New Name and a Dress: your most important relationship…?

I’m at the stage in my life when all my friends seem to be having kids and/or getting married. I’ve been to three weddings in the last month.

Watching these celebrations of relationships,  I’ve become aware of my own relationship… with my body. Are we destined for a happy life together? Let’s see… In preparation for these recent weddings, I have:

  1. stopped eating bread
  2. drunk Puritee every night for a month in an attempt to trick my metabolism
  3. eaten meals off a side plate to cut down my portion sizes
  4. lived off Special K for a week
  5. Eaten nothing but protein for a four day stretch

Is that nice? I think not. In fact, if my bod was a child, I’d be in trouble for maltreatment. Seeing my dieting attempts in black and white makes me think it’s all a bit, you know, crazy. And why have I bullied my body this way? I think you can guess: so I wouldn’t feel upset when I saw the wedding photos.

When I first heard about one wedding, I was feeling brave and bought a lovely outfit: champagne pleated skirt, red silk t-shirt, knockout gold wedges. I want to look fabulous, I said to myself in an encouraging fashion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So why did I end up in a floor-length dress and cardigan? Because I couldn’t face catching a glimpse of my upper arms in a mirror. I punished my body for not losing weight, and hid it in fine knits.

I was bridesmaid at another, and bought a very slinky purple number – my derrière got some attention, let me tell you.

 Your curves look great in this, I told myself. But even after the Special K and the waist cincher, the day of the wedding found me sobbing about my side view. What’s wrong with this picture…?!

This sounds terribly self-absorbed. Weddings are about other people, after all; I know it ain’t all about me! But there’s something about weddings – including the sheer amount of photographs – that ups the ante. We women put more pressure on our bodies to be thinner or more tanned. Ever burst into tears trying to pick an outfit for a night out? Blamed your body because a dress wouldn’t fit right? Well, chuck in a bride, a groom, and a four-tier cake and that feeling is magnified ten-fold.

As someone who blogs about fashion, I feel I should be positive about my body – show it off and big it up. I just find that really hard. Pearl W was teasing me the other day about the fact I used to leave my head off blog photos:

Baby steps! I’m not saying it’s right to feel this way – it strikes me as really sad – but I know I’m not alone. A lot of us have complex relationships with our bodies, often starving them, depriving them, resenting them and hating them. Would we ever treat someone else like that? I doubt it.

Of course, it doesn’t help that we can’t move for media-proffered diet tips. Even Kate Middleton was rumoured to be on the Dukan Diet in the run-up to her wedding, and not a day goes by without someone somewhere commenting on her weight. (It’s that she’s “too thin”, but the emphasis is still on her size, no? All she’s done is pre-empt criticism that she needed to drop a few pounds.) I see the whole Kate phenomenon as emblematic of what many of us women feel – that eyes are on our bodies, judging. And that losing weight for a wedding should a given, whatever it takes.

 

I wanted this to be a chipper post, I really did, but it’s been on my mind lately and I’d love your feedback. Last night, Claire tweeted something in response to a convo about weight loss that gave me a slap round the face:

 

She’s dead right, as I’m sure you know: forcing your body to change isn’t always the answer – accepting yourself should be.

Christopher Hitchens said, “We don’t have bodies; we are bodies”, and I can’t help thinking that sentence holds the key to it all:  if I started thinking of my body as my self, rather than something that I own, I might be a little kinder and more forgiving – impending nuptials or no.

So, where does that leave me? Weddings are lovely, of course, but to quote Samantha Jones:

“I’ve been in a relationship with myself for…years and that’s the one I need to work on”.

After all, we’re together now, for better or for worse…

 

What kind of relationship do you have with your body?

What tips have you got for those who need to work on it?

 

This post is one of a series of monthly posts by the Feminist Fashion Bloggers.
Read the rest of the ‘Dating and Relationships’ roundup here.
Join the discussion in the Google group here.

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28 thoughts on “New Name and a Dress: your most important relationship…?

  1. I appreciate your honesty in this post and it makes me unbearably sad that you are not eating properly to look good in a dress. That’s not a criticism; just a compassionate statement. I think you have such a lovely figure and I’m not just saying that!

