Being “Plus-Sized”

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Crystal Renn has written “Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves,” a book about her ups and downs in the modeling business. And she does mean ups and downs: to become a model in the first place she lost 70 pounds and ten inches off her hips! On this video you can see pictures of her when she was that thin as well as hear her discuss her eventual transition from waif to “plus-size” model (for want of a better term. I certainly don’t consider her plus-size when that size is 12! Perhaps a better term would be “normal.”).

This is not specifically a feminist story, but Renn has learned the lesson that every woman needs to learn: that it is better to be yourself. She is now hugely successful and much more attractive than she was when she weighed 98 pounds (on a 5’9″ frame). It’s hard to believe, when you see her “now” pictures, that any woman would ever want to be skinny. (Let’s face it, that’s what most models are. Not thin, not slim, but painfully skinny.)

Kate Harding, who writes insightful and heart-warming articles about being “overweight” (for instance, see her blog, Shapely Prose ) interviewed Renn in the article, “Dying to be the next Gisele,” for Salon’s Broadsheet. I particularly like what Renn says at the end of the interview: “Health is the most beautiful!” And she’s right. We’ve all seen “overweight” women who look glowing, but too often we can’t look past their weight. I write “we” because women are just as critical as men–maybe even more so–about women’s bodies, including their own.

I’m at least thirty pounds overweight; fifty pounds by some standards (although I haven’t been that thin since I was in my twenties). I don’t like being overweight. In fact, I’m pretty hung up about it. But my husband thinks I’m beautiful and swears he doesn’t think of me as “fat.” In the last couple of years, largely as a result of watching “What Not to Wear” on The Learning Channel, believe it or not, I’ve been making the effort to dress flatteringly instead of hiding my “fat” under shapeless, dowdy clothes. And I do feel better about myself. I wasn’t doing myself any favors–nor was I fooling anyone–before.

I’d like to lose my extra weight, for health reasons if nothing else. I’m an “apple,” which means that I carry my weight around my middle. That’s supposed to put me at a higher risk for hearth disease, although so far I’ve been fine. But I’m more likely to lose the apple if I feel good about myself the way I am now, instead of hiding out at home “drowning” my misery in a container of ice cream.

The bottom line is, you cannot afford to worry about what others think of you. Even if you lost weight, you’d have women making nasty comments because they’re jealous! (You know that’s true of at least some women.) You really can’t win this game: there’s always someone who is thinner, taller, has prettier eyes or thicker, longer hair, or is more fit than you are. But there’s one way you can win:  Celebrate being “plus-sized” in your spirit and you’ll stop worrying about your body.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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