Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

This is the first blog post I’m writing in my new home. My husband and I moved two and a half weeks ago to a condo we purchased about fifteen minutes away from where we were previously renting an apartment. The past month has been a whirlwind… Not only is moving stressful and labor-intensive, but …

Continue reading

Are you obsessed with the sizes of your clothing? Do you refuse to buy an item if it is a larger size than you normally wear? A recent article on the Weight Watchers website (posted by a fellow member of the “Let’s Fashion Talk” forum) describes this phenomenon. Many women have a specific size in mind when shopping for clothing, and they are extremely hesitant to buy anything larger than that “magic” size.

Some highlights of the article include:

* There is no standard sizing convention among women’s clothing manufacturers. Often, the more high-end the designer, the smaller the size. Even within a single brand, there are disparities.
* “Vanity sizing,” in which measurements run larger than standard, is used by the majority of manufacturers today. One exception is the dress-pattern market, in which the measurements for the McCall’s size 8 correspond to the current 0 or 00 on the Banana Republic website!
* Vanity sizing is driven entirely by marketing psychology. Women like to fit into a smaller size and single digits sound better than double digits.
* The average American woman is 5’4.5” and wears a size 12 top and a size 14 bottom.
* The dream size for most women on the Weight Watchers plan hovers between an 8 and a 10.

Are you stuck in an image rut? Is there some aspect of your appearance that you would never consider changing? Do you think there is one thing about your looks which makes you special?

I recently watched an episode of the modeling competition show, “She’s Got the Look,” which brought the above questions to the forefront of my mind. For those who aren’t familiar with this show, it’s similar to “America’s Next Top Model,” but geared toward women ages 35 and older. The winner of the show is awarded a spread in Self Magazine and a contract with Wilhemina Models.

On the second episode of this season’s show, the contestants were all given makeovers at a top hair salon. One of the models, Jocelyn, refused to have her long hair cut in the manner that was suggested. After some provocation, she agreed to have a few inches cut off and some layers added to her hair. Her naturally curly hair was styled straight after the cut, as was done with the other curly-haired contestants.

Not only was Jocelyn extremely reluctant to alter her look, she was highly dissatisfied with the results of her makeover. Although what I saw was a beautiful woman with either curly or straight hair, Jocelyn regarded her “after” look as unattractive. While looking into the mirror, she tearfully declared, “I used to feel beautiful and now I just don’t.”

For as long as I can remember, there has been at least one part of my body which I have found completely unacceptable. This hated body part hasn’t always been the same, but I can’t remember a time when I was not obsessing about some aspect of my body. It is extremely difficult for me to inhabit my body and not be roiling against some part of it. I do not feel fully comfortable in my own skin and this leads me to feel hopeless and despondent at times.

I can remember hating my hips, calves, tummy, butt, nose, and hair at different times over the years. While I am still not thrilled with any of those parts, I no longer obsess over them. At the present time (and for a number of years now), my most hated body part is my thighs. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t find myself cursing the size of my legs, wishing they could miraculously be smaller, and trying to find a way to camouflage what I consider to be their tremendous girth.

Does your weight affect your mood? Mine definitely does… As I’ve mentioned before, I rarely step on the scale and there is a good reason for this. Nothing has the power to deflate my spirit and ruin my day as much as seeing a number on the scale that I view as unacceptable. I wish this wasn’t true, but the sad reality is that I allow a three-digit number to dictate my moods.

Unfortunately, however, my not weighing myself doesn’t mean that I escape what I term as “weight mood shift.” There are other measures of my weight besides the empirical data provided by the scale. There is the way I feel… Do I feel light and energetic, or do I feel heavy, bloated, and tired?

The way my clothes fit also provides me with fairly reliable data on how I am doing weight-wise. If I slip on a pair of pants and find myself unable to effortlessly zip or button them, or if they feel uncomfortably snug in the hips and thigh area, that’s a clue that I have put on some unwanted pounds. While it’s true that the weight might just be water retention instead of actual fat, the end result is the same – I feel unhappy.

I’m fat! My thighs are huge! I’m ugly! I’m old!

How often do you say these types of things about yourself, either aloud or inside your head? How much time and energy do you spend disparaging yourself and your appearance? Do you think this kind of negative self-talk helps you to change?

For many years, I was my own worst critic. I would criticize myself for a multitude of “sins,” but my most frequent criticisms related to my appearance. I set unbelievably high standards for how I looked, and I would berate myself for not living up to these benchmarks. Whenever I would look at myself in the mirror, all I would see were my flaws; my virtues were invisible to the harsh judge inside my head.

I used to believe that my self-criticism served a useful purpose. I thought that my brutal thoughts and words motivated me to change, and that the judgments pushed me toward productive action. While it’s true that seeing that I didn’t live up to my own standards propelled me to exercise more often and restrict my food intake, there was also a downside to my self-criticism that I didn’t see until recently.

One maxim that is true in many areas of life is, “It’s all relative.” This saying especially holds true in the area of body image. Case in point… Have you ever known someone who lost quite a bit of weight? That person may still be objectively overweight, but chances are that she feels pretty fabulous about herself and is enjoying showing off her new smaller frame.

On the flip side, a person who was previously quite slim and who has gained some weight might feel fat and unattractive even though she still looks shapely and beautiful to others. I have definitely fallen into the latter category at various points in my life.

Gorgeous models and actresses are not immune to body image issues. On the contrary, they are especially prone to disliking their bodies despite being praised and adored by the masses. I recently read two articles, one about a supermodel and one concerning a famous actress, which perfectly illustrated that celebrities are just like us in terms of their body insecurities.

I love clothes… and I hate clothes. Whether I love or hate clothes at any given point in time is very closely aligned with my body image.

If I’m feeling okay (I almost wrote “good,” but sadly “okay” is about as good as it gets for me…) about my body, I embrace the clothes in my closet and the process of shopping for new clothes. Conversely, if I am feeling fat and unattractive, I don’t even want to wear anything besides the workout clothes I wear when working from home each day.
Searching for a Feeling

I have a closet full of clothes, yet I generally only wear a small fraction of them. I have a tendency to be a compulsive shopper (see my post titled “Overspending” in my sister blog, “The Healing Project”) and I’ve come to decipher the reasons why I shop for articles of clothing I don’t even need. I’ve learned that I’m searching more for a feeling than for a pair of pants or a blouse. Subconsciously, I believe that if I can find the “right” pair of pants, I will magically be able to relax and stop hating my thighs so much.

Last weekend, my husband and I went on an overnight trip to Catalina Island. This place holds special meaning for us, as it’s where we were married almost 9 years ago. The island is just a short trip from where we live in San Diego, yet it feels like a world away. We generally try to visit Catalina at least a few times per year, sometimes on short notice when we feel the need to get away.

We were lucky to be greeted with warm and beautiful weather for our short getaway. This was fortuitous given that June tends to be cool and overcast in the coastal Southern California areas (hence the term “June gloom” which is used by locals). Warm weather inevitably brings out young women in bikinis, working on their tans and strutting their stuff along the beaches.

Needless to say, I am not one of these women in bikinis. While I have worn a bikini a few times in my life, those occasions have been extremely rare and punctuated by intense self-consciousness. Nowadays, it is a major breakthrough for me to even wear a bathing suit at all. The usual occurrence is about once or twice a year and I haven’t purchased a new swimsuit in close to ten years. I generally try to avoid occasions which call for swimsuits like the plague, although I once was a competitive swimmer and someone who loved being in the water.