  2. Wonderful post. I feel like I, and many other women, endure the same roller coaster ride of self confidence about our bodies. One minute I am Ms. Curvy with Pride, and the next I can’t find anything that doesn’t make me feel fat. This is a hard position to be in , especially as feminists who are supposedly liberated from body fascism. Regardless of our politics, it is a struggle to resist the messages our culture sends us about our bodies and how we should feel about them. I don’t know a way out of this pickle, but you are right- we should be working on chandging how we feel about our bodies instead of trying to simply change our bodies.

  3. I also appreciate the honesty–and I admire your strength to be in a wedding. All that attention! It can be too much.

    Advice is hard to give, but I think this is true: If you wear a cardigan, then feel good about it! I *love* wearing jackets. Give me a jacket over a sleeveless dress any day. I feel chicer in that garment. I also feel better in basic, casual clothes. I say indulge in that comfort and not believe you should be more daring. We don’t live in front of the camera or on the stage of a blog. I’m sure you’ve been looking beautiful!

  4. Pearl always tells me off for doing the same thing in my pictures. For me the reason I do it, its not even the body confidence thing, as I am happy to show my body in clothes, but when I started the blog, I didn’t want people I knew coming across it and seeing it was me, also although I have no problem with seeing full length shots of young and lovely people with great figures in their clothes, I didn’t want anybody looking at me, at my age, with my love of clothes and fashion and thinking “who the bloody hell does she think she is?”, I honestly get the feeling with some bloggers that they really do love themselves and I would hate anybody to think that of me.
    As for body issues, as you know I do beauty treatments for a living, which includes tanning almost naked people and I have to say that I see lots of young women who in their clothes look wonderful because they may be a size 8/10/12 but they often have saggy boobs, stretch marks, big green veins on their lower and upper legs and to be honest, although I am overweight (age related) I don’t have one stretch mark and I still have a great bust, which sits where it always was, so all is not lost, I think I look better naked, than clothed to be honest!
    As for dieting, I did the Dukan before my holiday and lost 1 1/2 stone in 9 weeks and had a fair few days off, so it was a good result and my problem area (stomach) did go down, although I still felt my upper arms were big (Russian shot putter the husband calls me!) sadly I can’t get back into it and have probably put it all back on now, too scared to look, but if anybody is looking for a diet that really works, I do recommend it.
    I love the first outfit by the way and as for the pictures, I doubt I will be putting my head in them any time soon, for me its about the clothes and what I write and my opinions on things that counts, some people take a great picture but even at 8 1/2 stone before I ever had kids, I was never photogenic and have never felt comfortable having my picture taken and I can’t ever see that changing!

  5. Oh Mrs B – big hugs to you! It doesn’t help for me to say you have a fabulous body, does it – which you do?
    Can I just put in perspective – I am 44 and if I had the figure I had when I was 30, I would be extremely happy! When I WAS 30, was I happy with it? NO, NO, NO! I like to think I have have made peace with myself/body and can listen better. It is literally the case of what my gut is telling me lol! There’s a very interesting series of posts on another well known blog about this very subject which is very honest.
    I think you got it already, it is your whole self you need to accept and listen to and not punish anymore.
    Thank you for being so honest too. There is no magic solution except maybe to eat well, sleep well and move!? Easier said than done……

  6. Oh chicken, I wish you didn’t feel like this. Your body is hot and I’ve personally felt a wee bit envious of you in the past because you always look so sleek and put-together. I used to feel quite sef-conscious of myself, but I think that has a lot to do with the things my ex used to say to me (how can you feel good about yourself when your boyfriend is always telling you to lose weight). Now I feel fine, sometimes I have off days of course, and I know my belly is a bit podgier than it should be for health, but I know when I’m about to go into a self-loathing spiral and I don’t let myself go there. It does take energy to stop beating yourself up, I know, but keep on at it. You’ve certainly got nothing to be worried about, you are gorgeous xx

  7. In a way I feel I’ve had an odd kind of blessing in that the things I’m not to keen on about my physical self are things I CANNOT change, nor even buy the illusion of change (I am short, I have huge feet for my size). So I don’t have any marketing ‘weak spot’ for getting me to diet/surgery/treatments etc’. I’m not sure but I have a suspicion it made me pragmatic about the things I could change and whether the change would be ‘worth it’ (i.e. for my own wedding, I bought a dress in my size and did some exercise to get toned, cut down on take-aways and booze, but none of that mad stuff you hear about, because I didn’t want to be stressed AND hungry in the run-up). Some people were like ‘wow, great body image’- they seemed conflate body image and weight image. It’s just I can’t do anything to change my huge feet and short, stocky build (luckily, wedding dresses are long, and high heels shorten the foot and make me a bit taller).

