Less Is Not More

I'm surrounded by numbers in my life. My body is always surrounded by them, at the minute 3.5, 49, 14, as I continue my meander down the scales. Weight loss seems to be around me all the time, people talking about it, writing about it, condemning others for having gained weight, admonishing themselves for their gains. We're obsessed. I have a really strange relationship with my losses. Although in many ways I'm happy to continue down the scales and I enjoy being healthy I have really mixed feelings about weight loss obsession.

My weight loss represents pieces of myself which have been taken away and although I should rejoice I partly do and partly don't. To be less, smaller is an odd fascination in itself. We encourage, bigger bank accounts, bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger hair, bigger shoes, bigger stars, bigger sales, bigger profits, bigger jewels, bigger lips, bigger breasts, bigger parties, bigger lifestyles. Yet the source of that, the self is pressured to be smaller. As a woman it's be tinier, look more fragile, more ethereal, vulnerable...beautiful.

Photo Credit (Disney)

Equating female beauty with a Thumbelina reading on size is somewhat reductive but when we look closely it is an encouragement constantly for women to be smaller. And more to the point be striving to be as small as possible. There is very little encouragement on the other side of the fence for very small girls to put on weight (why should there be, if you're naturally slim more power to you). But there are so many baying messages to be smaller it is a veritable cacophony, one that leaves me nearly deafened.

The size zero phenomenon is an interesting one, with outright medical condemnation it still is an alarmingly popular aspiration. Now I'm not talking about girls who have fast metabolisms and who are that weight regardless of what they eat, but rather the girls who struggle and strive to get themselves to unnatural sizes for an adult woman. When you're struggling and trying to keep to the minimum possible calories, it affects your whole body, but yet somehow this is celebrated? It's glamorised to be tiny, to be able to fit into the vintage designer clothes which were created for a different body entirely.

I'm not challenging people's natural size, or those wanting to exercise to be healthier, but rather the size that is thrust upon an entire slew of women. The message is always 'be smaller'. How many of us have thought to ourselves 'I'm sure I'd feel better about myself if I was smaller, if I could wear whatever I wanted'. Sound familiar? Would we be happier?

What I am challenging is the constant narrative which exists in popular culture at the moment which is 'be smaller, be happier'. I have many issues with this, as a concept itself the act of belittling oneself, literally, by making yourself smaller and smaller strikes me as detrimental to the overall psyche. In a world where women's rights to their bodies are seemingly being eroded more and more this cannot continue. The sabotage on us all by an irresponsible press and unrealistic fashion designers who treat women as little more than dolls in the ideal cannot be allowed to go on. They are our bodies, we should not be governed by the ideal that the most expensive, glamourous clothes are only for the tiny, thus equating the smallest with the most fashionable and consequently the most beautiful, which is a nonsense and a fallacy.

 Making larger girls struggle to find clothes is a similar issue, it says 'we don't want you in our clothes' resulting in larger girls feeling like they're not good enough, not allowed to be fashionable. Because that is what it is, it is a barring of the door. I've been every size under the sun from a 12 to a 20 and let me tell you as a 16 I've struggled to find clothes that fit me well as a tall girl. And so the message is distilled again 'if you were smaller you would be happier, you would have more choice, you would look better in the clothes'. We internalise that, we think the problem is us, that WE must change ourselves, when in fact the problem is the clothes. It is the fact that it has become acceptable to decide how women must look by cutting them off from fashion if they stray above a certain size like a slap to the wrist.

The fault cannot be laid at the door of just fashion though. The media play an odd game of fence jumping which may be more at home on a race course . One minute a star is too thin, the next she's perfect. In jeans and a t-shirt, she's emblazoned with captions 'skinny star wastes away'. A week later on the red carpet she is 'absolutely perfect' and lauded for that An actress can have a 'huge weight gain crisis' and yet a week later be 'celebrating gorgeous curves'.
This is why, in part I don't read magazines anymore. It is utter nonsense. It seems odd also that even those writers who are making the judgements about these women don't know from one minute to the next what their opinions are on the whole thing. Could it be, perhaps that they don't know what they think? That no-one has a clue what is 'good' or 'beautiful' anymore without waiting to be told.

I don't believe in this reductive 'one size fits all' mentality toward women's bodies. I don't believe it is necessary or in any way helpful to hold up an imagined airbrushed image of beauty and ask, nay demand, that women follow suit.You see I have a problem with trying to make less of myself. It seems so contradictory to me but yet I do it so that I can have choice in what I wear or so that I can fit into the world around me, not be stared at in a negative way or not be made fun of.

Somehow it's worked out that I must make less of myself to be more of a person. To pursue the goal of making oneself less, smaller, less imposing, the pathological need and the overbearing message that in women smaller is better. Somehow if one can make oneself tiny and unassuming the war is won. Instead women who are taller or bigger are branded unfeminine, unattractive, disgusting and god forbid you're both. The quest to essentially become so tiny you fail to exist, to have the proportions of a child is somehow lauded. What a step to create a demand for women with the presence of a child. The size zero phenomenon that gives childlike dimensions and a lack of menstrual cycle surely cannot be celebrated? Whatever happened to natural? To being the size your body is happy at? Until women's bodies are not seen as commodities to be shaped and influenced the demands will not abate.

