On Swimsuits and Bodies

My beautiful Avenue swimsuit!

I grew up around water. Whether I was going to one of the Great Lakes for vacation (as I did this past week), or swimming in my grandmother’s pool, or joining the swim team, I spent countless hours perched on the edge of some body of water, wearing little more than a swimsuit.

This past week, I logged at least three or four hours a day in my swimsuit. Spending that much time bearing your body to the world is difficult for many people, male and female. And every summer, when vacation time comes around, it’s something I always think about.

I was lucky, I think. As a kid, I joined the swim team. From age eight up through age fourteen I swam competitively. It was, in many ways, a terrible time for me. I frequently was called fat. I was incredibly uncomfortable in my body and with what was happening to it. I was hyper aware of what my body looked like to other people. But I enjoyed swimming. At some point, I began winning my heats and doing quite well in long distance swimming. (I used to motivate myself to swim fast by pretending there was a shark behind me. It worked every time.) Though I was aware of how my body looked (and how fat I was), I was also aware of what my body could do.

Having spent so much time during my formative years in a swimsuit, I barely even notice it today. Yes, there’s always a twinge when I break out the swimsuit for the first time each year. I stare at it for a while, put it on, glare at the scrap of fabric in the mirror for a while. However, it’s not enough to stop me from wearing it. I vow not to let it stop me from enjoying myself.

But it’s harder sometimes. I sat on the beach yesterday, watching as girls pranced by in their bikinis, and I wished that I had the confidence, the curves, the abs that would make me feel comfortable in so little fabric. I look at them and wonder if I could ever look like that. And then I shake myself, trying to not let myself get invested in that counter-productive train of thought. I remind myself that, even if I were that thin, who’s to say I won’t still want to have a “better” body in some way? Who’s to say I will appreciate what I do have? Who says the body I have isn’t good enough?

Renewing my faith in myself is something I always do. I have to love my body, even in a swimsuit. I have to love my body in a tank top, in a skirt, in a bra and underwear, in long pants and a sweater. I need to love my body in some way every day. And I need to stop believing my body isn’t good enough how it is. Yes, I’m only human, and insecurities come with the territory. Some days it’s harder to do. Yesterday was a day I forgot. Today, I hope I’ll remember.

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What’s the Skinny on Skinny Jeans?

I’m a girl who loves fashion. I like (some) fashion shows (ahem…Project Runway). I love to shop. I sometimes spend hours just browsing my favorite stores online. But there’s one trend I’ve been hesitant to jump on: the Skinny Jean.

Now, I have to admit…I like how they look on many women. My friends wear skinny jeans, my cousins wear skinny jeans, I think my mom might even have a pair. But I’ve proceeded with caution, unsure whether the skinny jean would look good on a not-so-skinny me.

I’m definitely an apple shape. I got the goods in the stomach area, with thinner arms and legs. It’s a body shape that is both easy and difficult to dress. You can pull off the empire waist with grace. Flared jeans are always in style. Knee-length dresses and skirts look fantastic. But with pants, huge problems arise. For me, I have issues fitting my waist while still fitting my but/hips. I want the leg of my pants to fit tightly in the thighs, and then do its business on the bottom. Often, I get wattle butt —  my pants have a handful of material that just hangs down from my butt all the way to my knees, like that flap of skin under a turkey’s beak. Apparently, manufacturers think I should have a bigger butt to even out my waist size (jeeze).

So pants have always been a problem. It wasn’t until I found Lane Bryant’s Right Fit jeans that I found a pair of jeans that really fit my body. (Yellow FTW!) My butt looks fantastic in those jeans. They fit my thighs and feel almost like a second, wonderfully denim, skin. I wear them all the time and love how I feel and look in them.

But now, looking at, and even trying on skinny jeans, I’m reliving all my pants problems over again.

The other day I stopped by the Macy’s to look through their clearance section. Surprisingly, their 60% off rack had a selection of designer skinny jeans in plus sizes. I decided to give it a go and try them on.

I tried three different brands in sizes 18-22. I’m normally a 22, but the 22s felt too big and gave me wattle butt. The 18s fit perfectly in the leg, but not the waist. The 20s were only available in a style that was cropped (ugh).

But worst of all, every single pair I tried on made my body look wider. It was like taking my apple torso and putting it on chopsticks. Skinny jeans mess with my proportions. I look wider, weirder, and felt uncomfortable. Needless to say, I didn’t purchase any skinny jeans.

But, I still find the style appealing. I’ve seen fat women wear them, and I think they look great on them. So is a skinny jean still out there for me? Dare I continue to look? Or should I abandon the cause and stick to my Right Fit flares?