  8. truth is we have all been taught time after time to criticize and punish our bodies. Maybe I have an easy time because I am slim, but I have learned through the years to love my body for what it is, have a clear view on what I have and what I don’t have, and above all: not care too much. After all, I am more than my looks, and since I love myself as a person, how can I not love the body that is that person?

  9. I admire your courage in being so candid and open about this subject. It’s one we all wrestle with. Wisdom about weight is hard because, even when we have good thoughts in your head, our underlying psyche is full of harmful stuff caused by the societal influences around us.

    I applaud your struggle for insight. My only contribution is to say that it helps to focus on feeling good about oneself without thinking about appearance — when we feel confident in general, that extends to our looks. I know that feeling can be diminished when realizing how tight a dress is or that we aren’t using the notch of a belt we want, but I believe it’s better to focus our minds on the big issues and not on superficial ones. Good luck with your struggle.

  10. it makes me sad to read this; i’ve always thought you have a fabulous figure, and your outfits always look so nicely put-together..then again, i know first-hand that words don’t often help in these situations, i have had similar compliments in the past, or on blog posts, and i have also been known to be physically sick after working myself up so much over hating the way that i look, or the way in which i see myself..

    i hate my body, i’ve spent years not liking the way that i look, and hating myself for not being able to do enough about it to see the results i want..i know that i have a skewed view of what my ideal body-shape would be (unhealthily thin? yes, beautiful? to me, yes.) but i also know that without making myself ill, i won’t ever get there..

    one of the reasons i started my blog was to try and combat the fear i fel t looking at pictures of myself..i have always found it difficult to like anything about my own body – clothes, i love, and could talk about for ages (hence the outfit posts, and one of the things i get told doesn’t make any sense – how can i be so happy to experiment with clothes, in a way which is bound to draw attnetion, if i don’t like my body? i think it’s because i have preferred to wear things whcih force attention on the outfit rather than the person wearing them). but myself? all i seem to see are the bad parts, the things i would like to change, the size i hate, etc.

    i think it’s a case of ‘wanting what you don’t have’ in some respects as well – i know friends who are the size i would wish to be, and they aren’t happy, dont’ want to look childlike or boyish, and would prefer something else..people need to learn (myself included) to be happy with what they have..but as for how to do that, i’m afraid i have no idea. i wish i knew.

    sorry for leaving you such a rambly essay..

  11. I am so sorry honey! You look fab, genuinely!

    I do sympathise. I think I said this on twitter, i am getting married so soon and i have a flabby belly for the first time in my life, plus flabby evcerything else. I did try to lose weight for a bit, as is the convention for brides to be. Just three kilos to get back to the eight I was until 6 months ago, but i failed even at that. Not that i did anything drastic like you.

    The thing is, i have to be really really careful with restricting food, even in a supposedly healthy, eating lots of salad and raw veg way. I’ve been anorexic twice before, and the second time it led to a long, long period of what was never diagnosed, but definitely was, clinical depression. (this was a long time ago) Coming out on the other end of it, i know that being hungry plays havoc with my mood and i will never let myself go there agian because i never ever want to feel that way again. Even if I weighed 20 stone, it would still be better than spending all day in bed, crying, wishing i could just go to sleep so i wouldn’t have to deal with the world. That has really put all the stuff about fat arms into perspective. i still think about how crap bits of my body look, often even, but I don’t let it get me down any more because there is no alternative. I’m ok with my body, because I have to be.

    Anyway, I’m obviously not saying get yourself some mental health issues and you’ll feel good about yourself, because it’s taken me a long time to get there and i wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But there is something about persective and deciding on where your priorities are.

    Though really I’m not saying anything, but I just wanted to share this because i think by blogger standards I am pretty body confident, and may come across as dismissing poether people’s problems, but there’s a journey behind it.

  12. I think the thing that a lot of people won’t let themselves believe is that losing weight doesn’t solve anything. They want to buy into the myth that losing half a stone will cure all their ills. I’ve lost 8 stone. All it does is make it easier to buy clothes. Superficially I’m a lot happier and more comfortable with myself but it hasn’t magically changed my shape or cured any of my problem areas.

