Monday, April 8, 2013

Shopping Makes Me Feel Fat

I've been rereading a chick lit novel that I particularly like, except there's one scene in particular that bugs me. The protagonist is shopping with her friend, and she complains about having to wear a size six because she thinks it makes her look fat. When I read that I thought, I really want to stab you with my fork right now, but I'm using it to eat this doughnut. 

Even though I have to put off online dating until this summer due to the fact that I have to focus on my dissertation, I figured I'd also use the extra time to get back in shape. I went up a dress size this year due to the stress of my dissertation, which gave me less time to exercise (and more excuses to order takeout). It was also due to the fact that when I tell people I've been eating more greens, what I really mean is that I've been eating more green M&Ms.

I managed to lose nine pounds, but then I got a coupon for a free pizza and it all went downhill from there; I ended up gaining three of those pounds back. (Not just from the pizza but also from the soda that I drank with the pizza, and all the caffeine-induced decisions that came after that.)

I've noticed that many guys on online dating profiles specify that they want women who are "athletic". When guys say they want "athletic" women, they don't just mean women that they can play football with or go to Cubs games with. They mean they want women who are thin.

There's nothing wrong with being physically attracted to someone who is in good shape, of course. A lot of women are attracted to physically fit men with big muscles, including me. But on the other hand, I have found that big muscles are also not enough to make up for bad personalities, because good looks can only take you so far. (Otherwise I'd still be dating the personal trainer who made me want to dunk his head in the marinara sauce along with the calamari we were eating.)

There are some guys who complain about "superficial" girls who don't want to date them. I've read profiles where other men complained  about those superficial girls (I'm not making that up).  I think what they mean is that the girls only want the guys who resemble movie stars or at least make as much money as movie stars do. I admit that there are women like this, though I am not like them. But the fact that they blame women for the fact that they're still single and take no responsibility for their own lack of success in dating is very unattractive and hostile. Not to mention I've met guys who only want to date girls who look like movie stars or supermodels. I've read profiles where the men said that they were looking for women who looked like Natalie Portman.

Like I said, looks are not everything. Personality, shared values, and mutual affection matter more. Also, sometimes a person you may not have noticed right away can become more and more attractive once you get to know him. I'm also willing to bet that those men who complain about superficial girls would also immediately say yes if a Sports Illustrated model suddenly asked one of them out. So THERE.

Nevertheless, I know that looks matter to some extent when it comes to dating. But it's more than that. I want to lose more weight so that I can feel better about myself. I recently went shopping for new clothes for the first time in a long time. Even though it's still cold in Chicago, a lot of stores are already selling summer dresses.

I tried on a couple of the dresses. I looked in the mirror and I didn't like what I saw. I felt ashamed of myself for gaining weight again, especially after I'd worked so hard to lose it. I was afraid that I would gain even more weight and be like the person I used to be. I also felt jealous of the thinner girls who could look good in most of the dresses that they tried on, whereas the only dresses that were being sold for not-so-thin girls made it look like they had wrapped a shower curtain around themselves.

So I've gone back to working out five times a week. I spend hours at the gym every week when I'd rather be lying on my couch, watching NCIS, and eating ice cream. That's why I cut down on my soda intake, even though sometimes I fantasize about swimming in a pool filled with Coke. That's why I muster up all the willpower I have to walk past the cupcake bakeries, though sometimes I break down and buy a chocolate cupcake with sprinkles. I think the fact that I can't give up junk food entirely is why I'll never be skinny, because those low-fat/fat-free foods will never taste as good as one of those cupcakes.

There are beautiful women who are not thin, because you don't have to be thin to be beautiful. One of my new favorite shows is The Mindy Project, not only because the actors are good and the writing is funny, but also because the star, Mindy Kaling, has a figure that is similar to mine. That is, she isn't super-skinny, but she's not too overweight. And she's beautiful, which gives me hope.

And not to be vain or anything, but when I'm not scowling at someone for being annoying, I think I am okay-looking too, maybe even a little "attractive". But I still want to lose more weight so that I can wear a summer dress without feeling self-conscious (although the possibility of the wind blowing my skirt over my head still worries me, because I do live in the Windy City, after all), and so that I can improve my health. And okay, I admit it, I also want to lose weight so that I can attract potential dates.

