IF THE DRESS DOESN’T FIT

@ANTIDIETRIOTCLUB

So recently I reached a tipping point. I got fed up, and I realized I didn’t want to feel how I was feeling anymore. I was tired of my constant awareness of how my body looked. Was the way I was sitting showing my stomach rolls? Is my arm pressed too firmly against my side making it look wider than it really is? Could my butt showing in these shorts? 

I was tired of feeling like if I ate a cookie or skipped the gym that I was doing something morally wrong. Tired of associating living a successful life with working out everyday and eating different variations of salads for 2 out of 3 meals, 7 days a week. 

I was tired of thinking that I couldn’t go to the beach or fall in love until my body was smaller. Tired of thinking that I could wear certain clothes, even though I love fashion. Tired of not having pictures of certain memories because I didn’t like I how I looked in photos. 

Some background

Now let me tell you about that tipping point and how I got there. 

In the winter of 2017, I had already been in a major depressive state for about a year. Exasperated by a breakup and the fallout from that relationship, and dealing with health issues and family problems I had hit rock bottom. As I have written about before, after self-harming I realized that I needed help. I took a medical leave from work and entered treatment. 

During that time I also found out that I needed my now third knee surgery and that it was going to be the most intense yet. Complications during that surgery made my recovery time even longer than it was going to be at the outset. 

Over three months later, I finally returned to work and life – still with more recovery to go. But when I got back, everyone started telling me how great I looked. Asking if I lost weight. I honestly didn’t know the answer to that question. I had been basically bedridden for three months. I didn’t have the energy to get up, or let alone weigh myself. 

Size does not equal health

It took stepping on a scale after those comments for me to realize that I had lost 30 pounds. I felt great. Like i had accomplished something while I was away. Like that was my biggest accomplishment. Not that I had gotten through a major surgery or started to come out of my depression, but that I lost weight. 

But it didn’t last long. Nine months later, I gained it back and then some. I was so frustrated with myself that I criticized and insulted myself almost everyday. What had I done wrong? I was working out, I always had a well-rounded diet…

Panic set in. In a frantic call with my mom, I was brought back to reality. She listened to my cry and talk myself down for a minute, and then interrupted me… “sweetie, you were really sick. You were depressed and not eating. You were on pain medication with no appetite.”

She was right. That weightloss was during a time I wasn’t healthy. Now, I was mentally stable and able to talk again. I was enjoying food again and taking care of my body. Now I was healthy. 

The dress fitting

Despite that realization, I was still upset. Still felt like that failed. And that all came to head at a dress fitting for a bridesmaid’s dress. 

I had had the dress hanging for a while in my closet. Unconcerned. I scooped it up one Saturday a month before the wedding and headed to Macy’s with my Spanx and strapless bra in my purse. 

I got into the dressing room, stepped into the dress, put my arms through the sleeves and proceeded to reach for the zipper. It wouldn’t zip. At that moment, with the bride in the dressing room with me, my heart dropped into my stomach faster than I let out my next breath. Then, I noticed the dress was tight around my thighs and that the lining wouldn’ t go all the way past my butt. 

“Do you expect that she’ll lose the weight?”

We walked out to the tailor and I stood up onto the pedestal in front of all the mirrors. The tailor came out and went straight for the zipper. He tried to zip me up, yanking at the dress as if no one was inside of it. “It doesn’t fit,” he said. He turned to the bride, and said as if I wasn’t right there, “do you expect that she’ll lose the weight.” 

I could feel my chest tighten and my eyes begin to fill with tears. He began to say that they usually don’t hem dresses unless they fit. Still — not talking to me. I snapped, “we’ve established that it doesn’t fit, let’s hem the dress.” 

He huffed and puffed, but got to work. I felt like I was standing there in front of the mirror for ages. Crying quietly and trying to avoid my own reflection right there in front of me. When he was done I walked as quickly as I could back into the dressing room and closed the door. I felt like I was suffocating. 

When I doubt call your MOM

I took the dress off and immediately texted my mom. After that, I emailed the bridal shop where the dress was from and inquired about ordering a new dress. I was not about to ruin one of my best friend’s wedding — the people in my life are the most important thing to me. I didn’t care about how much money I would have to spend, I just wanted it fixed and I wanted it fixed yesterday. 

It was all I could think about the next few days. And when I found out the bride was also contacting the shop I panicked. I had become a problem. An added stress. 

For the next week I cried myself to sleep. I was exhausted. I was confused how this happened. But I knew that I didn’t want to feel this way anymore. 

Freedom from Shame

The SnapChat memory

Then I had a SnapChat memory from a year ago pop up. A mirror selfie at that 30+ pounds lighter time. And then I remembered. I hated my body then when I was thin, and I hated it now. It wasn’t all about the weight. 

And it wasn’t my fault. I, just like you, have grown up in a society and culture that glorifies certain bodies and demonizes others. Now I may have a larger body, but my body at my size, and my skin color still put me in a place of privilege when it comes to the most marginalized bodies. 

Regardless, I want to be free of the constant shame I have of my body. I want to walk around not focused on how I look and eat food without thinking people are watching me. I want to take a photo and not hate how I look. 

Making new meaning

Personally, I knew I could not accomplish this all on my own. So because I have the means, I made the decision to work with a body image and intuitive eating coach. 

Julie helped me to turn that negative bridesmaids dress experience into a story in which I decided to take the power back. For me, it is no longer a story about failure or sadness. It’s a story about me deciding that enough is enough. 