    I was pearshaped and fat. I’m still pearshaped. I had crap boobs and was fat. I still have crap boobs. I’m exactly the same in terms of proportions, just a hell of a lot slimmer. Getting slimmer didn’t do anything about the faded stretchmarks that cover me from the armpits down and knees up, or the awful stomach roll of flab, or the bingo wings. That’s just lifetime penance for allowing myself to get so fat in the first place. I can’t do anything more about it.

    The only thing I can work on, short of surgery, is acceptance. I am what I am. My body is fairly healthy and that’s the main thing. It looks alright when it’s covered up. Rather than winding myself up about the fact I can’t wear sleeveless things I just add to my cardigan collection.

  13. I know exactly how you feel. In fact I am just the same. I was late for my friends birthday last night because I couldnt find anything to wear that didnt make me look like a proper fatty. In the end I wore a black t-shirt and jeans with those ridiculous control knickers – every time I sat down the top rolled down and I spent the entire night wrestling with them. Luckily only one photo was taken from a distance. No matter what I do I simply cannot shift the stone I have put on in the last year, I know why I have put on weight but it really doesnt make a difference. I also know that I would need to go to the gym five times a week to shift it, but cant due to my health. It is also getting me down much more as we move into winter and my staple clothes are skinny jeans and leather leggings. Summer is easier as full skirted vintage frocks hide a lot of sins. I find it hard to blog outfits, sometimes even after taking a hundred photos I will just look too awful to post. Doesn’t matter how many ‘love yourself’ articles and stuff I read, I am not happy being this size. So I won’t tell you how fab I think you look and how envious I am of your beautiful outfits and your way of wearing grey socks so fantastically, but I will offer to buy you a gin and sit and have a moan about how shit we can be to ourselves x p.s yes I do realise I don’t take the advise that I dish out to other people!

    • Thank you Mrs. Bossa AND Pearl for being forthright and honest about this. I am struggling so hard to balance the urge to lose weight and to accept that I’m middleaged and to stay skinny requires dietary restrictions and a exercise regimen beyond me at the time. Sigh. At least I know I’m not alone in this. There’s no easy answer, but there really is some comfort in not feeling like the only one who is struggling with this. Thak you for this post!

  14. I’ve actually been thinking about that twitter exchange quite a bit since. Especially since you said “In my defence I’m opting for zumba over dieting though” in a further reply.

    I wanted to say, I’m not berating you for talk of dieting! I’m not trying to shame you into not-dieting, when the collective is already shaming you into feeling like you should! I didn’t want to attack you from the other end up, too. I’m sorry, if that’s the effect I had. I’ll speak more carefully in future.

    You and a couple of other FFBs have been mentioning noticing weight-gain and subsequently regretting or noticing aspects of your lifestyles that are unhealthy or over-sedentary, and it’s made me feel protective of you all and cross at the world and sort of confused (and I’m not saying that I wouldn’t/don’t notice it the same way myself, cos I do), because it’s weird, don’t you think, that it’s easier to notice with your eyes that your body has veered further outside the impossibility of ‘socially acceptable’ than it is to notice with your whole being that the choices you make every day aren’t the ones that make your energy flow the best? That it takes looking in the mirror from every angle and finding “flaws” to give credence to the idea that deciding to take the option that one KNOWS is not as good for you [and I’m trying to be general here, I’m not trying to describe your life; please forgive me if I’m encroaching!] (I won’t exercise today.. or today.. or today/I’ll have the take-away again, and another packet of crisps can’t hurt, oh I didn’t get juice so I guess I’ll open another bottle).. isn’t good for you.

    We’re all so fucked up! And people trot out that “men are so much more VISUAL than women” bullshit, don’t make me laugh.

  15. I for one have always thought you looked amazing in your outfit shots, but, we are always our own toughest critics! The most effective workout for me is a quick 20 minute jog 4 times a week.
    I have always hated my mid section, (there are a few extra rolls that I could do without) and while they haven’t disappeared they are considerably smaller since I started jogging.
    Its good to get your exercise out of the way early, then you dont feel guilty in the evening for doing nothing! (and having a few bikkies after your dinner)

  16. I’m so grateful to Jen from SHE because her tweet about this post led me here. Your writing is so good and this topic definitely hit home with me. I have avoided going to weddings for YEARS (I’m 31) and I’ve also *never*, not once, worn a bathing suit since I turned 12 because I’ve always loathed my body. I feel it’s getting worse and worse as I grow older and it has me worried. This is a topic I prefer not to think about so much because it makes me angry (at myself, at society, etc.) and of course, I get depressed. I would really like to have a healthier relationship with my body, build a better self-image and all that, but there are so many problems to deal with that I don’t even know where to start!!…However, it’s always good to see that other people feel the same way. It is a very large and difficult route and I have no idea if I have the courage and intelligence to walk it, but your post definitely has me thinking. Thank you!

