Full Life Reflections

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

For most of my adult life, I’ve either weighed too much or too little. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been at a happy, healthy, and comfortable weight. I want to believe that I can turn this around and find balance in this area of my life, but sometimes it’s difficult to remain optimistic. This post focuses on my struggle to maintain my weight and looks at some of the potential reasons for this phenomenon. I also explore ways to achieve balance in terms of both weight and self-image.

What contributes to your level of happiness more strongly, your weight or your love life? A recent article posted on the Daily Mail website revealed some surprising findings from a 24-year study on the topic of happiness. This post outlines key points from the article, as well as my insights related to slimness, relationships, and contentment.

The Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin conducted a study of the ups and downs of the lives of thousands of Germans from 1984 through 2008. One of the findings of this study was that a woman’s weight has a greater effect on her happiness than her love life. Being obese is associated with a higher degree of emotional suffering and dissatisfaction than being single and having a thin body leads to more life satisfaction than being in a committed romantic relationship.

I’ve lost a bit of weight lately… I’m not sure how much since I don’t weigh myself very often, but my clothes are looser and my stomach is surprisingly flat. While I am happy to be feeling leaner, my weight loss is somewhat of a “hollow victory” and I find myself having mixed feelings about it. I’ve lost the weight as a result of a health condition that has been causing me a great deal of distress in recent weeks (and the reason why I didn’t post a blog entry last week).

This is different from “one stomach flu away from goal weight” a la Emily in “The Devil Wears Prada.” While it’s decidedly no fun to have the flu, one knows that it will eventually end and she will be back to feeling like her normal self in a matter of days. Unfortunately, I’m not sure when I’ll be back to my “normal self.” Instead, it’s entirely possible that I will end up with a new definition for normal. My condition has a tendency to be chronic and difficult to treat, and it’s made it challenging for me to eat all that much food for a number of days now. In fact, I may end up losing more weight than I ideally want to lose as a result of my being on a continuous diet of sorts.

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.

I recently found a journal entry I made following an interesting shopping experience I had back in 2004. I titled my journal entry “Perspective.” I am sharing what I wrote six years ago because I feel it is timeless and highly relevant to the “body image rehab” process. I have modified the original text slightly for the sake of clarity. I also removed references to specific sizes, as that information may be “triggering” to some people and is not really pertinent to the overall message.

I was in a department store buying clothes the other day. While waiting in line to pay, I overheard a conversation a lot of new clothes and told the saleswoman it was because she had recently lost quite a bit of weight. I noticed that the clothes she was buying were all several sizes larger than my current size; a size which I feel is unacceptable. I also noted that this woman was approximately six inches shorter than me. While I would have been horrified to be purchasing those larger sizes at my height, this woman was absolutely thrilled to be wearing that same size.

It struck me at that moment that it is all about perspective. I hate wearing my current size now because I used to wear two sizes smaller (or even four or five sizes smaller during my anorexic years). In contrast, the woman in front of me loved the fact that she was buying her current size because she used to wear a much larger size. What disgusts me thrills her. Interesting how perspective affects how we feel about our size – and ourselves.