The Embiggening

My first post here was about a radical bodily change I was undergoing (drastic weight loss due to an undiagnosed medical condition) and how it made me think about myself, my body, and my visibility as a woman. I shrank, quickly and unintentionally, and the experience reaffirmed my commitment to FA, because people praised me so lavishly for something that was both not under my control and actually a symptom of, well, misery. I was constantly reminded of the strange world of thin privilege: my clothes no longer fit, which was dispiriting and embarrassing — but when I walked into a store I could just buy a skirt, right off the rack, just like that! (That first skirt, I’m telling you, I am still amazed over two years later.) My body felt different in certain ways (chairs felt different; I got cold more easily) but not in others (my rack still got in the way of everything; I still had the same proportions, only narrower). I had crossed the line of cultural acceptability (as I had before in my life, but without the perspective of feminist theory and FA); I was through the looking-glass, almost literally.

Now I’m back on the other side. For the last year, a change in medications has both improved the state of my rebellious organs and caused weight gain as a standard side effect. I’m back around where I started, in the inbetweenie range, with an “overweight” BMI and a cartoony-sounding bra size. And you know what? I’m happy about it. Because I feel so much better than I did when I was thinner. Any negative thoughts I start to have about my fatter body — and we all have them, because we’re trained to — are outweighed by the positive thoughts I have about, say, being able to eat cheese again without dire consequences.

This is not to say that there haven’t been things that were difficult about gaining a bunch of weight. I want to make it very clear that here I am speaking from a position where, “overweight” or not, I still retain a lot of thin privilege: doctors still listen to me (so far), people don’t demonize me to my face or on the news, I can still shop in some straight stores (to give just a few examples). Interestingly, the only person who’s commented on my fatter body so far (as contrasted to the people constantly commenting on my thinner body) is a good friend who knows why I was losing so much weight before — and her comment was that she was glad to see me looking healthier. (Okay, to be fair, Mr Machine has also commented that my rack has gotten, uh, more substantial.) The point I’m trying to reach, here, is that between my still-not-that-fat privilege and my gradual shedding of weight-obsessed or non-feminist friends over the last few years, people haven’t given me shit for gaining weight. (I’m sure my grandparents would have had some strong opinions, but dead men tell no tales, right?) I will tell you exactly what has caused me the most grief in the process of fattening up: my bras. Oh, and my boots. And my pants and belts. In other words: the clothes, the manufactured things, the objects. (But I have been patiently updating my wardrobe to keep up with my hips — and this week, I finally got some new bras (thank you Figleaves clearance!), and my world is suddenly a hundred times sunnier.)

Here’s what was not difficult or irksome about getting fatter: my body. My reflection. My shape. Losing sight of my hipbones. Noticing a fold of flesh return to my back. Watching my profile change, take up more room in the mirror. Feeling more of me moving around. I like me. I don’t mind having more of me, as long as I can afford to clothe more of me. There is no absolute value to any body size. There is no line on your mirror saying “If your hips touch this, your body is wrong.” My body’s not wrong now, and it wasn’t wrong before. It’s my body, and now that I live with respect for it, I don’t dread or thrill to its changes in size.

In that first post, way back when, I wrote this:

Right now, I’m a lot thinner than I’m used to being. Temporarily, I’m feeling a disconnect between the “real me” and the “representation of me.” But maybe I’ll stay at this weight, and I’ll realign my self-conception; maybe instead of a chubby healthy person, I’ll be a thinnish person with a medical condition. I’ll adjust. I’ll be good to myself. Maybe my health will improve again, and I’ll gain back those 20 pounds and more. I’ll adjust. I’ll be good to myself. I’ll remember that this body I live in is me and not a container or disguise or symbol for me. How will I do it? I’ll start right here.

Thanks for helping me be good to myself, Shapelings. I drink to you tonight.

162 thoughts on “The Embiggening

  1. Yay! Glad that you’re doing better health-wise and that you’re cool with the way your body is showing signs that you’re feeling better. You guys are an inspiration and I’m really glad to hear that you’re doing well.

