Monday, 18 January 2010

Thought for the week - size matters

It is a long time since I've discussed the issue of size and clothes but it is a reoccurring debate. Of late I've been reading and watching on TV lots of diet related articles and programmes. Firstly it is that time of year post Christmas but secondly I'm still unable to pick up a novel post Masters. IT is with a great deal of trepidation that I post it as with my last couple of posts, it falls into that iffy bracket of do I post or not. Without an editor making the decisions I panic about the wisdom of my choices. I am a risk taker but doubts will linger...

When it comes to the models are too thin debate and setting a bad example chorus -I'm always torn between the reality of making samples for shows and the cost of this, hence the requirement for a slim model so less material is used. Then there is the issue of a more equable visual representation of women but I just like looking at the clothes, the model doesn't really influence me much in my view of size or beauty.

Whitney Thompson Plus Size model (America's Next Top Model series winner)

Underlying the size debate is the stark truth of people, men and women being en mass heavier and bigger than they used to be. There is no doubt that many of the world's population lives in poverty with the rest having access to a glut of food stuff.

After decades of diets, nutritionists, dietitians and bio chemists are returning to the message of input and output. Calorie control or understanding is back in favour. If this is the case then might it mean the fashion industry is absolved of the negativity of using slim models. Leaving aside the fact the fashion industries preference for thin - will the shift on body image and weight issues return to the individual to take responsibility for their own health.

We know smoking kills you, and having tackled smoking and the tobacco industry - isn't it time to turn on the food industry and go after them for all the nasty ingredients they add to food stuff to make you be addicted to sugar and salt.

In my case I had a rude awakening with my fat hips. I suddenly put on 10lbs over a year. In part this was due to not running so much but also upon investigation I looked into my calorie intake. I don't wish to divulge the amount but if you check out the Pret website it handily gives you the calorie content of their food. I like Pret and it is nothing to do with them that I had no idea that a mid morning cappuccino, a lunchtime free range egg mayo sandwich and hippy shake would result in 612 calories. If I add anything else it gets worse. Basically I don't know how much I eat in calorie speak a day and this is the crux of my fat hips.

I do know to burn 1lb a week you need to cut down by 3500 calories or expend 3500 calories. The maths is really simple and the knowledge is simple too but yet I've been fooling myself or blissfully unaware about hidden calories such a glucose syrup acting as a sugar, which is more fattening or rather calorific than sugar itself!

I'm in the process of weaning myself off sugar - this will mean no more cappuccino's as they are wrong without the chocolate on top! I'm taking responsibility for fat hips and considering producing warning labels similar to the smoking ones. I can't deny petit garcon his occasional treats but I may have to stick 'This makes you fat' on his rich tea biscuits in case I try to sneak one. I'm not advocating not eating - I need my 2000 calories a day to function, but they should be from proper food, food the body can breakdown, digest and use. Can you imagine shopping in the supermarket and picking up foods with such a label on!

Are we delusional in our eating habits? Have we really forgotten to eat to jut fuel ourselves? We are all different shapes and sizes, much of which is laid down by our genes but are we adding the rest? Does any of this matter or is it just fashion?


  1. Great post .. I as you know am also on a mission. I dont know about other people but I think slimmer=healthier .. I say slim not skinny.
    Muscle burns more calories and supports the skeleton so I think exercise is the key to that and as you say input output ... but we should be aware of our choices in the input making the food we eat work for us. Eating and living healthier makes you feel so much better .. and I dont care who you are when you are slim, feeling great , looking great you are happier x

  2. Interesting topic. I think eating can be such an emotional thing. I think genes are a big Player, but a lot of people are just unaware of how many calories they need and how much activity you have to do to burn them. I did weight watchers a few years ago and it was a massive eye opener- I was clueless about portions etc, but even once you know, sometimes it's hard to stay Strong! Good luck with the no sugar plan. x

  3. It does matter from a health point of view, but saying that I just can't stop myself. Chinese, Indian, McDonalds etc does taste better than a chicken salad - fact. What women need to realise is that once you hit forty or thereabouts, for lots of us, we just can't eat what we did when we were younger without putting on weight. I don't eat anymore now than I did 10 years ago but the weight has crept on so slowly and then suddenly you get on the scales and get a huge shock. I feel sorry for young people who have to watch their weight, life should be about more than this when you are young and carefree, luckily I didn't have to worry back then. My three girls are all different, the eldest is 5 10 in height and quite overweight whereas the other two are much shorter and are both size 6 to 8 but completely different body shapes, the middle one being like an ironing board and the younger one being very curvy - none are apple shapes like me, weird and they all eat junk.

  4. In the scheme of things, does size really matter - or fashion? I agree that health and wellbeing are important, but I find our curious obsession with diets and calories nauseating (let me go and throw up immediately - should offload a few calories).

