My friend Sam pointed out recently that women can laugh at anything in the world except weight. It made me laugh at the time - partly because Sam's girlfriend Kate has a truly enviable figure, and partly because it is completely and utterly true. Most women have some sort of crazed complex about the way they look - whether their nose is too big, their forehead too high, or their legs that bit too short - but I think it is fair to say that each and every one of those women will also have some sort of hang up about their size. From the skinny six to the ample 20, it seems most women cannot abandon a certain amount of stress over their figure.
But this, of course, is no great revelation. We are more than aware that women are somewhat obsessed with size. Look at Heat magazine's cover on any given week - they condemn a woman for being too thin, celebrate her if she gains a couple of pounds, then damn her all over again when she is branded as 'fat' and has 'let herself go'. The Daily Mail claimed last month that Cheryl Cole was ordered to lose two stone for the US version of X Factor. Two stone? From where, I ask? I know her hair has been particularly large lately, but you would probably have to chop both her arms off to remove nearly 30lbs off poor old Chezza.
What is the goal we are striving for, when we jog, swim, spin and yoga ourselves into oblivion, while simultaneously living on lemon water and the odd cube of cheese? Is it for our health? I am all for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and keeping fit, but is this really just an excuse? The healthy weight range extends much further than most women's dream weight, so I can only assume that being thin is some sort of prized ideal, where other women eye you up enviably, and you become part of a secret sect of women who all praise your diligence and self discipline.
I am a victim of my own complexes - I battle between the urge to be the 'perfect' woman (what happens when you get there anyway - is there a parade? Are you welcomed into the universe of smug skinny women who congratulate you as your tummy rumbles? And when you get there, what happens next?) and the urge to reject the ideal completely. Is it really the case that only one body type can be recognised as ideal?
Perhaps it is because my own body is far from it, or perhaps it's because I am afraid of what would happen if I got there. Would I religiously run six miles every night just to keep the flab at bay? Would I feel horrendously guilty every time I ate a cupcake? Would I become one of those women that only bakes for other people, then looks on hungrily while my inner child slowly dies of starvation? Who would I be if I wasn't ever so slightly fat? And fat - what an ugly word! There is no escaping the fact that women like me call ourselves curvy, with the unspoken F word standing like the proverbial (cake-eating) elephant in the room.
I find it truly fascinating that almost all of my friends - who range from a size four to a size 18 - all have some sort of complex about their weight. I have watched my skinniest, tiniest friends berate themselves over eating a single chocolate bar, and watched in horror as they show me their 'muffin top' or their 'love handles.' I have to resist strangling these friends on a regular basis. They are already so many women's idea of perfect. Their faces, full of fat-fear, look back at me through a mirror, as they stare disdainfully down at their non-existent 'flaws', while I try to resist grabbing them and giving them a good shake. How do they not see they are already beautiful? These same friends will insist that I am beautiful no matter what I weigh - but if they are so disgusted by their own so called flaws, what must they really think of mine? My curvier friends, many of whom have bodies I would kill a man for, put themselves through weird diets and hardcore exercise regimes, and facebook feeds are suddenly rife with smug 'just been to the gym' statuses, and whiny 'just ate a snickers... want to die' posts. I am not suggesting for a moment that I am exempt from this bizarre disease (far from it) but it occurs to me that even if I was the size I want to be, I would still be too fat by someone's standards.
When did women stop being women, and start being numbers? Pounds, kilos, stone, inches, dress sizes - why does a woman's happiness depend so readily on something that, in the great scheme of things, is almost irrelevant? Ask any woman and most of them will tell you they want to lose a couple of pounds. Every woman has an ideal weight - that elusive number which remains just out of reach. Would anything really change if I ever got there? Would I be happier, knowing that more men out there found me attractive sans muffin top? Would I suddenly have the dream life I've always wanted to have? How much would being skinny change things? Kate Moss once quoted a famous piece of thinspiration, that 'nothing tastes as good as thin feels.' To the women who think so, I ask, really? What an utterly depression notion. Are you really defining happiness by something as insignificant as size? You poor, desperate creatures.
I wish for a time where women everywhere strive to be healthy. I used to desperately want to be a size 10. I spent months (OK, weeks) on ridiculous diets (one which caused me to pretty much pass out while shopping in Eldon Square) and I bought books like The Dukan Diet, which promised me I would be skinny forever if I only gave up carbs on Thursdays, or just ate grapefruit and eggs on weekends. I set myself ridiculous weight loss goals that would have put me at a worryingly low BMI, and would spend three days almost starving before giving up and hating myself all over again. But now, I say no more. I strive to be healthy, not skinny. My body is not built to be thin. I would look ill if I lost the three stone I once planned to lose.
So ladies, please - can we please just give it up now? I know every woman has the right to choose the way she lives her life, but do we need to continually strive to fulfil some bizarre goal to be a certain size? Dismiss me as a bitter fatty if you will, but I hope some day that women can find peace with their bodies. Put down the carrot sticks, put down the pound cake, and let's find a happy medium where moderation is the key and bacon butties are still allowed.
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