Big fat issues

I'm going to get straight to the point here & say that I'm fat. Not a little bit overweight, curvy, pleasantly plump, voluptuous or any other euphemism. I've been called all these things & more besides. I prefer the simple three letter word FAT.

I would also prefer not to be fat, but honestly, I don't obsess about it constantly anymore. I make most of my own clothes & know where to buy anything else in my size. I go to a gym that is frequented by a diverse range of people with equally diverse shapes, sizes & levels of fitness. Most of my friends & family are within the normal size range. Although I should point out that on my Dad's side, they have to work damn hard at it. Curse those hefty Saxon genes. And most importantly I'm pretty happy with my life right now.

However the topic of body size has come about from doing the refashionista thing over at wardrobe refashion. This been a bit of discussion about it in the support forum & I have discovered that it's really, really hard to take portraits of myself in the garments that I'm making. Pictures that do my creations justice & that I would consider posting on the internet, that is.

This got me to thinking, are there any pictures of me that I like? Even if I am fat in them? So I went through my photo albums & through Gerards album's & through my mum's albums. Mmm, there's actually not very many photos of me at all. It would seem that not only do I place myself in the role of photographer at family gatherings but I'm a bit camera shy too. So maybe I have some big fat issues around pictures of me.

Gerard has a few, mostly taken on holidays. There are some head & shoulder shots, one or two slightly lewd shots & very few full length shots. Of the full length photos, I quite like this one, taken 6 years ago when we were camping at Lake Mungo in NSW. And I really like this one. Both of these photos are in big landscapes where I suppose I don't seem quite so big.

The washed out colour also seems to minimise those pesky double chins and weird curves. And as they're holiday snaps, I'm happy & relaxed.

Most of the more recent photos of me have been taken by my stepfather, Lance, also a big person hiding behind the camera. This photo was taken when I was at my fattest ever.

When Grace was three months hold, I had an episode of postnatal psychosis, which led to me taking zyprexa, a charming medication which increases your appetite, decreases your metabolism and makes you sleep alot. When you're not eating sweet carbohydrates, that is. In six weeks I totally stacked on the kilos, wrecking all the effort I had put into not gaining too much weight during pregnancy. Here is the evidence. However, I love this photo. I'm home from hospital, I'm laying around the backyard in the sun with my daughter Grace, who is eating a parsley stalk (hopefully for fun & not in preparation for teenage dieting). It's a very happy time, no matter what body I'm living in.

Since then, I've been to the gym, been strict with diet & portion control. I've lost about 16 kilos (about 37 pounds).  So now I'm 3 or 4 kilos under my prepregnancy weight. The lightest I've been since about 2001. It was hard work & needed to be done but I'm over it for now. Having too much body fat is a simple result of an energy imbalance ie not enough energy expended for the calories consumed. But changing your life so that you have a thin(ner) body rather than a fat one is riddled with complexity. If you feel continuously guilty & shameful about your body because it is fat, it will be very hard to invest the time, money & effort into eating a regular diet of good quality healthy food. It will be hard to go swimming or do yoga or go to the gym. Paradoxically I have found that doing these things makes me feel better about my body even when it is fat.

Dieting is hard. To lose a kilo a week, for me, requires extreme discipline & fussiness with regard to food and a complete dedication to going to the gym every second day, in addition to being more active with housework, gardening, walking etc.  It also requires that most of the time, I am a little bit hungry. This drives me nuts & can turn me into irritable monster mum/partner who totally fears the presence of chocolate in the house.  I also find it somewhat alarming to change shape quickly. Yes, it's delightful to get compliments, encouragement & praise for my effort. Yes, it's thrilling for clothes to suddenly become too big but somehow the me that lives in this body needs time to adjust, time to get used to being a little less big. Because fat is also about comfort & safety, about defence against the outside. It's a way of securing the perimeter. 

This photo was was taken at a street party in March this year, wearing a dress I made & a hat made by my sister Betty. Check out those tuck shop arms. I do still want to lose weight, mostly so that I can demonstrate to Grace that genes are only half the story. Maybe she'll inherit her father's build & tend towards skinniness, no matter what. But if she doesn't and she gets my build, and if she gets fat, she needs to know that she is still good enough. That she can still love & be loved. That her body is part of her active self & not just a form to be gazed upon. And she needs to know how to be healthy even if she gets the cursed fat genes.

So how does one take a good photo of clothes on a plus size model? I decided to surf around the internet & find out. It helps of course if you are really gorgeous & not too plus size like the models at entitled. This is my favorite plus size catalogue though, the clothes are funky & look well made. I also liked igigi which has a variety of different sized models & some interesting information on designing for larger sizes. It was hard to come up with any more. Most sites have either really daggy, polyester looking clothes and/or don't use models at all. Never thought I'd be saying I want to see models, but if I was going to consider buying clothes without trying them on I would need to see them on a person somewhere in the realm of my size.


Leisl said...

I've got the opposite problem - I've always been quite thin which have resulted in far too many people telling me I'm too skinny, I need to eat more, oh and by the way do you have an eating disorder? Gah! You just can't win!
I love your dress, by the way! That fabric is ace! And thank you for your lovely comments on my blog. Hooray indeed for modern medicine!

Em said...

Congratulations on your weight loss - you've worked so hard and I'm full of admiration. I think you are brave to share your story.
I've had my own food issues over the years(a serious eating disorder for 10 years during my late teens/early 20s). At the moment (after three pregnancies) I am heavier than I'd like to be - but I can't/don't want to diet (brings back old anxieties etc.) so I'm trying to focus on eating healthily (which I'm not very good at - many days go by when I don't eat either fruit or vegetables - it's awful).
I hope that one day I'll be at peace with my body... it's been a life long struggle for me.

Katrin said...

It's encouraging to read other people's thoughts on this topic and know I'm not alone. As important as I think it is to promote a positive attitude about everyone accepting the size/shape they are, I still get my moments of existential crisis.
I've been looking at the stuff I've refashioned lately, being proud of my handiwork and how much I'm learning about clothing design - but there's also that voice saying "That skirt is ENORMOUS! Is that really how big I am?" and reminding me that if I were smaller, I wouldn't have to use nearly as much fabric.
I wonder if I'm the biggest person on Wardrobe Refashion. Probably not, but even if I am, I have to remember, "So what?" Someone necessarily has to be the biggest and the smallest, and that should just be irrelevant. Seeing the variety of real people in the photos is a big help, as is reading the support group (including my own posts from when I'm in a more optimistic mood).
The models on those sites you linked to do indeed look great. It's also interesting to note that they're just as posed and styled and made up and retouched as any model photos we're used to seeing, unlike the snapshots we usually have of ourselves. Underneath it all, models (no matter what size) are regular people just like us - it's all that extra styling that creates the unattainable perfect look.