Monday, 22 November 2010

Make Do Life Laundry week - Body Matters

Last week I was amused and amazed by the gi-normous task facing Fashion's Most Wanted and Keeping up with Mrs Jones as they undertook a life laundry on Mrs Jones's house. Also Fashion Pearls of Wisdom had a week long special on shoes. Oh what a good idea I thought, a subject matter for a week and lets do it large and deep in a life laundry sort of way.

If you have no idea what the Make Do stands for goes. In my world making do is about making do with what you've got and also being glad of that fact. It is about not wanting something to fill an emotional hole. If you've got no money then go without. And learn about budgeting and saving. If you are tired and fed up, give in and go to bed or take a rest - you won't miss out on anything. If you've got nothing to wear rearrange your wardrobe and get inspired. I'm sure you get the point. We in the West have got so used to aspiration, achievement and materialism. I'm pretty sure it is true the world over but in the developed countries it reached a peak. Basically, comparing yourself to anyone/anything is a waste of energy.

The Female Body

Let's face it models are always going to be thin and Dawn French is always going to be fat. If you get realistic and practical about the female body then the rest is easy. Your bodily functions, eating, sleeping and excreting are an everyday occurrence. There are only two major milestones in a female's life time when it comes to the body. The first is puberty and the onset of the menstruation. At this point you bodily changes can be really challenging/upsetting - this period really depends on what information you receive both verbal and non verbal. Some have easier passages than others. Some suffer more hormonally than others. The next biggest event to challenge the female body is pregnancy. Being pregnant elicits change to the female body. Our DNA and genetic imprint determine our skeletal structure which in turns impacts on our body shape.

We are all different. There are no two people alike unless you are truly an identical twin. What we have is what we have.

The issue of liking one's body

I often wonder when did people consciously think about themselves in terms of liking or not liking their body. And I mean people as a collective. Which decade or century did it happen? Have we always had this perspective of bodily image?

The trouble with comparing and contrasting is it causes just that trouble with a capital T. Ideals, images of beauty all add to the pressure of modern society. If we look at female images logically firstly the 'ideal' is always changing in the same way the way which we adorn ourselves changes. Fashion is fickle but also challenging, it keeps us fresh and moving forward. Sometimes it makes us still or reflective. Whatever goes on around us, you have to stay grounded in you. You needs to be the pivotal point. You cannot affect or change the prevailing fashion. But you can control how you respond and feel.

Why care about models?

I've never given a stuff about models or more preciously the model weight debate. Of course I care about a model as a human beings. Models are slim or not, they are of varying shapes and sizes. Mainly tall though. Perhaps because over the years I've worked with many many models I am completely ambivalent. Occasionally I do get awe struck when an individual is truly beautiful. I like beautiful things but my idea of beauty will no doubt be very different to yours. None of us share exactly the same views or taste.

What strikes me is that model's have to worry about their weight and their looks as much as most women. I really haven't got the time to talk endlessly about how we end up with our views of ourselves, our bodily images etc. It is a massive subject with much thought upon the subject to fill a library. However if you want my top tip, admire models or dislike them, but don't think about them or about being like them. It is a waste of energy. And lends to body dysmorphia.

I look fat or I hate that on me

When you put clothes on the body some days it looks great and some days it goes a bit pear shape. Sometimes when you are shopping you put a garment on and it looks great, another time it looks awful.

To the first I say hormones. To the second I say there are loads of clothes out there.

Bodily weigh does impact on what you wear. I will talk about weight in the next section but how clothes fit is simple. The trouble with ready to wear or off the peg garments it is a lottery. You are wearing an approximation, not an exact fit. With clothes you have to go with what you like, what suits you and what fits you. Again there is plenty of choice and sizes. All you have to do is to choose not to take it personally. Try things on, be open to new ideas and most importantly think you look good whatever you wear.

Plus men don't care about the specifics of your figure or what you wear. If they do have an issue with their body then it is because of something lacking in them and they are being horrid - walk away. They have to fix themselves. Or their upbringing lends them to a certain preference - but when it about taste of clothes not nit picking over your bum then just shrug your shoulders. Early on in my relationship with Mr MDS I asked him would he date a Page 3 girl, to which he replied yes! I wanted to be all indignant but I laughed - it is just about him feeling good if he went out with a Page 3 girl. It was his ego, the peacock element. Men are bound to look, men are bound to fantasise - don't you?

Diets don't work

When it comes to the body don't try to follow a calorie cutting or food specific diet. If you really want to lose weight based on the fact you are factually overweight, then there is only exercise and fuelling correctly that will get it off. Note the factual bit!