  2. Sweet Machine — I’m so glad to hear about your improving health! Thank you for such a thoughtful reflection on your changing body (and, well, everything you write on this site).

    :)
    Annitspurple

  3. One thing that your weight gain has caused that you may not even be aware of – we all seem to be writing in the future – unless Canadian calendars are a day behind those of our American friends?

  4. So glad that you have a medication that works and that you health problems are identified. There are few things scarier then undiagnosed health problems.

    I actually found my way here after losing a substantial amount of weight after dieting for the first time in my life (at 38). The reactions I received really freaked me out.

    It was like when you break up with a boyfriend that you *think* all your friends and family like, only to receive a ton of “Thank god you got rid of him” and “he was so gross” comments, while deep down you know that you will probably end up back together.

    I am still sorting out a lot of mixed feelings from it all….

  5. Ha! Kimberly O, for some reason the blog always thinks we post on GMT, even though our time zone is set to Central Time.

    And thanks, everyone, for the good wishes. I hope it’s clear that what I wanted to get at with this post was how refreshingly non-toxic, mentally and emotionally, gaining weight has been. This is literally the first time in my life that I have not been filled with shame for gaining weight, and it has been amazing.

  6. Wow, SM, that is a truly inspirational story. I’m glad you’re doing well health-wise. I’ve got a doctor’s appt. on Monday and I’m nervous, but my doc has been pretty cool about my wish to practice HAES.

  7. I am nodding at all of this. STRIPPER TITS ACTIVATE!!! That’s my not-so-PC term for “smallish” band size and largeish cups. I am a 36G/H and I am less chubby than a couple of years ago, but chubbylicious nonetheless. Oh don’t get me started on bras. Bra shopping is to me what going to the dentist is for most people. The last time I got measured (yes, they always gotta measure these like they are prized melons at the state fair) the lingerie specialist (because that’s where 36H takes you, right into the arms of a specialist) the saleswoman cleared her throat in a lovely, gravely Eastern European accent said, “You have large chest.”

    Yes, I do have large chest!

    My “Mr. Machine” loves those damn tits. I do not understand this. I will never understand this. They are pretty much in the way most of the time, serving as a curio shelf for meals of the past or rendering me a walking Commodores song.

    I do love them. I just think they are hilarious. Even my too-respectful doctor did a double take when I dropped my top for my boob exam. The look on his face was priceless.

    I have that “inbetweenie” privilege that at times is hard for me to check and/or unpack. I get frustrated because I have experienced sized based discrimination, but at the same time I have all the societal markers that suggest I wouldn’t experience size based discrimination (horny, nerdy, quirk people wanting to be shagnasty with me, wearing a coat from Banana Republic, not being called “fat” unless someone is really pissed at me, eyes not being averted when I talk about shagnastiness, art modeling or wearing a bathing suit).

    I have been wary of speaking out about body acceptance because there are so many things one could point to and shut me down. But I do because I don’t have societally sanctioned “good looks” and I really like myself. And I want every person to feel that way, because it frees up the day to pursue your passions.

    I wasted a lot of time obsessing about my shape, my boobs and my weight and I missed out on life worrying about something that is simply NOT going to change and it was a sad time for me (::cue lifetime original movie music::) and really pointless.

    Thank you for being a place where we can all work towards loving our bodies. It is much appreciated.

  8. Ah yes, bra sizes. As a natural 32GG, I spent most of my teen years dreaming about having enough money for plastic surgery. My hubby never understood the degree of hate I had for my boobs – the rest of my body I could deal with, but going into a *maternity* store to get bras that fit just drove me to Mars Bars and tears (I didn’t know about baby donuts back then). Even in THAT store, the woman stared at me and said 32GG? Do they make that size??

    Interestingly, my breast-feeding journey with a tiny premature baby and my large breasts was deemed interesting enough to be published in their annual magazine, but they edited out my bra size to save me “embarrassment”. Clearly I *should* be embarrassed to wear a 34GG while b’feeding?! And yes, I b’feed in public, in malls, in parks and coffee shops and say “fuck off” to people who tell me I should cover up or go feed my daughter in the toilet – WTF is *that* about??

