Are you a lifelong dieter? Are you one of the millions of women who, every year, hop on a diet, lose some weight, feel amazing – and then gain it back plus more?
We live in a world absolutely bombarded by conflicting messages about food. Processed food is now available for impulse buy at nearly every type of store imaginable – even office supply stores. But right next to that candy and chips is a rack of magazines with airbrushed models on the covers offering the 10 Steps to the Perfect Bikini Body.
Turns out that even in this quagmire of conflicting messages, there’s life beyond dieting. Life that isn’t consumed with weight loss, exercise, or panic about having eaten this food or having skipped a trip to the gym.
It’s more possible today than ever before, amazingly enough. Plus-size fashion for women is taking off at an unprecedented rate, with size-22 supermodel Tess Holliday on the front cover of People Magazine in 2015, runways shows dedicated to plus-size fashion exclusively, and stores designing fashion-forward plus-size clothes specifically for plus-size women (and not as a stretched version of size-2 clothes). Getting curvy and plus-size women into the mainstream view is a step forward for all of us being able to love ourselves just the way we are – because at least now we can feel cute, sexy, or even gorgeous in our clothes!
The progress toward positive views of plus-size women is accelerating, but slowly. Progress can be painfully slow for those of us striving for acceptance in our plus-size bodies. And it varies based on where you live, because you may not have access to plus-size clothing stores in your area, or you may live in a location that values thinness over most other traits. Or maybe your friend group is populated by life-long dieters, working on a minute-by-minute basis to manage and control what they eat and how much they exercise.
And what’s your family’s view on weight and food? Perhaps there are strict dieters in your family, or people who use self-blaming and self-deprecating language to describe their bodies – possibly so frequently that it’s become second-nature at this point.
The path to self-acceptance and self-love at any size can be long and winding, but oh, is it worth it. To free yourself from the daily obsession with food, with your stomach and your thighs. To buy clothes that fit and suit your body, comfortably, and feel gorgeous in them. To reclaim those activities you’ve been avoiding until you lose weight – like swimming or going to the beach, or wearing fitted clothes, or getting a cute hair cut. Or dating.
So many of us put off some of these enjoyable or life-changing activities until that magic day when we’ve reached our Ideal Weight. The anxiety and negative body image keep us from fully living our lives. Some of my clients, when I ask them about dating, will even say, “oh, no, that’s not even on my radar – I don’t need to work on that at all!” This can be a sign that there is such negative self-image, such fear about being unlovable with our bodies the way that they are, that we can’t even think about fully leaning into our lives and reaching out for the things we want.
It can be so hard to sort through the confusing and mixed messages about weight and food. Here are some wonderful resources to help you get started:
Follow the Curvy Fashionista on Facebook
Follow plus-size model Tess Holliday on Facebook
Check out some of these amazing online plus-size shops!
Read Traci Mann’s Secrets from the Eating Lab
Read Judith Matz’s The Diet Survivor’s Handbook
Read Jane Hirschmann and Carol Munter’s When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies
For a very scientifically-minded look at what causes poor health at any size (not just larger sizes) and how to work toward health at any size, read Robert Lustig’s Fat Chance