I only base things on how clothes fit and how much of a tyre I get round my middle. I've had children so I'm going to be a bit lumpy and bumpy. I do exercise and I've just started to use a personal trainer but that is mainly because I want to be pushed. Left to my own devises I wouldn't be able to shift my tyre. It is pure vanity that is driving me to tackle it. My weight doesn't go up but I've not lost the excess I put on a while back so I want to tackle it.

What I do know given I eat a lot and don't diet is exercise regulates your body better than any diet. If you do exercise like walking, swimming, cycling and running in the fresh air you'll be amazed at how you don't want to each as much. It is the combination of endorphins and being outside that fulfil something, probably emotional needs which are often causes of eating.

The worst diet ever has to be the Atkins diet. I still roll my eyes at that one. Imagine a diet that tells you to eat saturated fat when we know it is the biggest cause of heart disease. And then the Atkins chap went and died of a heart attack! It amazes me that people still buy into it.

There are only 3 books I could ever recommend on diet given they are about food choices not dieting. They are the only 3 books I have because they are useful for me in respect of my personal styling work. I don't have a nutrition book because I know what foods are proper healthy foods - we all do. I'm mainly vegan but very occasionally I do eat fish, meat or dairy. I actually ate a sausage, a German bratwurst, for the first time in ages on Saturday at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. It was perfect with mulled wine and German potato dish. And I had a tiny piece of chicken when I cooked roast dinner on Sunday. I love goats and feta cheese so I'm not going to deprive myself but it is only occasionally.

The 3 books are
I can make you thin by Paul McKenna - purely habit changing and focused on acheiving not deprivation. Really good if you like suggestion to respond to.

Can we live 150 years? by Mikhail Tombak - this is not for the faint hearted as it is pretty hard core. He does love the old no food combining thing but what is truly useful about this book is the idea of giving your body a service. When I get a weekend to myself I'll do the liver detox!

The China Study by T.Colin Campbell - this is the holy grail of dietary advice. It is the sort of book that will change your life or have you reaching for a hamburger. I love it. It is a wonderful read and it's impact on me was greater than just diet. However, not everyone will be swayed by his evidence and arguments.

So what next

Thank you if you've got this far, as it is a long read for a blog post! The purpose of this post is to get you to take stock of you now and lose any habits that are holding you back in respect of body image.

If your bikini line needs a wax you get it done or not. We all need to adopt the same pragmatic approach to ourselves, how we feel about ourselves. It is a sad fact but you are the only person in your body. Even if someone cares and loves you - your mind, your perspective, your sight is yours alone. Only you can guide and steer yourself. Be pragmatic if you want to life laundry your body or body matters.


  1. Super post. Well done. What a lot of thinking went into this and how well you put it down on paper. Super!

  2. What a fantastic post - I totally agree with all of what you've said, particularly the bit about comparing yourself with others (it'll drive anyone crazy) and the bit about outdoor exercise. I wrote a post on my blog recently about losing the weight I'd gained (reasons too may to write about here) by daily walking my dog up and down the hills of Hampstead.

    Helena xx

    PS. So sorry I didn't make last week's Tweet-up, next time? xx

  3. Fabulous post, and great reminder that just because a particular item of clothing may not look good on us, it doesn't mean our body is somehow "wrong" and in need of changing.

    One small factual quibble, though, Dr. Atkins didn't die of a heart attack. He slipped on some ice and hit his head, causing bleeding around the brain.

  4. Deja Pseu - I stand corrected ref Dr Atkins - that is no way to go!

  5. Agree with all you have said.

    Just like to add that menopause is also a major milestone in our lives.
    In my 50's now and the women around me - many of a similar age - just don't want to acknowledge the changes that are taking place either physically or emotionally and feels like a denial of ageing.
    Personally I find this time of my life empowering & liberating!
    Thanks for a great post.

  6. Hi there-another fabulous post my dear and this time of the year is particularly true for making do-I love the rearranging your wardrobe for inspiration, a good tip to remember when you think you 'need' that elusive purchase!!

  7. Great post, I enjoyed reading it. I found that only after being overweight did I really appreciate my and learn to love it. I was a size 10 for years but always wanted to be thinner and never really loving my body, then over a period of about 8 years I went up to a 14/16 and truly hated my body, but after getting back down to an 8/10 over the last 2 years (purely by exercise and being more food aware) I absolutely love my body even though it looks exactly as it did all those years ago!