I can tell you that I’ve begun to notice small changes. The day of the wedding, after alterations that cost more than the dress itself, I fit into it like a glove. I was comfortable, I got my hair done, my nails done, and I did my makeup. And not once did I have anxiety about that dress. Not once did I think about how I looked. I strut my stuff with my head high, and I was present. I ate the absolutely delicious dinner and dessert without shame. I enjoyed every moment of two of my dearest friends getting married. For one night I was free. And I hope to share the rest of this journey to freedom with you. 

My Body isn’t Your News Story

I have a simple request. Can we please stop using women’s bodies as topics of news? My body isn’t your news story.

This past week, I had been traveling in Dubai for work. When I travel, in the mornings while I get ready I like to watch the news. Usually CNN or BBC. To my dismay, those channels were not available. The only channels available in English were National Geographic, Discovery, and E! Network.

As I prepared to hit the pool one early morning, and pulled on my one-piece I suddenly tuned into my chosen background chatter. The subject: Beyoncé’s post-baby diet. When I looked up to the visual, it was an extremely grainy, zoomed in paparazzi shot of Bey’s half-eaten apple. I’m guessing Golden Delicious. 

Yes. What you just heard is correct. A zoomed in shot of the apple carcass left over from the Queen B’s afternoon snack. The anchors proclaimed that Bey had revealed the secret to her weight-loss. Zero carbs, zero sugar, zero red meat, zero, zero, zero. 

INDIO, CA – APRIL 14: Beyonce Knowles performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)

I shook my head and proceeded to order waffles to my room. But then I heard one of the hosts question if it was, “too much too fast?” Now, I missed exactly what it was referencing, but whatever it was… it shouldn’t have been something that the public needs to weigh in on. Were they saying she had she returned to work too fast after having her baby? In that case, we should not be promoting mommy guilt, or judging mothers for their choice to or to not go back to work.

If they were talking about her weight-loss… again, this shouldn’t be up for discussion. Nor are these hosts certified medical professionals who get to have an opinion. 

Using Women’s Bodies as News Subjects

This is definitely not the first instance of women’s bodies or appearance being the subject of media coverage and attention. Half of most awards shows are just about how “well-dressed,” actors are, and if they have “pulled off” their look. And let’s not even begin to talk about how female politicians and nobility have their outfits discussed instead of their accolades. Then there’s the history of makeover and weight loss shows that “right wrongs,” or “unhealthy behavior.” And I’ll give a final shout out to shows like America’s Next Top Model. 

Then there’s the countless editorial content in magazines and online news media about the weight-loss or gain of celebrities, the diets that they’ve used, or spreads that pit women against each other to see who “wore it best.” 

I often wonder how those in the media can talk about women’s bodies so much, when I can guess that most would not want to undergo the same scrutiny. Yet, this practice seems to be tireless.  To be perfectly honest, though I don’t often watch E! Network, I had hoped that this is something that they had grown past. E! News, I challenge you to find other things to talk about besides women’s bodies. 

Affects of Observing Anti-Fat Behavior

Recently, a group of psychologists at McGill University found that celebrity fat shaming is associated with an increase in women’s implicit negative weight-related attitudes. UK Magazine, Stylist, says the following, “Implicit attitudes are people’s split-second, instinctive reactions as to whether something – such as fatness or weight gain – is inherently good or bad. Explicit attitudes, in contrast, are those beliefs that people consciously and openly endorse. In other words, we might never say out loud that we think bigger bodies are bad. But thanks in part to celebrity fat-shaming in the media, we may also find it hard to internally shake off negative ideas about weight gain.”

Specifically, researchers found that after witnessing a celebrity fat shaming, women experience a dramatic increase in anti-fat attitudes. Further, the more notorious or critical the fat shaming, the higher the increase. 

I’m going to take you back to some research that I’ve discussed before in my blog. The Girls’ Index, a report from Columbus non-profit Ruling Our Experiences (ROX), found that by ninth grade the percentage of young girls who wish to change their appearance dramatically increases. Simultaneously, the percentage of girls who say they are confident declines sharply. 

Today, women’s bodies are not only criticized and made the topic of conversation by Magazines and TV hosts, but by everyday people through social media. The same anti-fat attitudes are translated through social media as they are through TV and print. ROX found that the more time that young girls spend on social media, they are up to 24% more likelyto want to change their appearance. They don’t think that they’re good enough or beautiful enough. And 27% will delete an Instagram post if they feel like it didn’t get enough likes.

I ask again, why is this still happening today. A common practice in the 40s to the early 60s was listing a women’s weight and physical characteristics in newspapers. This was done even when the information was totally irrelevant to the story. History professor Michelle Moravec says, “The practice of including women’s weight — or any other physical observations — in the news has been a way, consciously or not, of “putting women into their proper place,” by giving more value to their appearances. For men, on the other hand, with the exception of athletes, characteristics like weight or attractiveness weren’t important, “Nobody’s describing like, ‘The male candidate in the gray suit got up to deliver a powerful speech,’” she adds. “That’s how you know it’s a gender dynamic: It sounds absurd when you apply it to men.”

Hell, we learned Condoleezza Rice wore a dress size between a 6 and an 8 before we could actually get into the article that talked about her security expertise in a 2000s New York Times article. What does this teach women about their worth? Why aren’t we applauding Beyoncé for her athletic prowess and commitment to her artistry? Would you want your dress size to be the headline of a story about you and your life’s work? 

I sure don’t, but to get it out of the way. I’m between a size 10 and 12, and if that changes how you feel about anything I just said, thank you for your time but kindly leave my page.