Wednesday, September 8, 2010

You are what you wear.

I've just added a 3rd reason to my list of things urging me to drop weight:  I want to be able to wear what I want to wear.  Seriously.  It's a tough world out there for a chubby girl who loves clothes.  Matthew and I are having pictures done in a couple weeks, so we headed to the mall this past weekend for some photo-worthy ensembles.  Now, I may be a "jeans and t-shirt" kind of girl most days, but I appreciate good fashion.  Apparently though, if I were a size 5, I'd have a lot more fashion to appreciate.  There just aren't many options for the plus size crowd.  Thank Life for Torrid.  While I'm still able to shop at "normal" stores, it's so much nicer to be able to walk in to a store and not have to wonder whether I'm looking at sizes meant for me or meant for the 14 year old version of me.

Anyhow, the point of this post is to start an ongoing list of style guidelines to help us chubby gals not feel so miserable in the fitting rooms.  The following suggestions come from years of experience in retail, as well as years of experience in being fat, so believe me when I say that it's good advice. ;-)

Tips for Loving Your "Fat Clothes"

1.)  YES, YOU MUST TRY THINGS ON.  I know that the fitting rooms are like chubby girl Hell, but seriously, it's even worse to get home with something that just doesn't work.  You won't return it, because you'll be too embarrassed to admit that it was too small or too unflattering, and there's a good chance that several months from now you'll try it on again because "it couldn't have been that bad..." and then you'll get to relive the horror of seeing yourself in it.  I know, I've been there.  But the advantage to trying things on in the store goes beyond that.  Firstly, you've got sales associates at your disposal.  They get paid to help you find things that look good... so take advantage of it!  I find that plus-size stores are the best for this because most of the time you're being helped by someone with similar issues, so she knows what's up.  Secondly, you can try on things that you wouldn't normally think to wear.  You would be absolutely shocked how much different something can look on the hanger versus on your body.  Step out of your comfort zone and try something new! 

2.)  BIGGER IS NOT BETTER.  I blame both designers and consumers for this.  See, chubby girls like to think that if they wear bigger clothing, it will hide the fact that they are chubby.  Designers, therefore, create bigger and bigger clothing for plus sizes.  When I worked at LB I would constantly be shocked at the array of giant muumuu-like outfits (which, by the way, would always come in outlandish patterns of leopard or snakeskin or the dreaded florals).  Once, we got a collection of "fall blazers" that literally looked like someone had taken their great-great-grandmother's curtains and made a box with sleeves.  People bought them.  I pitied them.  Say this out loud:  Bigger clothing makes me look BIGGER.  Seriously.  You may hide a roll, but you also add 20 lbs to your overall appearance.  Wear the correct size and avoid things that hang.

3.)  Similarly, SMALLER SIZES DO NOT MAKE YOU SMALLER.  Interestingly, some people take rule #2 to the opposite extreme, and somehow fool themselves into thinking that if they buy a smaller size, it means they aren't as fat.  Be realistic with yourself.  The number on the tag has no bearing on what size you actually are... just buy what fits!

4.)  NO CLINGY FABRICS.  Clothing that hugs your body is good.  Fabrics that stretch along your skin are bad.  Avoid clingy synthetic fabrics at all costs.  It is also a good idea to stay away from silks and satins, which can be equally unforgiving.

5.)  NO ALLOVER PRINTS.  This rule should apply to thin gals as well, but it's less of an issue for them.  For some reason, designers/buyers seem to think that plus size women want huge bold patterns on everything they wear.  Don't fall for it.  Patterns attract the eye and make things look larger.  Opt for solids with patterned accessories or layering pieces.

6.)  KNOW YOUR FLAWS.  It's okay to want to disguise certain parts of your body.  If you hate your upper-arms, look for flutter sleeves in the summer time.  If your belly always bothers you, search for tops with strategically placed ruching or wrap styles.  There's a solution for everything.  Having trouble?  See rule #1.

7.)  KNOW YOUR ASSETS.  Personally, I think this is even more important than #6.  Playing up the parts of your body that you like will help you to feel confident in what you wear.  Even something as simple as knowing what colors look good on you will help you to find pieces that you can wear happily, even on a "fat day."  For example, I happen to look great in blue-reds, so I try to always keep a go-to item in that shade around. =)

8.)  YOU ARE WHAT YOU WEAR.  If you allow your weight to make you dress like a slob, then you'll come off as a slob.  Learning to love your body means accepting it and embracing it... not hiding it.  So keep it classy. ;-)

Friday, September 3, 2010

The world is NOT a fat joke, Bethany.

The fact that I accept myself doesn't mean that I'm not sensitive about my weight, and this confuses a lot of people.  I was very fortunate to have never really endured bullying in school.  My classmates didn't make jokes at my expense (or if they did, I wasn't aware of them and therefore they didn't have much impact on me) and, for the most part, my "fat kid" self-image was the result of my own insecurities.  (My father's second wife is one glaring exception, but even with my lingering hatred for the crazy woman I cannot blame her for the sum of my body issues.)  Sad truth:  this is still true today. 