  8. Ah, a fantastic post.

    It took me years to figure out that clothes in shops didn't not fit me because I was fat, but just because I'm a different shape to the one they design for.

    I'm so much more settled in myself now, not that I don't have "god I'm so fat" moments!

  9. Hi Kate. I've just done a search on completed listings for that Jimmy Choo dress and a new one sold for £185. £60 sounds a bit on the low side. Why not add a Buy-It-Now of £100? The option will disapear as soon as you get a bid. xxx

  10. Great post, all good stuff about body image and healthy weight.

    But I would say the two major milestones in women's lives should be puberty and menopause (as Jane mentioned above). A significant number of women don't have children, so I don't think one can use that in such a general sense to talk about women's experience.

  11. Wonderful post - thank you.

    I don't know exact dates re the body image thing but it sounds like a 20th century phenomenon to me - more disposable cash and time on our hands, fewer life and death worries.

  12. Marl - Thank you, I had completely forgot about menopause and not intentionally - it part of the big three. And yes I agree lots of women don't have children but as I've learnt that isn't always by choice. The point about children is pregnancy - unwanted ones or prevented by birth control, this also impacts on the body.

    The benefit of not having children is obvious as the body does not change as drastically.

  13. What an indepth post Kate, but very well said I just cannot cope with women and the downers they put upon themselves, it is depressing! (Im not saying I am perfect and of course we all have fat days) But we need to enjoy life and stop worring so much about the spare tyres! xx

  14. For a start, fab pictures - I have a postcard of that Modigliani.

    This is something I wish the fashion industry would really start taking more notice of - women want to feel good about their bodies, and fashion can either help or hinder. And I don't necessarily mean the too-thin-model debate. I mean the whole approach being one of aspiration, whether it is one kind of ideal body, or expensive branded clothes. Nothing seems to be about wearing what makes you feel good, learning to love and work with your own body type, and still being able to appreciate the beauty of others without envy.

    I'm not sure this is a new thing, when the whole idea of image is fundamental to being human - biologically, we want to be the person that is selected for breeding, to be blunt. And how about all the bound feet, and corsets, and plucked forehead hair we have had in the past?

    What gives me hope, is the fact that as bloggers we are real people talking about fashion - not to sell anything, but because we like it. Of course some blogs are all about 'I want this, I have this', but many others such as yours, or Vix, or Alex, are about working within your means, finding your own style, and simply declaring 'this is me, this is what I like'. I think it is the best thing to happen to fashion in a really long time.

  15. Dear Kate, what a fantastic post! You are absolutely right of course.

    You've made me think about my diet and (lack of) exercise. I'm still life laundrying my own wardrobe would you believe! and have rediscovered a great deal I can get tons more wear out of.

    Thank you for a very thought provoking post xx

  16. Great post, definitely has given me food for thought about body image. My niece has just hit 13 and puberty. She's taller than her classmates and thinks she's fat when she actually has a nice figure, we women have definitely got to get our heads round loving ourselves for who we are and what we've got so we can instill it into younger women.

  17. You talk about the fact that if men have a problem with your body, you should walk away, and that it's their issue that they have to deal with. But you then mention about a man saying he would want to date a page 3 girl. That sounds like one of the issues you are warning us to walk away from. I certainly wouldn't date any man who wanted a page 3 girl. He would have unrealistic expectations of womens' bodies and women's sexual behaviour (i.e. to not have dignity, respect and privacy over their bodies).

    I think bringing men into the issue of female body image is misleading and distracts from the bigger causes of body image disorder and how to go about fixing it. On programmes like How to Look Good Naked, the man in the life of many of the women on there is irrelevant to how they feel about their bodies. The men often say they constantly praise, and yet the women still feel down.

    Also our relationship with our mothers is far more influential on how we feel about our bodies than, say, our relationship with our fathers or brothers.

  18. Maria - thank you for your comment. I had hoped the post was clear in its point about being a life laundry not a full some discussion of issues.

    I completely agree with you last point and the reach is wider in respect of patriachal society etc etc.

    It is too big a subject to tackle in a post. It would need a book.

    To clarify ref men - the example about a man who comments on and tries to make you feel awful about your body is one you need to step away. The person you are with be it male or female should love you unconditionally.

    And I married the man who'd date page 3 girl! He would never have been asked not rich enough or any of those stereotypical things. He's the loveliest, kindest and loving man there is and he'd still probably date one if asked!


Thank you for commenting, much appreciated. Sorry about no longer offering anonymous comments but spamming had become a very annoying issue. xxx