On being plus-sized

I hope you will copy and paste the URL that I posted below. It leads to an ABC World News video about a plus-sized model who is competing for the Miss England title. She's a beautiful girl, probably a size 16-18 in US women's clothing sizes:


I have mixed feelings about the plus sized beauty thing. On one hand, I think it's very important for every woman to see herself as beautiful. On the other hand, it's easy to slip into denial about morbid obesity and play a very dangerous game with life, which is what I did.

(For those of you who are new to my blog, welcome. I'm referring to some of the seriously life threatening problems that I developed as a result of my chronic food addiction. I discussed those complications in an earlier blog titled "My Story".)

In 1981, I was a plus-sized model for Lane Bryant, a chain retail store that specializes in clothes for large women. I didn't stay with it very long because my daughter Clarissa was only a few months old, and I suffered from that awful mother's guilt about leaving her with my mother to do something as "superficial" as modeling. My mother thought modeling at my size was a "damned dumb" idea and a useless waste of time.

"You should be taking care of your daughter, not showing off your body," she told me. "Especially since you need to lose weight before you try something like that."

My mother. If nothing else, she told it the way she saw it.

Not only that, I was going through a lot changes with my ex-husband, who definitely wasn't supportive of my entry into the fashion world. It was kind of fun, though. I did it to help myself overcome some of the horrible self-esteem issues I had at the time. I strutted my stuff wearing a size 20-22, although I still had some postpartum thickening around my waist, which made lingerie modeling impossible as far as I was concerned. The modeling agency, Lybra, felt I should model "teddies", but I flatly refused. At that time, Lane Bryant, who was the client paying the bills, was coming out with a line that was gorgeous and tastefully provocative. But I didn't think lactating breasts and a thick middle would look good in a teddy, and I had trouble mastering the art of walking in stiletto heels. I bowed out of the venture not long after that.

I felt a huge boost in my self-esteem that lasted for about...three months. A fight with my ex-husband that put me in the hospital shattered all those good feelings I had about myself and my body. (Funny, I didn't think our physical confrontation had anything to do with my improving self-esteem until just now!) My middle didn't stop "thickening" either, which pretty much killed any lingering modeling aspirations.

Over the years, I tried to come to some sort of reconciliation with my obesity problem, so I adopted a "real women have CURVES, and I'm a real big, beautiful woman" attitude. I grabbed my friend Cindy and we did the gym route, trying to find a place where big, beautiful women wouldn't be surrounded by those tight spandex-wearing skinny chicks. That didn't work out very well, but I suppose our intentions were good. We did manage to get in a number of exercise sessions during our tour. Actually, I probably did more harm than good. I hated the fact that those little skinny minnies could do aerobics or the treadmill better than me, and I pushed myself into a collapsed state trying to keep up with them. At 300 plus pounds, the amount of added pressure I put on my joints and bones must have been crushing, but I didn't feel it until I got home and tried to get ready for bed. Never say die; that was my motto. No one was going to accuse me of being a lazy fat woman, least of all those teeny-weeny you-know-whats. My brief modeling stint gave me just enough nerve and determination to prove to those "Popsicle sticks" that I was just as beautiful and capable of exercise as they were.

Then I came across this article this morning during my weekly search for obesity related news:

CHICAGO - New research challenges the notion that you can be fat and fit, finding that being active can lower but not eliminate heart risks faced by heavy women. "It doesn't take away the risk entirely. Weight still matters," said Dr. Martha Gulati, a heart specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Previous research has gone back and forth on whether exercise or weight has a greater influence on heart disease risks.

All that jumping up and down I did in those classes--it may reduced some of this risks of developing hypertension, diabetes and chronic heart disease, but it didn't eliminate it. And all that huffing and puffing I did to show those skinny girls that I was just as good as them probably contributed to the further deterioration of my left hip and lower back.

What I was doing was delaying the inevitable--I had to stop eating addictively. That soft, gentle voice in my head kept telling me that that, but I ignored it. Not the food, never that. I didn't want to put away the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups ("They just came out with a new kind!"), ice cream, Popeye's chicken and the Shortt family feasts. What would I do with my life? If I can't enjoy food, what else is there in life to enjoy?

Well, that's what I'm going to find out. I'm now wearing clothes that I haven't been able to wear in three years. In fact, they fit better now than they did when I first bought them. I was in relapse at that time, and I couldn't completely zip up my pants or button the blouses. Eventually, all of the clothes went to the back of my dresser drawers, where they remained until yesterday.

I was shocked that they not only fit, but there was room to spare.

Now, about that modeling thing...no. Don't even go there, Angela. Remember, you hated wearing all that makeup.
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