    Oh, but the joy of wearing bras that actually FIT! I did it myself by trial and error buying second-hand on eBay until I found a size and brand that actually worked for me – for the first time I could stand up straight and wear a bikini! Bra-sized swimwear rocks! My hubby is relieved that I no longer talk about getting plastic surgery – he’s a surgeon himself and fully aware of all the bad things that can happen when you let someone cut you – but mostly, I think he is happy that I have got over my self-hate in this area (he never understood it). I’d still kind of like to be able to run without wearing two sports bras, but if those sports bras FIT, then I can live with it. There was a time when I thought I couldn’t, but I can! It is nice to be able to live with yourself, isn’t it?

  9. It was like when you break up with a boyfriend that you *think* all your friends and family like, only to receive a ton of “Thank god you got rid of him” and “he was so gross” comments, while deep down you know that you will probably end up back together.

    Holy shit, that is EXACTLY what it was like. Wow.

  10. This is really timely for me. I’m pregnant, in my first trimester, and suffering from really severe nausea, which is causing me to rapidly lose weight. It’s really made me realize how utterly ridiculous any kind of external body scrutiny is–how could I ever have wanted to sacrifice health for social acceptance? How could anyone ever not love a body that lets you digest cheese? I can’t wait to make it through this and start putting on weight again, and I know I’ll do so with a renewed appreciation for what a privilege it is to be able to do that.

    I am so, so glad that your health has improved. Go eat some cheese for me, okay?

  11. Sweet Machine,

    Congratulations on your better health, and admiration for your continuing healthy attitude. I have NEVER been OK with gaining weight. Still working on it.

    Cliche time: FA is a journey, and we are all different places with it. Sounds like you’ve made some incredible strides.

  12. Yay to better health! I’ve gained a little weight due to better health myself too lately and so far I’m dealing with it pretty well. For some reason, even though I love my doctor, I thought he would yell at me or judge me, but he did not, of course. I feel a bit sheepish with myself, but it’s all a learning process.

  13. Congratulations on your improvement in health!

    I, too, tend to be at my lowest weight during periods of illness, which is why I hate hate hate hate it when people equate “losing weight” and “getting healthy.” Yes, sometimes, for some people, fixing a medical condition or getting more exercise or whatever happens to result in weight loss for them, but for me weight loss is generally a symptom of a serious health problem.

  14. Yay for you!

    I have decided, in no small part due to reading SP, to wean myself off antidepressants and see how it goes. As with my “inbetweenie” body (I love that term, if not the shopping annoyances–thank GOD for Eileen Fisher on eBay–the clothes are affordable there and forgiving of size fluctuations, and the newer designs are quite flattering), my emotional state is not quite depressed/anxious enough to get any mental health professional concerned, but hey, why not try these pills, and these, too. I’ve decided to try to shape my lifestyle to my emotional requirements–less stress, for example, and more fun (I was a crazy miscast corporate lawyer) instead of medicating myself to fit the lifestyle–so your words about how the outside fixed stuff, like clothes and chairs, is what seems to rub up against you as you change really resonate with me.

    Skol!

  15. I am so glad your health is improving, SM! That’s wonderful.

    I have been losing weight recently, not through any action of my own, but because MS has affected my senses of taste and smell, making me not want to eat because food doesn’t taste like it’s supposed to. The reactions, oh man. “You look great!” “You’ve lost weight, what’s your secret!” Dear lord, I had no idea. No, scratch that. I did have an idea, but to actually have people say those things to my face, that I was not expecting, even though I should have been, has been horrifying. And I’ve been afflicted by this feeling that I shouldn’t be *mean* to people who are trying to compliment me. But you know, screw that. I think I may just say, “My secret? Is that I can’t taste anything! It’s the latest weight loss plan, to have your taste buds burned off!” to the next person who tells me how great I look now. I’d rather be able to enjoy the cheese and weigh 20 pounds more, if it’s all the same to you, person commenting on my personal appearance.

  16. Sweet Machine, I got emotional reading this too. You are awesome and I appreciate this post very much. I want to get where you are. I really want to reach a place of peace and acceptance of my weight gain, in-betweenie body, and asymmetrical boobs. :) Working on it.

