Mar 20, 2012 - Physical Ed    7 Comments

One Size Fits Most

It is, quite abruptly, spring here in Minnesota. It’s been that way for about a week now, and it’s utterly unsettling. Between the unseasonably warm weather, and the early Daylight Savings Time change, I don’t think we’ve eaten supper before 7pm in the last seven days. My boys have already collected a whole spring’s worth of scrapes and bruises–it looks like we’ve been beating them from knee to ankle.

It’s hard to complain about such beautiful weather, but I’m one of many people (especially women) for whom hot weather is an uncomfortable season to be dreaded.

See, I’m fat.

Not morbidly obese, but not just a little pudgy either. I’m tall (5’9″), but that only helps so much. I’ve got a classic hourglass figure, but they don’t really make jeans or shirts for that shape anymore. I can wear a 16, but I’m more comfortable in an 18. Most of my T-shirts are XL. My bra size is officially Not Small.

The best thing that can be said about this condition is that my kids like to snuggle with me because I’m cushy. Also, I’m perfectly healthy for my weight–blood pressure and sugars are normal. Certainly the extra weight doesn’t help my fibromyalgia, but I’ve been thinner and the pain wasn’t measurably better.

But when it gets warm, I sweat. A lot. I can’t wear a skirt comfortably without Spanx because my inner thighs get raw from chafing; along the underwire line of my bra, too. I like to swim, but between my year-long pallor and the rolls and ridges, I don’t just sit around in my swimsuit–I’m either in the water, or I’m covered up.

And then there’s the psychological side. My self-esteem has never been particularly strong. My mom used to bemoan the fact that, despite the lavish praise and compliments she used to shower on her kids, my sister and I both ended up with self-esteem as bad as hers. It wasn’t until I was 30 that I realized that it didn’t matter what she said about us–it was the fact that she never had a nice word for herself that got handed down to her children. Sexual assault didn’t help either. He was the first guy I’d ever let see my naked body. He looked, crossed the room, and turned out the light. That left a deep mark.

Sometimes, I think it’s not so bad, that I carry the extra weight well enough, that I’m pretty enough in other ways to let that slide. But what I see in the mirror doesn’t match what I see if I’m unlucky enough to get caught in a picture. Sometimes, I don’t even recognize myself–I squint at the fat person on film, until my breath catches and I realize that’s me. That my mirror is a funhouse mirror after all, but the kind that fools you into thinking things are better than they actually are.

And the culture finds all sorts of ways to remind plus-size women that they’re less than. Affordable plus-size clothes are made of cheap fabrics and rejected patterns that would never be found in the juniors or misses racks. It gets even worse if you need maternity clothes. Sure, companies like j.jill make nice, classic clothes from quality fabrics in “women’s” sizes, but they don’t carry them in stores where those women can actually try them on–we’re left with catalog roulette. And pretty lingerie? Only Frederick’s of Hollywood carries plus-size “sexy” underwear in their stores, and the fabrics are all tasteless and harsh against the skin.

Don’t even get me started on all the other ways fat people are shamed everywhere they go. The seats in airplanes and movie theaters. Booths at restaurants. Hospital gowns. Baby Bjorns and Boppys. The mean, greedy, gluttonous fat women in movies, TV, even comic books. The stares if you dare to wear something revealing for a date, or scamper around with your kids in your swimsuit, or dare to order dessert. I’ve left the house feeling pretty and sexy and appreciated by my Darling Husband, and come home so ashamed and unattractive that I change into dumpy pajamas in the bathroom, away from even his gaze.

I enjoy the feel of sunlight and warm air on my skin. I like to run and play with my kids, on the days the fibro lets me. I like silk and linen and soft, thin cottons. I like elegant dresses and swirly skirts and pretty tops.

Courage shouldn’t be a necessary accessory. It’s almost impossible to find in my size.


  • You know, every time you comment on your weight, I’m surprised. You made a twitter remark the other day that left me blinking in bafflement, and then this. I have never thought of you as fat. I’ve always thought of you as classically pretty, and warm, and statuesque, yes, in a good way.

