Friday, March 09, 2007

Size matters

CAN I get all ranty again this week? I know it’s getting to be a bit of a habit- blame the hormones, the pressure to re-edit a book for what feels like the millionth time and the inability to be satisfied by even the largest quantity of chocolate. Nonetheless, I feel the need to let off a bit of steam.
You see Top Shop (you know that shop up the town which sells clothes for impossibly skinny people) have decided to hire a new size 26 model. Beth Ditto, as she is known, is a singer and she is going to model clothes for larger ladies.
I was quite pleased to read of the development; after all it wasn’t today nor yesterday I fitted into a size 14. I was definitely built for comfort and not speed. It is refreshing to see a High Street store acknowledge that not all women are built like Barbie Dolls and offer us some more choice. As it stands in Derry the choice available to larger ladies is laughable.
I don’t really want to dress like my mammy or my granny (no offence intended) but it’s not always easy to find the latest fashions in larger sizes. Admittedly a size 26 is a far from ideal weight and I’m sure even Beth Ditto wouldn’t mind losing a couple of pounds.But this is the real world and why shouldn’t larger ladies get to see someone their size looking and feeling good in clothes designed with them in mind? It seems, however, that not everyone feels the same way I do.
There are those out there who say that Top Shop’s decision to hire a plus size model is glorifying obesity and encouraging young women with weight problems to sit back on their considerable behinds and stuff their face with yet more burgers while enjoying the fact they can now wear fashionable clothes.
That argument saddens me, and angers me. It is tantamount to saying that no woman above a size 16 (and let’s face it, 50% of the female population is above a size 16) has the right to wear nice clothes in case she dares get too comfortable with her size. The sad fact is, you could dress me (as one of those largest ladies) in the finest clothes Monsoon or Principles have to offer.
You can wedge me into control pants and body shaping tights, minimiser bras and corsets of all descriptions but I can tell you now that I will never feel entirely comfortable with my size. And while I’m uncomfortable - while I’m wondering who that day has described me as a ‘grand big girl’ to someone else - I would at least like to wear modern, fashionable and funky clothes.
The long and the short of it (and the thick and the thin of it) those of us who aren’t a perfect 10 or 12 should be allowed to dress well. We should not be forced to wear baggy, shapeless tents of things like sackcloth and ashes with a scarlet O for obese stitched across our gargantuan bosoms. Weight problem I’m not for one second dismissing the concerns which exist with our health professionals about the growing obesity problem in this country.
Despite my own bad example, I hate seeing children with weight problems and I do my best to make sure my wee man has a varied and healthy diet without falling into the same bad habits as his mammy. I also try to make sure he stays nice and active and the boy never sits still. He walks everywhere he can and loves to go swimming. I think all parents should be encouraged not only to try and help their children eat a more healthy diet, and also to stay active. With the risk of sounding about 350 years old, when I was wee there was no such thing as plonking ourselves in front of computers or DVDs for hours on end.
We were out running the streets til night fall. For those of us who have already developed a weight problem the answer is not to stigmatise us further or brow beat us into submission. It is simplistic to say that weight problems are solely related to an over consumption of calories without considering the self esteem issues that surround them. It may well be a chicken and egg type of question (or a burger and big butt kind of question if you prefer), but there is no doubt that people with weight problems are likely to have substantial self esteem issues to match their substantial clothes sizes. Therefore the absolute worst thing you can do to someone who has a weight problem is single them out for scorn and abuse.
With the exception of the like of Dawn French, the majority of us want to change and are actively trying to change. So I’m quite happy to have Beth Ditto model clothes and I’m quite happy to have Top Shop provide clothes in larger sizes so that we slowly start to become happier and more confident with who we are on the outside, which, in my experience, always has a direct knock on effect to how we feel on the inside. And a happier, more confident woman is more likely to be active about getting fit and healthy than one who feels too ashamed to step outside the front door.

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