    That is all.

  17. Here’s to reunion with cheese!

    For as long as I’ve remembered, I’ve been insanely happy for days after I’ve bought jeans that fit. Just the feeling you get when your clothes are working for you, not against you… I can’t ever imagine being that uplifted by a mere smaller size number on the tag. Same goes for when I had the presence of mind to buy t-shirts that are not quite so fitted.

    My ridiculously sized boobs are very useful, BTW. My bunny loves to perch on them. We commonly refer to them as ‘bunny shelf’.

  18. I like me. I don’t mind having more of me.

    Probably going to go ahead and cross stitch this on a sampler. With proper citation, of course.

  19. SM, best wishes on your improved health. Feeling good is so underrated in this culture.

    mcm: It was like when you break up with a boyfriend that you *think* all your friends and family like, only to receive a ton of “Thank god you got rid of him” and “he was so gross” comments, while deep down you know that you will probably end up back together.

    Oh god. Exactly. I never had much trust in people but after losing a great deal of weight (another medical long story), the reactions I received removed pretty much all that was left.

  20. SM-Congrats on regaining your health and cheese-eating ability! I must once again take this opportunity to express my gratitude to SP and its blogonauts for the true and helpful words. I’ve been struggling for so long and am finally beginning to find some ease in this body in part thanks to y’all. Had the misfortune to spend way too many years among people who said they loved me but…(and that was at 40 lbs less than I weigh now).
    I also had a bit of unintended weight loss a few years ago due to depression and anxiety disorder. I told folks who complimented me the truth and that tended to shut them up pretty handily. It was all very weird, fer sure

  21. Please stop complaining about your big breasts. It makes me feel like shit.

    To whom is this directed?

    ETA: I’m sorry that you feel like shit, but I’m not sure what you’re reacting to. If it’s me, I don’t think I complained anywhere. If it’s snarkysmachine or Elizabby, I read both of them as discussing learning to embrace their large breasts despite cultural pressures to be embarrassed by them — which is of a piece with this post and this blog. That said, we don’t do negative body talk here for many reasons, and one of them is that it tends to make someone feel like shit, so I’m trying to hear what you’re saying.

  22. On a smaller scale, I was actually just thinking about this today. After a weekend-long bout of food poisoning, I was horrified to realize that in only three days, I had lost five pounds. When I came back to work, I told a few people this, by way of illustrating how sick I had been, and was pretty shocked that I only got one reaction along the lines I was expecting (basically, “Oh god, that’s horrible, poor you!”). The rest were all variations on “Good for you, I wish I could lose five pounds!” Seriously?

  23. Feel free to delete or modify my comment. I certainly don’t want to contribute to body hating or discomfort. My relationship with my breasts is complicated because I developed early and received a lot of unwanted attention (at age 10) based on something I couldn’t control. It was really scary so if I sound like I’m bragging, I’m not. I’m just really happy to feel at peace with my boobs on my better days and have an uneasy truce on my less body positive days. Nevertheless, I definitely can see how my previous post could be read as insensitive and I apologize.

  24. @ Sweet Machine: Congrats, and thank you. Having a community of people that know that health comes in many shapes and sizes has been a huge help to me on my own path of fat/weight acceptance. Have an awesome break, you deserve it! :-D

  25. Arielle, I’ve gotten one reaction like that when I told another mother at my kids’ school that the reason I’ve lost weight is because food doesn’t taste good, or like anything, really. She actually said to me,”But at least the pounds are melting off, huh? Maybe that’s the upside.” No, there is no upside to losing your sense of taste, I promise. It sucks. Just like it’s not worth getting a food-borne illness in order to lose a few pounds. How absurd.

  26. SM, you drop in comments that you’re done posting here?! WAAH. With apologies for being one of those demanding readers … I’m sure I speak for lots of people when I say I hope we continue to see you around here somehow.

  27. anotherjess, it’s just that I’ve been on a looooong stretch (the last 15 posts were all written by me!) and I am sick of seeing my avatar all over the damn place. I’m not going anywhere; I just need a blognap.