There's also the fact that I know what it's like to be extremely overweight, and it did not feel good. I remember how in the past, guys hit on me, but they did it in a mocking way, which they would then laugh about with their friends; the idea of flirting with the fat girl was hilarious to them, and it was all I could do not to cry in front of their sneering faces. I remember what it's like to not be able to help yourself when you are eating junk food, and to not be able to stop eating. I remember the shame and guilt I felt after eating too much junk food, and how I hated looking at myself in the mirror when I went shopping. I don't want to go back to that, not ever.

I'll never be a size four, but I'm still going to make an effort to look good and live a healthier lifestyle. And I want a guy who looks good, IS good (though he doesn't have to have huge muscles, because I don't want to feel like I'm dating Popeye), and wouldn't dump me if I went up a dress size. I don't think that makes me superficial, especially because I wouldn't dump him if he gained a few pounds. (If he gained a hundred pounds, though, I'd take him to the doctor and a nutritionist.)

On the other hand, I think it'll be a lot easier to lose weight if I stop drinking Coke and eating M&Ms altogether. I'll think about that after I get back from the cupcake bakery.

What about you? Do you ever feel pressured to conform to a certain body image? How do you deal with it? 


  1. When I'm shopping and find that nothing in the stores is designed with curvy girls in mind, I share your frustration. I'm not overweight, but I've got a small waist and big hips - all the stuff in stores seems to be designed for women with no hips...if I do find something that fits my hips it's usually 1 or 2 sizes too big for my waist and bust.

    It's at times like these that I feel pressured to conform to a particularly body image. I catch myself thinking, 'Maybe I'll do lunges for an hour each day.' Sadly, I think I'd lose inches on my hips - but on the rest of me at the same time and so I'd be back at the same quandary, just at a smaller size. Frustrating!

    Also, on the subject of dieting - I've been reading 'French Women Don't Get Fat.' If you're looking to lose some weight and still be able to eat a few M&M's, I'd recommend the book.

    1. Hi SolariC,
      I'm curvy too, and it's definitely frustrating because most of the mannequins that display the dresses are flat all over. And sometimes when I watch TV, I can't help noticing how some of the actresses are almost as thin as the store mannequins.
      Thanks for the tip about the book; I've heard of it, but I've never read it. I went to Europe when I was younger, and I did notice that European women were generally in good shape, even though there was so much good, rich food available.

  2. I'm a gym instructor, send me an email if you think I can help. I also have another blog that has some info (it's not really updated too often, but I'm in a motivated mood to write posts at the moment).

    It amazes me that celebrities still tout the 'I'm naturally slim' line, when really they just don't eat, yet normal women feel they should emulate.

    1. Hi Annalisa,
      Thanks for the link to your blog; it looks interesting, and I'm going to read some more posts later. I've lost a significant amount of weight before, so I know what I have to do; it's just that sometimes I find myself falling back on the bad habit of stress eating, especially due to the dissertation. But now I'm trying to change that to stress exercising, if that makes any sense; at least that way I'll be burning calories rather than consuming them.
      I know what you mean about celebrities. Some of them claim that they don't diet, but I know that they do; they probably have personal chefs and personal trainers.

  3. The first paragraph of this post cracked me up. And then I thought, Well, anyone eating a doughnut with a fork can't REALLY be fat.

    1. Hi Karen,
      You didn't see how big the doughnut was. :) Seriously, I found this doughnut shop in Lincoln Park called Glazed and Infused, and the doughnuts are soooo good; they're also sooo big. Yum! I ate the doughnut with a knife and fork so that I could savor it.

  4. My husband has a chronic medical condition that means, essentially, his body does not absorb nutrients in food. He is, to oversimplify, starving. He is so thin you can see all of his bones (not just his ribs).

    Obviously, his situation is not healthy. But every day I look at his body and then I look at mine and I feel inferior. I am an average weight for my height, my BMI is smack down in the middle of the recommended range, I work out every day, and I fit into a size of pants that it seems you would be enviable of. But I look at him and I look at my own body and I'm physically repulsed by myself. I just keep thinking that if I didn't eat that second Hershey kiss or that wedding cake or that entire baked potato I, too, could have no body fat and the kind of body that makes magazine covers.