  5. I do have a hard time paying attention to calorie intake, I am easily distracted by a pretty cupcake. Though I don't indulge in that kind of excess daily, but it does add up even when you indulge only a couple of times a week the older I get! I need a reality check on my intake and to slow my day down enough to really think about what I am eating or in some cases inhaling!
    Great discussion.
    Marie @ Lemondrop ViNtAge

  6. Hi there-I suppose I'm lucky I don't have to worry too much about putting on weight, unfortunately with stress, I've lost weight and my clothes feel baggy and I feel I could be slightly more bigger given the choice. Being skinny does have a downside to it sometimes too!

  7. Really great post. I think for many of us who are smitten with fashion and style, it is natural to want to be as thin as possible. Most designs do look better on a skinny frame... and what fashion-crazy girl does not want to wear her designer garb like a runway model?

    For those of us who work in the industry in some capacity, I believe it's even more important to be perceived as thin - even if you are not a model. I know some hair/makeup/wardrobe people who claim they have missed out on work opportunities because of being plus size rather than sample size. Sadly, hearing this did not surprise me at all...

    And speaking of rude awakenings, I pretty much never touch anything from Starbucks, Pret and Au Bon Pain now when they are required to inform customers about calorie content... scary to think of all the crap I used to put in my mouth! :D

  8. I think each of us has to find that balance between where our bodies feel best and what we can reasonably maintain. Post-menopause, I've found that sugar/carbs will put on weight independently of caloric input (and that old formula of 3500 = 1 lb. has pretty much been disproven; some people will gain on less, some will need to eat much more than that to gain and visa versa to lose). To weigh what I'd love to weigh, I'd have to eat so little that I'd be miserable otherwise.

    When it comes to models and aspiration, I think this is a slippery slope. Thanks to photoshopping, etc, not even models look like themselves in photos. Beyond their extreme thinness most models have an extremely ectomorphic body type that is not typical of the population at large (regardless of weight trends). Even if all of us were to achieve a BMI of 17, only a small percentage of us would be similarly proportioned.

    A really good book on the science of food and weight is "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes.

  9. There's no hope of me laying off the sugar, I'm afraid.

  10. Lucky you are the mother of a son.
    Because if petit garcon was petit fille then you would have to consider all this in the context of sending out "messages" about weight gain and control. Aye Yi Yi!

    My sister has it with her own and then her daughter's weight. I couldn't get over the need to limit the number of helpings her daughter wanted at the table. And constant vigilance over the level of activity that the kids needed. They live in the countryside so this is not such an issue but if they were in an urban environment it would be problematic.

    But most importantly we DO NOT TALK about it. So that my niece doesnt get a fixation either way.

    Such a friggen minefield!

    I subscribe to Eat less, move around more. I don't weigh myself but if my favourite jeans get tight then I slow down on the Lily O'Brien Hot Chocolate. And try and increase opportunities to walk to the shops or chase children around a swimming pool.

    At one time I was under A LOT of stress and noticed my solar plexus and clavicles had become very pronounced. That was a wake up call for either losing the stress or getting a donut and coffee in before the first phone call from the school. Because I might not eat again after that.

    I think that model looks HEAVENLY - please tell me she won the main top model show, and not a special plus size one? xx

    ps. Just get cocaine out of modelling, that would help a lot. They could be on the Tic Tac and lettuce diet as much as they like as long as they didn't keep messing themselves up on that shit. xx

  11. Hammie - oh gosh so true. I never once nor do I have any eating issues. I'm anti talking worrying. I just prompt good health and food in our house. Lots of fruit and veg etc.

    It is very true there is a fine balance between slim/fit/toned/healthy - because skinny is not good. So true about cocaine and models - look at Moss now, not a wise move long term. She still looks good on one level but haggard on another.

  12. I think we could all be a little bit healthier in what we eat, the temptation is all around us - those pesky advertisers are really good at their jobs! But if you 'watch what you eat', smaller portions, move more etc. Then its a bonus to lose some weight as well. Being slim/skinny isn't the be and and end all to happiness. I lost too much weight due to a thyroid condition and it was always a struggle to put it on to be a good weight to concieve. I could never get to the magical 8 1/2 stone but miraculously I did get pregnant and now I am a mum of 3. A lot of the models you see in mags/catwalks are aged 15/16/17 so they won't have mature bodies - so it is always unrealistic to compare yourself to them. Just be comfortable in your own skin, be happy, laugh more.

  13. What a brilliant post. Honest, truthful and simple. I think you are right that so many people try and hide from the fact that you have to work off what you put in, myself included. As I've mentioned before I too have steadily gained weight because I allow myself constant treats and once you start having treats every day it's hard to stop yourself with them. One thing I hope to do this year is get back the exercise habit.

    As someone not in the industry I do think that in some ways it has to take responsibility for promoting a sometimes unhealthy figure. But at the same time people are also afraid of saying that fat is unhealthy, which is just as absurd. And by fat I mean clinically obese, not curvy.