  28. A broken body is something that has really helped me make strides in body image acceptance, too. For the last 3 1/2 years I’ve been struggling with a chronic pain condition. While I didn’t lose weight- in fact, the exact opposite happened to me, due to a combination of forced inactivity and medication side effects- the time I’ve spent just wondering if I could get out of bed, trying to figure out how to do simple things like shampoo my hair and put on my own socks and shoes, has made me realize how stupid it is to worry about what your body looks like. To me, days where my body just WORKS are good days- screw my weight, and screw what people think I look like; days where I can get dressed up in something cute and go out are good days- screw what size that dress is.

    Thanks for sharing your journey. I’m glad that your health seems to be getting better.

    And Ruth- it is a journey, and its different for everyone. Good luck on yours.

  29. I, too, tend to be at my lowest weight during periods of illness, which is why I hate hate hate hate it when people equate “losing weight” and “getting healthy.” Yes, sometimes, for some people, fixing a medical condition or getting more exercise or whatever happens to result in weight loss for them, but for me weight loss is generally a symptom of a serious health problem.

    Bingo! I’m one of those people who absolutely cannot eat when depressed/stressed. I just lose my appetite altogether. If I’ve lost a few (which I shouldn’t be doing for any reason…ED recovery and all) it’s because I’m depressed or overworked or in mourning.

    As an ED survivor who has to constantly be diligent about maintaining a healthy weight (that is, keeping my weight up), I go nuts when people compliment any percieved weight loss. It’s like, I may be closer to a socially sanctioned size 0, but I’m going to get in trouble with my doctor for getting below my target weight.

  30. I love me some SM! Glad you’re feeling better.

    Just today I was hating on my body for gaining more weight (all medical issues) and my hubby told me how wonderful he thought I was and how he found the best mate possible for him in me. Chubby belly be damed, I am loved. And I am not wrong or broken or sub-standard. I am me. Sometimes bigger, often squishy, me.

  31. I’m so glad to hear that you’re feeling good. Your story really speaks to me; I came over to the FA way of thinking pretty much all at once, through the traumatic experience of suddenly losing a lot of weight due to illness. I was leaning towards inbetweenie when the illness happened, a combination of thyroid disease and severe depression. I couldn’t eat; food tasted like sand, I was always nauseous. Trying to choke tasteless, unwanted food down (I normally love food) was torturous. The thyroid problem made it worse. And within two or three months, suddenly I was something I hadn’t been since age 8 — downright skinny — and it was fucking terrifying. I had no *control* over it. My body was disappearing through no deliberate action of mine. My clothes fell off and I couldn’t find my stomach or my ass or my breasts with my hands in the dark. My family was sensible enough to be dreadfully worried, but from every other direction I was getting this constant stream of congratulation and silver-lining cheeriness and envy and admiration. I’ve never felt so sick and wrong in my own body as I did when I was so thin, and the reaction of society to my sick body felt just WRONG. And coming from that experience, almost all at once, FA made sense to me. For *me*, for my body, being skinny means being permanently miserable and too sick to eat anything but cornflakes, yogurt and clementines (a few of the things I could reliably get down). That is the only way for me to have that body. And I never, ever want to be there again. Yeah, it was nice that I could buy clothes off the rack and have them look great, but it’s not worth the tradeoff! That wish has just disappeared. I wish that I hadn’t had to learn the lesson through weight loss and a serious illness that may have damaged my body permanently, but there you have it.

    By now, I’ve gained it all back and more, as expected. I am happy and healthy. It feel so good to love food again — what misery it was, not being able to eat. I won’t pretend it hasn’t been a struggle, especially since I gained back more than I lost (like you do). And I *really* hate not having enough clothes that fit, and not being able to afford to buy a new wardrobe (because if I could, I *know* I could feel damn good about how I look, that most of my current body-acceptance struggle comes from wearing clothes that don’t fit). But even if I had the money, which I don’t, I may not be done gaining… or losing, since a new med my doctor wants me to try has a side effect of weight loss in about 40% of patients. I’m dreading starting it (although its potential benefits are great, if it works the way it’s supposed t0). I wish I could just stabilize and get to learn how it feels to be in my body without it changing all the time — it would make loving it and treating it right (like dressing it!) so much easier. I haven’t been at a relatively stable weight since before I got sick. Bodies aren’t stable things, though, are they? I’ll just have to learn to deal with that.