    But I don't have that body and I never will because I am actually healthy. But it's hard. Every day I have to remind myself that I am good enough. I am healthy, I am strong, I have sexy calves (I am incredibly vain about my calves - quite possibly they are the only part of my body I am actually happen with!), and my husband finds me physically attractive. That's all that really matters. But I have to remind myself of that litany every day!

    1. Hi NGS,
      I'm so sorry to hear that about your husband; that sounds awful, and I wish that I knew of a way to make him better. It sounds like you work hard to have a positive attitude towards your own body image, and that's good; I think I'll borrow some of it for my own. I think it's okay to have that second Hershey kiss, that slice of wedding cake, or that baked potato, at least once in a while; if you never had any of those things, you might look like one of those models on the magazine covers, but then you'd probably feel hungry all the time. I've read the diets that some of those models follow, and even though they do eat healthy foods, they also don't really eat any good food that are high in calories but are also delicious. And I think that that would be really difficult, especially if you go to a party where a lot of good food is served or if you travel to foreign countries and can't sample the local cuisine. I think it's okay to treat yourself at least once in a while.

  5. I know, the pressure is enormous. I work with some tiny women, and it's depressing. Empowered Women on Facebook just posted a picture of Marilyn on her side in a bikini. She wasn't a stick. She had as stomach in it. She was considered beautiful until the day she died.

    Tomorrow, I'm going to post a Magpie prompt that's a poem about not-perfect body. We're both thinking about the same thing!

    1. Hi Theresa,
      I remember watching the film Some Like it Hot and thinking that Marilyn Monroe looked like a "real" woman, and that made her even more beautiful. I've seen other movies from the fifties where the actresses were curvier, and they were gorgeous too; it was comforting to see them, in a way.
      I know that there are some women who are naturally thin, and they are pretty too. I can't help envying them, though, for being able to go into a store and try on whatever they want without worrying if they're going to look fat when they see themselves in the mirror.

    2. I used to be naturally thin, but I felt awkward and ugly. Really, nothing has changed but another 20 pounds.

  6. I just got into The Mindy Project! After reading Mindy Kahling's book, which I'd recommend after you finish (or abandon) your skinny-protagonist-chick-lit.

    I'm actually dating someone outside "my type" for physical attractiveness right now. It definitely made me take things slower than usual, which seems to be working out better anyway! Definitely a growing into affection situation.

    My job pretty much requires me to be thin- you might recall the blog post I wrote about having to fit into a size 2 dress or I'd be sent home- which is stressful. But I know I'm lucky to have genetics and a body type naturally on thin side.

    Good luck with the rigorous gym routine! That's impressive!

    1. Hi New York Cliche,
      I just bought Mindy's book, actually, and I loved it; I always used to think of her as that high-voiced girl from The Office, but now I think of her as someone I would love to be friends with.
      Good for you for dating outside of your type. I should try that too, because the guys I've been attracted to and have gone out with never worked out for me.
      I can't imagine having to be a size 2 for my job; that definitely would be stressful. I don't think my students really care what size I am, as long as I don't give them too much homework. :)

  7. When we moved to the country about five years ago, I discovered my passion for baking. And baking and baking. Actually, I just like eating what I baked. We moved back to a city home last year and I was shocked at how healthy and fit everyone was. I felt like the only fat person.
    It's and up and down game for me. I got keen, hired a personal trainer and trained hard, lost a lot and ran for the first time in my life. This year though... yeah, slipping back a bit.

    1. Hi Charmaine,
      I wish I knew how to bake; it's hard for me to develop a passion for baking or cooking because my kitchen (a kitchenette, really) is so small and it's difficult to make room for all the ingredients and cooking utensils. Not to mention the kitchenette gets messier and cluttered more quickly.
      I'd like to hire a personal trainer, but most of them charge more than I can afford. On the other hand, if I spent less money on coffee, I could probably afford one. :) A personal trainer is good, though, because he/she can help you develop a routine.

  8. The most horrifying bad weight experience was when I ripped my jeans while pulling them up. Then a few days later a complete stranger walking down the street said I was "thickalicious."

    It was quite the week.

    My weight seems to be directly tied to my stress level. The more chaotic my life is, the bigger my belly gets.

    1. Hi Stephanie,
      That was rude of that stranger to say that to you. Why can't people just say normal things, like "Hi!" and "Nice day, isn't it?" (Except here in Chicago they'd say, "It's freezing again!")