    Hmm, lots to think about and thank-you for inspiring those thoughts! M x

  14. One of the most complex issues you could tackle, Make Do. Body image is a huge deal for women. Learning to accept your body rather than instinctively criticize it, is the challenge.

    Here's what has helped me: When I call my husband's attention to my soft flabby belly, he says "Beautiful." (That's why I let him be mean to me the rest of the time)

  15. I agree with Sister Wolf "One of the most complex issues" you could talk about. Very well.
    Well, sometimes I think that as a vegetarian I can take more control of my weigh, sometimes I think it's worst because I need some things to make the food feel tasty, like some carbs... an...d... I had some eating disorders such as "mia".
    So I probably would say that concerning me "size matters" as I almost never accept mine :-(


  16. Kate: This post is so thought provoking in so many ways. I love it. We are becoming larger in the western world as we glut on the food our poorer neighbours have no access to. And fashion - as an industry - does need to function on the least cost possible. More fabric equals more expenditure. So I get why the models are thin - though things seem very out of line, esp. as society gets fatter. Then the issue of classism and elitism comes into the equation. (Are you strong enough or genetically blessed enough to withstand the pressure to eat / propensity to gain.)

    I think your policy about replacing junk with real food is terrific. That is my constant goal and, while I've really improved over the past couple of years, I fight the impulse constantly. I fight it now, realizing that my urge to eat is about so many things - not least of which, baseless appetite. Because my appetite is developed! :-)

    It's hard not to become very hardline when you start to realize how many calories you've been eating and where they come from but I think it does have to balance out in the wash. Sometimes, a splurge is great. The key is to realize you're splurging.

    Really great post.

    PS: I haven't bought any clothing since Dec. 26. My philosophy right now is, if I want it, I've got to make it! That'll show me.

  17. Marie - gosh yes curvy - although this is perhaps a soft word for feminine shape - is the desirably figure. It would be great for a blend of health and acceptance of varying feminine shapes. Sizing relates to height and weight so a 5ft 10 size 14/16 (UK) is not the same as being 5ft and size 14. I've got a bust, waist and hips and I'm keeping them!

    Sister Wolf - I agree and I'd never be critical even of myself. Why when I've put on a few pounds I wiggle my hips and behind it never fails. If a guy wants you t thin then he's gay in my book. I have no issue with young thin models but when the only promotion of older women is based on their trimness and 'youthful' looks it drives me mad. Bet your husband thinks beautiful every day with you xx

    The Seeker - I know it is a difficult issue so I was trying not to confuse body shape/image with health, which is probably impossible. My point is ultimately we need to question the food chain, both the inequality of distribution world wide and what is put into the food chain and the products in the supermarket.

    K-Line - Developed appetite is spot on! And yes a feast is a feast - people have had them since ...forever but in celebration of occasions not everyday! I love your clothes making it's making me wish I still had a sewing machine. I might get a small cheap one to run skirts and dresses up on. xxx

  18. Gosh, I think that this is really a debate about many things. I would say that the production and distribution of food (who gets what where and so on) is a separate issue to how we think about food culturally, because food is, ultimately, a social and cultural tool. However, calorie counting annoys me immensely; I just don't see the point and it's a 'luxury' that we've only been able to afford over the last forty or so years. I do think that that the fashion industry is in many ways to blame because it feeds highly destructive ways of thinking. You can't tell me that those girls walking the catwalks are all naturally that slim, or haven't caused lasting damage to their bodies. Slim, superficially 'healthy' people die from heart disease all the time. Being larger doesn't mean you're not healthy.

  19. Liz - thanks for your comment. I agree that the actual counting of calories is in part to our new lifestyle but in reality this has been happening since the days of Plato - the Greeks had many views on health and wellbeing, calorie counting and avoiding the loss of sperm to name a couple, it was very masculine orientated.

    And of course being large does not make you unhealthy. We are all different shapes and sizes due to our genes but the rise in type 2 diabetes is due to something - is it weight gains or interference with food?

  20. Interesting question. In Britain I think it's the result of a massive shift in lifestyle. We largely live sedentary lives now and a lot of people eat processed crap because it's easier and less time-consuming at the end of a stressful day. But that said, I did read somewhere that most people who stick to the 5 a day fruit and veg routine largely eat fruit because it's easier and more convenient without realising that they're massively upping their sugar intake in the process. It all seems to be such a massive minefield doesn't it? Anyway, have read your blog for a while now (but never posted until now) and I think it's great: really informative and entertaining.

  21. I'm fighting a bit of a sugar battle too, and I blame it all on pregnancy and a local shop that makes their own amazing doughnuts. Now I'm addicted!

  22. I'm sick of people against skinny models.
    They are coat hangers for God's sake!
    And plus size models are actually bad role models a lot of the time too, overweight is not beautiful.


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