|Image by Edith Dohmen|
The amount and intensity of denigration the bloggers (nearly all women) recounted was heartbreaking: snide jokes, insensitive "advice", exclusion: an Artesian well of pain, endlessly flowing, often pumped and bottled by family.
The poster at left, by Dutch fashion stylist Edith Dohmen, is from her series, "Musthaves in fashion", retrieved from her blog, Style Has No Size.
I eat up the size-positive material out there, pun intended. When I see a voluptuous woman in a body-hugging red dress, I beam at her. Sorry if I seem judgmental; it's just such a relief to not see women castigated for their size.
But then, I asked myself, is there a limit to saying any body size is OK?
Being overweight (at least up to the point of Stage One obesity) will not affect mortality, according to a widely-reported study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). (Readers of the NYT's article on the study note some flaws in the methodology.)
However, when a moderately-to-severely obese woman hits late adulthood, she faces a reckoning. She is at increased risk for many illnesses and conditions, faces decreased mobility, and might endure minor but uncomfortable annoyances like chafing. Whether the reasons attach to lifestyle, genetics, or medical issues, a woman can hit her 50s or 60s carrying considerable extra weight.
One day, such a woman might say, that's it, I've had enough.
I'd like you to meet her.
My friend, Connie, has lost over 150 lbs.—over half her heaviest weight—in about two years.
When we met, she had dropped 100-plus lbs. by eating consciously, but her history of knee problems made her skeptical about exercise. We discussed how she might edge into brief walks; she was also inspired by her daughter, a marathon runner.
She's now walking for nearly two hours most days, dividing time between early morning at her company's gym and using the stairs, and after work in her neighbourhood. (Yes, she works full time, and then some!)
We have pondered the process of casting off shame, despair and self-loathing; she is funny, insightful, committed. We have celebrated the ability to wear out your dog or just stay outdoors on a beautiful day. Her knees are fine.
An avid cook, Connie swapped out some recipes for healthier versions and rarely even tastes the rich desserts she used to enjoy. Like me, she logs her calories and plans for treats like a Girls' Night Out, but she does not follow a specific diet, just "lavish on the vegetables and lowish on the carbs".
She says her journey was not about vanity, but rather about health; she felt that if she stayed so heavy she would truly jeopardize her time left. (But she looks pretty cute in her new jeans, about seven sizes smaller!) Her favourite new accessory is her Fitbit.
When I asked to tell her story, she at first demurred, saying lots of people have done it. And in fact, I have other friends who have achieved triple-digit losses. But I also know some men and women who have not yet summoned their intention, and are even gaining as the years roll on and they think they're too old to change so deeply.
Connie attained her goal without a personal trainer, meetings, diet books or supplements, not that there is anything wrong with those supports. She just made her choice and got on with it.
I am deeply grateful that she did.
Ta-da! Here she is— and this photo is a gift, because she's humble and low-key. ("But Connie", I begged, "how else will people know you're a real person?") She's chic in an orange quilted jacket and black jeans,but what's more important is that Connie can walk about in that jacket for hours, without feeling exhausted.
That a plushly-curved woman in a mini feels good about herself, I like. I applaud campaigns that show women of all sizes and shapes, and fashion writers who speak against the cult of super-skinny. I wish people wouldn't beat up themselves or others about weight.
But at the farthest reaches of the scale, where the body has a struggle sustaining vitality, I hope a post-50 woman takes herself in hand, and loves herself enough to step on the road of change.