    I know you’re not fishing for compliments – not your style. Please please don’t feel obligated to rebut. Also, totally agreed that the world we live in deals very badly with this issue and can be pretty obnoxious about it. Just saying’, dude, don’t knock the awesome that is you.

  • If you’re healthy and you’re blood pressure is under control, I wouldn’t worry too much about how people see you.

    If you do want to lose weight in an easy and cost effective way, though, the most effective method I have ever found is to do a food diary. The online and free ones have been getting pretty good — I used fitday ( for a while before I got the fitbit. Once you realize you need to lay off the Coke, french fries and the cheese, it gets pretty straight forward. If you aren’t fighting health issues, you will find secret self-shame works wonders. You don’t need to share your food diary with anyone but yourself and it works to get the snacking under control.

    Another stupid one is to keep your house/work place apple-accessible. If you let yourself snack but only snack on oranges and apples and bananas, you’ll be surprised how well it works.

  • I can relate to everything you just said.
    In my late twenties, I went from the 140lb god among men that my arrogance told me I was, to the 300lb monster mask I’ve been forced to wear in my thirties. And of course, with my luck, Diabetes and High Blood Pressure joined in the mugging.

    I’ve been witness firsthand to both sides of the fence, the attention for looking good from perfect strangers, and the disdain given to the same person when they can’t fit into a seat at the movies or on a plane. And I don’t wholly believe I wasn’t a party to the latter in my thinner days.

    Buying clothes has gone from “yeah, that looks cool.” to “REALLY? XL is the largest? Don’t they know most of their audience aren’t that little?”

    And heat. Gods. I have always radiated heat with some of my friends and ex-girlfriends commenting on how my shirt would remain warm even after i gave it to them. But now, it is nearly unbearable. When the weather tips past 68, I become a sweat farm and want nothing more than to soak in a tub that doesn’t fit me.

    Lately, I’ve begun moving towards more extreme measures to drop the weight, since the typical dieting/exercise combo doesn’t really work for me for long. To boot, the upcoming surgery will completely end my diabetes (the main impetus, though the weight loss is a nice plus). But this is not a simple cure, as I will still need to work hard to maintain any weight loss I have.

    But most importantly, it will never change how I feel about the looks I’ve gotten, and have probably given. That is a mistake I will not repeat.

  • It’s funny. Or maybe it’s not, but it certainly is peculiar how this works for women. I lost sixty pounds about five years ago, and, although I do enjoy being thinner–enough so that going permanently without sugar, flour and dairy is worth the price to me–I spend most of the moments of consciousness that I have of my body on an awareness of a bloated midriff that feels not quite right in my jeans or of arms that look soft and unmuscled, thighs that look like portions of pink elephant have been cut and pasted just above otherwise shapely legs. My ass hangs. My tits sag. My chest is flat. I have pimples. My hair is frizzy. I feel a great deal less like a Victoria’s secret model than I could have projected sixty pounds ago. Size eighteen, sixteen, now ten. I still turn off the lights to strip. In the end, I think shame is sort of one size fits all. So, I guess what I’m saying is don’t fear the weight…fear the SHAME.

  • That was well written, courageous and open-hearted. THank you for writing and sharing as you do. (((hugs)))

  • What is it about spring and summer that makes us even more crazy about our weight than we already are? I’ve also been struggling with my weight more recently – mostly because I’ve gained a bit over the last year. I’ve gained it all over, so I actually don’t feel that bad about how I look, but since I don’t fit in any of my spring clothes, I’ve decided I must do something about it.
    I even remember being pregnant and hoping I didn’t look like a “fat” pregnant woman. What the hell? The one time when I shouldn’t have to worry at all, and there was still so much angst around it because there were pictures everywhere of small starlets with cute little basketball bellies and perfectly proportioned everywhere else. Blarg. I hate this whole weight thing.
    Great post, and I’m with you. This whole thing just sucks so much some days.

  • Story of my life and so many others. I opened a box of my spring clothes today and remembered that when I put them away in fall, I was thinking they’d be too big by the time I would see them again. How many times have I thought that? Why is losing weight so hard? I also remember losing weight and realizing that people who had ignored me in the past suddenly found me interesting. It was very weird and much more revealing about them than me. Hang in there, Jess. You’re certainly not alone!

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