I can't recall any instance in my adult life of someone actually insulting me because of my weight, and yet I am still chronically aware of the potential fat jokes that arise in my everyday life.  Every little blip relates back to my weight.  Spill food on myself -> sloppy -> fat.  Knock something over -> clumsy -> fat.  I am aware of the fact that people with far smaller butts than mine have knocked things over before, and that sometimes ketchup just doesn't stay where you put it, but somehow these mundane hiccups in human activity immediately trigger the thought that someone saw it and thought to themself "Hahaha... that fat girl just dripped ketchup on herself!"  Even in explaining that, I feel a little crazy, and yet I find it incredibly hard to train myself not to do it.  The saddest part is that it isn't even just my screwups that trigger this kind of response.  If I go to the grocery store and buy ice cream, I worry that the cashier thinks I'm fat because I sit around eating ice cream all day.  The good news is that this crazy train of thought doesn't keep me from doing normal things, but it does bother me that I have to actively set aside such thoughts sometimes.  A chubby friend of mine (who will remain nameless unless she so chooses) once admitted to me that if she went to a fast food place, she would always order two drinks so that the cashier would think she was sharing her meal with someone instead of eating it all herself.  Meanwhile, I have thin friends that will walk into a McDonalds and order a #1 super sized with extra sauce and down it in public without thinking twice.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  Do we really think that the 16 year old kid running the Taco Bell drive-thru cares whether we eat TWO tacos???  And even if he does... why on earth do we care?

Dear Bethany,

The world is not one giant fat joke.  Get.  Over.  It.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

I'm Bethany. I'm chubby. I don't hate myself.

Don't get me wrong, there are certainly days when I wonder why on earth no matter how big my pants are, I still struggle with "muffin top," and I absolutely wake up some mornings thinking to myself, "sweats and hoody, sweats and hoody, sweats and hoody."  I'm given to understand, though, that everyone has days where they wish there was something different about their body, so I don't hold that against myself.  Overall though, I rather like me.  I think I'm pretty cute most days, I'm intelligent, and I'm strong.  I'm never going to be thin or perfect, so why hate myself for being who I am?

When I was in college, I worked at Lane Bryant (aka: chubby girl heaven).  I'm kind of loud, and kind of opinionated, so I quickly became pretty comfortable talking to my customers about their body issues (which, of course, were my body issues as well).  After my first few months there, I slowly began to realize that so many of these women HATED their bodies... because no one had told them it was okay not to.  From the teen girls trying to find something hip and trendy at the only plus size shop on the Central Coast to the more seasoned ladies who spent their shopping time cursing the junk food they ate in their youth, each one of them gave me the same shocked and awkward look when I would begin openly talking about the dirty truth... that we were f-a-t.  In a matter of seconds though, they would realize that I wasn't being offensive, but that I was simply stating the obvious.   Let's face it ladies... it's not like if we don't mention it, no one will notice.  So why not open up in the comfort of those who understand?  I loved knowing that being open about my body allowed others to gain a little acceptance of theirs.  One time in particular, a younger woman (late 20's - early 30's, perhaps?) was talking about how self-conscious she was about the weight and stretch marks left behind from her pregnancy.  I laughingly assured her that stretch marks weren't the end of the world, and added that I (only 21-22 at the time) looked like a bear had mauled my stomach, and I didn't even have a baby to show for it!  A minute later, this complete stranger shyly asked if I would show her my stretch marks.  She hadn't met many young people that had them (or at least that admitted having them) and she wanted to see that she wasn't the only one.  Without hesitation, I walked her back to the fitting rooms, and showed her the hated purple lines that cursed my tummy.  I swear, I watched a 100 pound weight lift from this gal's shoulders.  For a split second, my coworker looked at me like I was crazy... until she saw the smile on the girl's face.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I want to put a little more of that into the world; a little more of the "Yeah, being fat sucks, but that's no reason to hate yourself or stop living your life like the beautiful person you are!"

That being said, I am also trying to lose a few pounds.  There are two primary reasons: 1.)  Matthew and I have started talking about a wedding in the next couple years, and, honestly, plus size wedding dresses are hard to find and are often... well... ugly.  2.)  Future health.  Sure, I'm pretty healthy and active now, but you never know how things can progress.  I want to make sure I can keep up with the kids when that time comes.  Again though, I will never be a thin person, and I'm okay with that.  People often tell me that I "could be thin if I wanted to."  Aside from making me want to slap them (seriously, who wakes up in the morning and says, "I wanna be fat today!"?), this statement is mostly untrue.  A bout of bulimia when I was a preteen (to be discussed in a later post) rendered me pretty thin for my body type, but I looked awkward and disproportionate, and I have no desire to return to that.  Also, I hate cardio.  I hate running.  I hate the elliptical.  I'm not going to pretend otherwise.  I swear, I read 50 FB status updates every day that say something like "I just got back from my favorite place on earth... the GYM!!!  and I feel so AMAZING!!!  I can't wait to go back tomorrow!!!  I may be fat, but I'm now in love with the treadmill!!!!!"  Ok, maybe that's a little exaggerated, but you get the idea.  No offense to anyone; if that's how you hype yourself up then more power to ya.  But I'm gonna be honest and say that when I get back from my morning workout, it takes a good half hour before I stop wanting to kill something and can actually enjoy the post-workout endorphins.

So, in conclusion........... I'm Bethany.  I'm chubby.  And I don't hate myself.  Feel free to join me. =)