    Anyway. This site has helped me enormously. Thank you.

  32. *raising a glass* To your health, SM. Congratulations.

    And I also dislike the extravagant compliments over (perceived) weight loss. The last time it happened to me, the reason was that I’d finally gotten my doctor to take me seriously about the “low” part of “low-normal” thyroid levels being a problem. I was much happier about not being cold all the time and no longer needing 12 hours of sleep per night, but it was the weight change that mattered, of course.

    And the thing is, my weight only went down by a little bit; I just looked much smaller since I wasn’t wearing three layers of clothes all the time to combat the cold!

  33. SM – I’m so glad to hear you’re doing well!

    I’m also solidly an inbetweenie – even at my heaviest weight and technically obese – and while it’s annoying not to be able to shop wherever I’d like (and where many of my friends do), I recognize that it could be a lot more frustrating.

    Now bras on the other hand…

  34. Augh! It’s late and I forgot the two more important things I’d planned to mention:

    1. Victoria’s Secret employees regularly measure me as a 38D. I’m a 32-34FF-G.

    2. I only lose weight at my lowest points. If I’m under a size 10, I’m probably neither healthy nor taking care of myself, and I resent any implication that thinner equals healthier.

  35. I got weepy reading this, too. Thank you. And I’m glad your health is improving and you are able to eat the foods you enjoy. I feel like I’ve got a lot to learn and a long way to go and Shapely Prose is a big part of that process. Thanks for helping me be good to myself, too.

  36. Oh yes. Oh yes. This is how I felt after my incredibly horrible experience with gall bladder issues. I’ve mentioned it before, but the summed up version is that my gall bladder became inflamed and started making me very sick, I soldiered through a month at my job feeling so sick, then I ended up in the emergency room and had to take off work for a month and a half while I waited for a free clinic to give me surgery, since I didn’t have insurance (and I still owe about $2,000 for said surgery). I lost a good 40 lbs, possibly more, and people kept telling me how svelte I looked. And it was so wrong. And when I finally had the bloody thing out, and healed, and could eat again, I gained weight back (not all of it, even, but enough to feel human), and for the first time I was so happy to gain weight. I weigh something like 380 lbs, probably (it was 370 after the surgery, before I gained weight, and I ended up losing a bit after moving to an apartment on the 3rd floor) and I’m 6′ tall, and I feel so much better about myself now. My clothes fit me again, I can eat food with fat in it without feeling so nauseous I can’t function, and I like how I look when I see myself in the mirror.

    Actually, now that I think about it, I think my experience with the gall bladder thing pretty much shoved me face-first into FA. I started reading SP shortly after the surgery (when still in recovery) and so much of my experience resonated (especially being angry about how many people told me I “looked good” when I was literally starving) that I immersed myself completely and never looked back.

    So anyway, that long ramble was my way of saying I totally feel ya, SM. Hooray for both of us being healthy again, and feeling great about our bodies. <3

  37. Thanks for a great post. As an adult female I was my “thinnest” while A. pregnant and B. having the post-baby gallbladder problem that was scary and painful and resulted in a surgery. And yeah, in the midst of all this I had a very close female to me respond that it was great I was losing weight (although she did sympathize regarding the agonizing pain and the fear and the vomiting and the crazy diarrhea shitstorm). And I know I had friends who envied me for my weight loss during this time. Envy? Wow.

    I just want to go a tiny bit OT and add my thanks, since SM brought her own to the fore. This is my fifth week in a running program and it feels wonderful. I am also, after years of sewing for my kids and my husband and brother and EVERYONE besides myself – finally trying to sew my own clothes. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be exercising so happily or starting to self-care in a sartorial fashion if it weren’t for this site and other awesome ones in the FA world. Thank you so much.

  38. SM – I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling better, and that you’re happy with your changing weight.

    mcm – That breakup analogy is brilliant, that is exactly what it is like.

