

    I know I'm lucky to have a circle like that, and I have to say that knowing so many creative, strong, individual women has encouraged me to grow as a person.

  86. I haven't had a full length mirror for about three years now and, honestly, it's great. This last year I gained quite a bit of weight, yet don't feel (too much) insecurity over it. I'm also pregnant at the moment so that helps! But I started this pregnancy 35 lbs heavier than I normally weigh. I've gained my usual pregnancy weight of about 35+ lbs and still have 2 months to go. While at times it doesn't feel good (hips hurt, back hurts, can't bend over as far sooner than normal) due to the extra weight, I'm not real stressed about it like I was with my first two pregnancies. I think not having a full length mirror that I stare into every day criticizing this area and that imperfection has helped. Of course it has it's cons. There's been times I've left the house in an outfit that didn't really go together like I thought it did in my head! But for the most part, it's brought a greater acceptance of myself for myself.

  87. Last year, I lost some weight, and I started talking with some people about it. The weight loss wasn't deliberate, but it was enough that I had to do some whole new wardrobe shopping (which I didn't really want to do). And as I'm in my early twenties, this was new to me.

    I wanted to talk about it with somebody. I remember being very careful about who I talked to about it because I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. So I told only my best friend (who is one of the prettiest people I have ever met). My best friend was uncomfortable with that conversation, even though all I said was that I lost weight and all she said was that she gained weight.

    But since then, I've been very sensitive to losing weight in myself because it can be such a contentious topic. Some people noticed when I lost the weight, and when they said something about it, I could hear the jealousy in their voices.

    But it just goes to show me how ingrained this is in our society, that such a simple thing can be so emotion-laden.

  88. Its funny, and sad, I was just thinking that I remember in freshman year of college trying to work out to make my rear bigger... and then work out to make it smaller... within like 6 months. Yikes. So glad to be more comfortable in my own skin now. But I feel slightly ashamed how flattered I feel when people say I'm thin or tiny - I'd much rather be strong or athletic.

  89. I feel that some of the comments are problematic - especially the few that mention being "unhealthily fat". All you can tell about a fat person is... that they're fat! :)

    Sure, I'm obese according to the BMI (a statistical measure I have some problems with), but over the last few years I've worked on increasing my movement. I'm at the point where I can, on a whim, go on a 50k bike ride, or a 15k hike up 1300m of elevation, and feel great the next day. I haven't lost any weight, or even any inches, and I'm OK with that. I'm not OK with people judging me as fat, and therefore unhealthy (though honestly, it's none of their business if I were).

    I moved into sewing clothing from sewing costumes because it's difficult to find athletic wear and cute sundresses that fit well. I'm still working on the sundresses, and am starting on the athletic wear. Quick-dry plus-fours and waterproofed canvas spats for hiking? Yes, please!

  90. I really liked what you said about alienating other groups when you say " Real women have curves" or " It's not healthy to be so fat." In high school I got teased for being too skinny. Although I ate like a pig, it was something I couldn't help and my self-esteem was affected greatly by comments from others.So many times I would defend myself, "No I'm not a tweeker, in fact I don't do any drugs." "No, I am not making myself throw up or starving myself." I have realized that I am just as much woman as any one else, I am just a small woman. That's ok and I enjoy the variety of women in this world. Enjoy You!

  91. Great post...I read your blog alot, but have never commented. Weight is such a huge issue with so many of us. When I turned 50, a while ago, it was scary...but after that day it was kind of liberating....Who cares anymore how I look. My family loves me like I am. I spent most my young adulthood fretting and worrying about myself. What a waste of time that was. Funny tho, I still do not post pics of me in my outfits...hmmmm..

  92. You just can't touch on this subject without setting off a firestorm. I dealt with these issues in my grad art program and geez did I get pushback, from accusing me of slamming thin people to assertions that I was trying to speak for all women. Something about this topic makes people get out their torches and pitchforks.
    Your blog post was the best piece I've seen on this topic. Well-written, clearly expressed, and without the shrill bitterness I'm sure would be in my writing!

  93. "like we all looked the way we were supposed to look."

    Beautiful and profound. May we all get to that place!

    Great post.

  94. Couldn't have said it better myself! Even the part about realizing that we are "all good." I think I was doing yoga when I had that realization too! Great blog!

  95. Maybe this explains why I had no friends but I wasn't aware of my body image until I was probably 22 or so. Those were much simpler times. I miss that. *sigh*

  96. Gretchen - how incredibly normalizing that someone as gorgeous as yourself has the same neuroses re: weight that I have. Though I have never had (nor likely ever will) have the discipline to eat only 1200 cal/day. How did you survive?! Thank you for sharing.

  97. Gertie, judging by the number of comments you have received, you struck an artery with your post! (bigger response than touching a nerve)
    Having been a chubby child (the only clothes that fit were the Chubette brand from Lane Bryant) who is now 66 and working to maintain a healthy weight, I can relate.

  98. I am a naturally thin woman. I don't do anything to maintain my weight, I don't restrict my diet all that much, I just am what I am.

    It might seem odd, then, to think of someone whose body type more closely resembles to "norm" that is portrayed by culture and media as being made to feel insecure by other women.

    Ever since I was in high school I have received disparaging comments about my body from other women, mostly because my body type makes THEM feel insecure about themselves. Women often disguise these comments by pretending to be paying me a compliment, or will praise my body while they insult their own. My body just is what it is, and it is very frustrating and hurtful to be made to feel "responsible" for someone else's self-esteem or to feel bad for the way I naturally look.

    These kinds of comments feel violating to my body and I have always hated them. I do not wish to apologize for the way my body looks naturally, nor should you have to. I am still learning better strategies to deal with comments that carry heavy negative connotations, either directly about my body or about the way my body "makes" another woman feel.

    Love yo'selves ladies!

  99. Fashionable <a href="http://www.loudstarbazaar.com/shop/brand-starlyte-ethos/starlyte-ethos-jungle-dress/p_78.html>Indie clothing styles</a>!

  100. This business about not being able to stop eating ultracaloric food is like -in my own experience- a drug addiction. I do not believe in excuses (Iwas not happy, I was getting obsessed, we have to love ourselves as we are, etc) to continue pusuing the pleasure in food. Overweight is overweight. For our height, all of us know when we are above the limit, and that is dangerous on our health (more than smoking!!). I am not talking about being underweight, but about being on a normal weight. And about trying to enjoy more healthy plesures that chocolate pie and peannut butter. Personal, I lost 12 kg two years ago, and I tell you, they are never coming back. I feel like and exjunkie. But of course, it comes with effort and dedication (shoping, cooking, carefully selecting what i eat) but i'm never hungry and hey! form time to time, I can sin, but not everyday!!!

  101. I think it's a really difficult thing to accept yourself the way you are. For me, my main motivation for accepting my weight, my face, etc. is that I'm just happier when I do. And when I'm happy I can get so much accomplished.

    Also, I owned a tailoring shop for a while, and EVERYONE complains about some detail about their body. There is always a feature a girl hates that someone else is just dying to have. I figure we should all just be grateful for what we've got and move on with life.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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