Be healthy, be happy. Do not make less of yourself.

Much Love and Happiness


Tru said...

Timely words when this has just been published; http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/25/six-weeks-to-omg-diet

Rae Rae J said...

Absolutely fantastic post. As I get closer and closer to my original "goal" weight, I think more and more about pushing it lower. And I'm not sure why I'm thinking this way now.
Just fantastic, loved this post.

daisychain said...

you write such wonderful posts xo

Julia said...

Amazing post. I really enjoyed it. I feel very much like a lot of the time. I used to be obsessed with the weight I was gaining and worry about so many things in lieu to that. However, when I started my blog, I became so much more comfortable with my size. I still try to eat healthy as much as I can stand, and try to motivate myself to keep active.

You're very well-spoken and the blogging world needs more posts like this!!

- Julia

Amber Love said...

You and I share a similar "pain" about ourselves. Sadly there is no single "big bang" source that can be blamed. The media gives people what they respond to; the actresses/models are in different lifestyles that we can't even imagine; fashions are designed for women that are tall so folks like me can't find that happy spot of short but plump. I'm the highest weight I've been in many years and it is just one of the aspects of my life that make me unhappy. I don't understand how other sufferers are able to see food as the thing they can control; I sure can't. I want it all the time.

DawnieP said...

I'm really glad you all liked the post, once I get started on a rant I find it hard to stop :)

Nic, Strawberry Blonde said...

Wonderful post Dawn. You are so insightful & articulate, brilliant writer too.

Twelve52 Blog said...

A really interesting post - I'm glad I came across this. I'm a champion of 'strong not skinny' and think far too much emphasis is put on losing weight rather than being fit and healthy.

I do have to disagree with one point though - when you say there is little encouragement for small girls to put on weight.

I was underweight well into my twenties and always had been - it was simply the way I was. I was constantly bullied about it and also asked if I had eating disorders by everyone from friends and family to complete strangers. I was told I looked like a boy and my body was horrible. I could never find clothes that were small enough for my waist. Most polite people wouldn't tell someone who is overweight to eat less, but the same people will go out of their way to tell someone who is slim to eat more.

The media was a different issue - all about the skinny girl. But in reality, I was being hounded every single day about my weight.

I'm now at a healthy weight, but I still have issues with people commenting on me being slim. An ex employee once grabbed my waist in front of a room full of colleagues and shouted how I was unhealthily slim and should see a doctor. The media is not only obsessed with using skinny models, but also constantly talks about how if you aren't curvy you're not a real woman. There are ice-creams called skinny cow and diet books called skinny b*tch.

I 100% agree with everything that you are saying here and I hope I don't sound like I'm being argumentative (I'm honestly not), but I do think that this issue effects all women, including the slimmer ones.

DawnieP said...

This is really interesting. I write from a perspective of being on the heavier side of the equasion. My naturally slim friends have never had any negative comments at all, but I think this is interesting as even when you are small it opens a whole new can of worms with people.

I think its why it comes down to just being happy with how you are naturally and not struggling to be something you're not in the hope it will make you happy. Not trying to be airy fairy but I think only you can make yourself happy, other peoples approval is transient and in the end you're all you have and if you can look at yourself and say, 'I'm happy with who I am', then in my opinion you've won

WitchHazel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arabella said...

Totally agree with everything you said, very well written! x

Adrienne said...

What a great post! I remember being a size 16 in my teens and very early 20s, and how much shit I received about it, how "fat" I supposedly was. But I was nothing of the sort, I was healthy. We are all different humans, some naturally thin, some larger, and society needs to respect that.

Linda said...

Great post, as the Baz Lurman song Sunscreen says, don't read beauty magazines they will only make you feel ugly...

fluff and fripperies said...

Amazing post Dawn, totally agree!

Sassi said...

the picture is so cute!

Knight'sEclectic said...

Great post, sadly I find it's other women who encourage this too. I put on about a stone and male friends said a looked great but a few female colleagues made cheeky/jokey remarks. Us women need to be kinder to ourselves and each other. I think this post makes some interesting points x

Amber Love said...

I love your clarity on the subject, Dawn. My only issue is that height is a massively underlooked area of fashion and beauty. Models are 5'10" minimum. I'm 5'2" with giant breasts & a belly -- a "petite" and a "plus." Trust me when I say, there is not one thing out there on any rack that fits me. If I could live in pajamas (that I have to drastically hem), I would.

So the shrinking of women, in my opinion, does not pertain to height. Women are shown only images of those statuesque waif goddess or actresses who need implants to have any breasts at all in their struggle to be thin but "stacked."

I cover the adult industry and have worked on the fringes of it. I don't fit in but there's a niche for larger and average women. The consumer base is small and the provider pool is huge so it's inconceivable how competitive it is.

And as a model, as much as I want arts and consumers to accept my body the way it is, if I could afford surgery, I'd have it today.

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