  17. Hi,

    I’m new here I want to say that this is a great post and I commend you for your honesty. We just have to keep working at feeling good about our bodies. I many times didn’t want my face shown on my post but my husband would say honey you look great you don’t want to hide your face so I have had to face that insecurity with my face being shown. I work out consistently and try to eat as healthy as I can and still think I look large in my photos. I come to realize that what I think is who I am and I need to change the cycle because it only brings me down to not like what I see in the mirror. Just have to keep working at it.

  18. Really intriguing post… I did a similar post a while back on this subject but it was more specifically about men’s body issues.

    I think any fad diet is a bad thing to indulge in because usually they play havoc with your body and even if you do loose the weight once you come off it you’ll put it back on. I disagree with the comment that you need to ‘accept’ your body and agree.

    I disagree with it in the sense that it is ok to want to change your body but you have to want to do it for the right reasons. You also have to accept that it’s a change in lifestyle rather than something that can be done quickly. There is no magic pill to anything in life. The most effective way to put on weight (muscle) or loose weight is to combine a healthy diet with exercise. But doing both requires dedication and hard work. So you have to ask yourself whether or not it’s a commitment you want to make and stick to.

    I also think you have to accept your body in the way that no matter what your size you should still feel good about yourself. So if you’re a size sixteen and end up slimming down to a size ten you should still feel the same about yourself as a person. If that makes senses lol…

  19. OH LAWD GIRL.
    I wish I knew what to say to this post. Except maybe I feel you, I get it & understand…. and I wish it were easier. I wish it were better, and fabulous ladies like ourselves DIDN’T have to put ourselves through this shit.

  20. Oh my I cannot believe I missed this interesting post. I entirely understand how you feel, as most of my close friends are married with children as well. Last year was the absolute most weddings I had been to or actualky in within a years time.

    I’ve tried diets in the past, however many do not work for me because of my hypogylcemic nature: (I have to eat something generally about every 3 hours otherwise I’m bloody passing out) with that being said, it was dreadful when I used to work at a modelling agency casting thin bodies daily & thinking about how flawless each person was. But, after tons of growth and confidence in myself I learnt that I really do love my body.

    Perhaps it just took me getting older to realise that wanting a small change is okay, but when it comes to interferring with your health is that change worth dying for, so-to-speak? There’s so much pressure for women to be in this flawless hourglass or ideal perfection of a figure. I think we forget that we are beautiful creatures, and everything that makes us so wonderfully made is certainly our differences, be it curves, height, or mere proportion. When we do accept ourselves size really is irrelevent and the person is more important… should be anyway.

    You’re beautiful!

  21. I think you’re beautiful inside and out, but it doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is what YOU think. Keep takin’ those baby steps, babe, and you’ll get there. We all struggle, but the struggling needs to be at a healthy level. We love you 🙂

  22. hello! it’s been ages, I’m sorry. I have a lot of catching up to do. I really couldn’t help but stay and leave a comment for this specific post especially!
    Even though more so than not, I love my body and my hour glass and wouldn’t trade any of my curves for the world, there are always times of doubt and self disgust.
    There are always one or two (hundred) of those facebook pictures from the bad angles or when you’re not ‘sucking it it in.’ Those times when the man that you’re sleeping with rubs your tummy after sex and makes suddenly feel like Buddha as you self consiously raise the sheets to cover your middle.
    We are women. We fluctuate. Our hormones are swirling around us, sometimes we lose fifteen pounds from menstruation after weeks of abusive bloating. Sometimes we eat more of the chocolate cake than we should. Sometimes I gaze enviously at friends or peers that are skinny-stick nothings but look so waifishly chic.
    I’m not going to lie. It’s never easy.
    It all starts with a conscious decision though to deside that your body is yours. You own it. It is you. Who cares what anybody else thinks or that it doesn’t always look the way you want it to? Just treat it the best you can. Don’t deprive it of food, water, love, and a necessary quota of smiles per day crucial to a happy life.
    If you’re still troubled, try yoga or something active to make you feel more fit! I love to run, box, & practice yoga 🙂
    xxoo
    love from the middle east
    ~charles

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