I was chatting with a girlfriend recently and we realised that, as women, our weight fluctuations have dominated our lives, from about the age of 15 years. We wondered whether worrying about our bodies will continue until we die. I hope not. Will there come a time when I can say oh s** it I am going to have sticky toffee pudding and blow the calories. If the government has its way, restaurants are going to have to reveal how many calories are in each of their recipes which will be a real downer on having a nice meal out and not worrying about one’s waistline. Personally I think this is taking the Nanny state to its extreme as surely we all know that sticky toffee pudding is going to be loaded with calories whilst fruit salad is the healthier (and more boring) option.
Our obsession, as females, with our bodies is historical – there has always been more emphasis on the female form than the male one. Remember the Renaissance woman – all curves and soft, sensual flesh. The breasts were often on display as they were a significant part of the female attraction.
However in the 21st century I think it is bordering on obsessive which, following the #metoo campaign, seems ironic.
As the fashion collections begin this week in New York we are going to be inundated in the press with the ‘new look’ worn by stick thin models. Designers will always tell you that their clothes look better on thin people. Wasn’t it Kate Moss who said, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
I know being overweight can be unhealthy but this obsession with being skinny is also unhealthy. What about all those young women especially the teenagers who think they are ‘ugly’, ‘too fat’, ‘too skinny’ and are being bullied by their peers. Is that acceptable? No of course not but it happens because these teenagers have an image of what is the perfect body. By achieving it they think they will then be attractive and popular.
What does Wikipedia say? Female body shape or female figure is the cumulative product of a woman’s skeletal structure and the quantity and distribution of muscle and fat on the body. There is a wide range of normality of female body shapes. Female figures are typically narrower at the waist than at the bust and hips. The bust, waist, and hips are called inflection points, and the ratios of their circumferences are used to define basic body shapes.
Yet diets are always being featured in the press. There is always the new one that will make you lose pounds in super-quick time. We have had them all from Atkins to Paleo but what they all say is that thin is the only way to be. Doctors warn us off yo-yo dieting. I am sure that we have all tried to lose weight the wrong way at some point in our lives. I won’t regale you with my cabbage diet phase!
So what is the matter with us, why do we worry so much about our weight? A healthy body is not necessarily a skinny one. I had a female relative who was not thin and she lived until she was 98 years. Whilst my godmother, who was always stick thin, died when she was 82 years. It should be a healthy lifestyle that is the ideal that we should be seeking – the diets that are recommended are not necessarily healthy and should not be promoted as such.
Tess Holliday – a (UK) size 24 woman – is currently on the front cover of the October issue of Cosmopolitan which has caused quite a furore. Piers Morgan said this magazine cover is promoting obesity. However I did not see it as that. The message it shouted at me was that this lady felt comfortable with her body. I don’t judge her – it is not how I would want to look but that does not mean that the way I am is any better than the way she is. There are many women who cannot help that they are above average weight and so I would never judge someone over their size. We must not make stereotyped assumptions about a person’s weight. I would worry that Tess Holliday’s weight will have an adverse effect on her health in the long term but I am sure she is aware of that. I think it was brave of her to appear on the front cover of Cosmopolitan.
Why is it that when there is a picture of a larger than average male on a magazine cover there is no furore. James Corden was on GQ and no-one said a word. Is that because men are not so obsessive about their bodies? They like to get fit which does not necessarily mean thin. Someone said to me that James Corden is so hilarious and talented that they do not see him as an overweight man. Interesting isn’t it that people looking at a woman can’t get past judging them by their weight first and their talent after.
Last week I went to see the play, Lieutenant of Inishmore, which starred Aidan Turner, famed for his role as Captain Ross in Poldark. I would be the first to admit that he looks good in this TV series and following this role he has obviously created quite a ‘fan club’. When Aidan Turner first came on the stage in this new theatrical role the females in the audience made an appreciative noise as he was looking very fit in tight trousers and shirt. In this new new post #metoo era are we allowed to female ‘wolf whistle’ at a man and yet this is no longer allowed the other way around? I think we may be treading on dangerous ground as it could be seen as hypocritical.
Obesity is a big issue with the government, who are running a campaign to get the nation fit and slim. This is because obesity with all its subsequent health issues is a drain on the state purse. If and when we go to see our GP, for whatever reason, they will often, if not always, discuss your weight and, more importantly, may do a cholesterol test. I am a good weight for my height and age however my doctor has told me that I need to lower my bad cholesterol levels and I have a list of forbidden foods pinned to my fridge door. I am trying!
If I lose weight girlfriends will always remark on it and without doubt will say something like, ‘have you lost weight because you are looking good?’ Do we only look good when we are thin? I think as one gets older carrying a little bit of extra weight can look better. Frustratingly it is more difficult to lose weight when you are older. I must say it is only in later years that I have gone to exercise classes whereas my 20 something daughters have been going to the gym regularly for some years. There are gyms popping up everywhere. When I lived in London in my twenties there were so few and I am not sure I ever lifted a weight or went to a class. Hot yoga, spinning, marathon training are all the norm now and yet obesity is still a national problem.
In my opinion diversity (currently a popular subject) in all things is important, including bodies and their shape. The media should not be promoting the ‘perfect female body’ as there is no such thing. We must encourage women to be healthy because we all know that lots of young women are trying to lose weight in the wrong and unhealthy ways. This happens because of the idealised female body images they have. Women can feel depressed and unhappy with their bodies, and depression can cause eating disorders. Thin does not mean necessarily beautiful and I hope that the next generation won’t waste as many hours as we have worrying about our bodies. Sadly I think that is unlikely.
More topical posts from Poppy here