Weigh in, and give me the skinny!

The Obesity Epidemic: What Really Gets To Me

I am currently in a TV Production Studio class at my college, and yesterday we took a field trip to the local CBS affiliate to see their studio and how they run their 5:00 news. It was really really exciting for me. I just thought it was so cool–seeing how everything works, watching the reality of the show as it’s happening, and hearing the newscasters make snarky comments while a segment was rolling in. Very neat.

Unfortunately, one of the stories was a health story alleging that obesity is as likely to kill you as smoking. I don’t know what study they were citing, but apparently new research has concluded that you’re equally likely to die early if you’re fat as you are if you’re a smoker.

It was at this moment that it became perfectly clear to me what my major problem is with the “obesity epidemic.” What the news, society, doctors, medicine at large, etc. fail to acknowledge is that it’s not obesity that’s killing people; it’s the problems they associate with obesity. Under the title of obesity fall high blood pressure, immobility, heart disease, high cholesterol, etc. etc. etc. Obesity itself doesn’t kill people; all these other problems kill people. And whereas the scientific community would like to say that obesity=these problems, I think most of us in the fat-o-sphere are living proof that that is not true.

I also think that the large number of individuals who are thin and have these same issues are proving them wrong as well. My normal-weight (by BMI standards) friend has high cholesterol. Another of my friends (who is normal weight by BMI standards) has high blood pressure. The list goes on. How does the medical community reconcile that? They are just health issues. They aren’t caused by anything more than genetics, maybe an unhealthy diet. When they show up in fat people, it’s considered a result of their obesity.

I just will never understand it. It’s like obesity is a virus, like the flu, that’s going to kill you slowly. Or that your fat is just going to strangle you one day while you sleep. WTF is that? I’m never going to understand it.

On the other hand, I do have high cholesterol. I’m trying to get it under control with diet and exercise and medication. But it’s in my family history. My dad has high cholesterol, my mom has high cholesterol. Two of my grandparents (one from each side) have had bypass surgeries due to blocked arteries. It’s flippin’ genetic. But still, when I walk into a doctors office, the first thing I’m told is that I need to get my weight under control. Like weight will solve all of my issues.

It wasn’t until recently that I really figured out how to approach this whole deal (with HAES as my guidance): we, in our society, and me personally, need to shift our focus from WEIGHT to HEALTH. It’s one simple thing. We need to switch from treatments for OBESITY to treatments for particular HEALTH ISSUES. Although I’m sure losing weight will help my cholesterol, losing weight isn’t enough, nor is it likely to happen quickly. I can start right now to change my cholesterol by eating right, working out, etc. But if I were to focus on my weight, as the treatment for my disease is asking me to do, I doubt I would get healthier. In fact, I’d just have an unhealthy view of the world.

This all just really clicked in my head today, though I’ve been thinking of it (not in these terms) for a while. It’s all in how we think about things. Sadly, I think that in the case of most of our society’s health issues, it needs to start with mind over matter: get it right, then make it right.

Ownership in Self-Acceptance

My poetry professor read us a poem she wrote a few weeks back that started something like:

If there’s pee on the seat, it’s my pee. If there’s poo on floor, it’s my poo.

I can’t remember the rest of the poem, but we’ve spent every class since talking about “owning your poo.” Last night when I sat down to write some new poems for my collection, I had a small epiphany: all of this, everything I’ve been thinking about, writing about, etc. is about ownership, or as my professor has put it, “owning your poo.”

What happened this year wasn’t that my body changed, or even that my perception of my body changed that much. What happened was that I decided to OWN my body. Before, it was always something not mine. I wanted to lose weight because I wanted other people to think I was pretty. I was, in this market society, trying to sell an image of myself for the sake of other people. My body wasn’t my own, it was for other people’s enjoyment. It was a matter of other people’s concern.

But I realized today that I now own my body. It is MY body. What matters isn’t how I look to you. What matters is that this body is mine, and only mine. I don’t expect you to like my body. I don’t even expect you to care. Gosh, I don’t even expect MYSELF to care. This is my body. It doesn’t need excuses for your narrow-mindedness. This is MY body. Not yours. It’s not for you to criticize.

I realize now that my poetry professor had this epiphany long before I did. She is also a woman who “walks this world larger than life” (her words, not mine), and for her, it’s in how she carries herself. She has commented to me on numerous occasions, “Chrissy, your attitude about your body has changed. I don’t know about weight, nor do I care, but how you hold yourself, how you view yourself is different. And it’s beautiful.”

She gets it. I’m owning it. My body. MY body.

So, lets all own our poo. I think it’s some of the best advice I’ve every gotten.