    Snarkymachine – I had a similar experience with an Eastern European bra lady! She said to me: “Ahh, yes. You are very small with very large breasts.” Stating the obvious! (By very small she meant my height and build… I wasn’t small as in thin at the time and am not now). But she was really very sweet and helpful and I’m eternally grateful to her for showing me how a bra is supposed to fit.

  39. I do not understand why people assume everyone wants to be congratulated on weight loss! I’m another one of those people who tends to lose weight when sick or seriously stressed, but even if I weren’t–well, I also don’t think anyone’s weight is other people’s business, yet it’s obviously a huge area of female bonding or something.

    Yay for being healthier and able to eat cheese, SM! Cheese is a delightful food.

  40. OOOohh, it would have been very useful to read this a few years ago (still is!). I dieted myself into virtual oblivion, to the point where people thought I was dying. Frustratingly, I didnt even need to, I just lost control of my brain and thought that life would be wonderful if I weighed as much as a hazelnut. Turns out, nothing changed apart from I was too weak to work or enjoy my life, and lost more of mysense of humour with every pound of weight. Not one thing got better by being like Skeletor, not one tiny thing. Clothes looked like shit on me, my skin was the colour of a 10 year old facecloth, and no-one, including strangers thought I looked better.
    So, if nothing else, I have taught myself once and for all, that you are supposed to be YOU sized, whatever that is.

    Unless you are a lemur, they of course have to be lemur sized.

  41. Snarkymachine – I had a similar experience with an Eastern European bra lady! She said to me: “Ahh, yes. You are very small with very large breasts.” Stating the obvious! (By very small she meant my height and build… I wasn’t small as in thin at the time and am not now). But she was really very sweet and helpful and I’m eternally grateful to her for showing me how a bra is supposed to fit.

    I love that woman! She was the first person (since puberty) who put me in a bra that fit properly, easing most of my back, neck, shoulder and migraine problems. Before seeing her it never occurred to me an ill fitting bra contributed to all those pain issues!

  42. @Sweet Machine That said, we don’t do negative body talk here for many reasons, and one of them is that it tends to make someone feel like shit, so I’m trying to hear what you’re saying.

    This is just one of the many reasons that I love reading this blog. Rather than getting defensive and just saying “well, life is that way deal learn to with it”, the people here are sensitive to what other people are actually saying and to drill down and find out why as it could be something we can all learn from. Yes, I am thinking of another place that shall not be named. This is one of the few safe places that I have found – and we all need a safe place.

    That being said, your post really resounded with me, even though my weight loss was not due to a medical reason – but my gain might be. I was a large kid, 160lbs at age 13, was bullied through my school years and made ashamed of who I was. I became anorexic, rarely ate and did enormous quantities of various drugs. The lowest I could get was 105lbs and the difference in how I was treated was amazing. And I was miserable. I was taken advantage of, used and abused by men b/c now I was “thin and sexy:, never thinking that this was not the *right* kind of attention and never thinking that I deserved better.

    And I was complimented on how I looked so great. I was a walking wreck.

    After an abusive relationship, I remember thinking that I wanted to be large, b/c then no one could even think of hurting me. I equated larger with being safe physically, b/c I would be able to defend myself from asshats.

    Then in my mid 20’s the pendulum swung the other way – I began taking antidepressents and the weight started to climb and I may have thyroid issues now due to the starvation, as my weight hasn’t stopped climbing no matter what or how hard I exercise (sound familiar?). So from one extreme to the other, yeah, that’s me. Thank goodness I finally found a doctor who actually listened to me! She believes that large jumps of weight isn’t normal (30 lbs in a few months, 25 lbs in one year). And all during a time when I was training for competitive muay thai and boxing. We aren’t talking 30 min. of cardio a day here folks.

    If it wasn’t for FA and this community, I wouldn’t have had the gumption to fire my previous doctor after years of asinine “calories in / calories out” bullshit and say to my new one “If my body is supposed to be at XXX, then that is where I am supposed to be and I can accept that. However, I don’t think that this behavior in weight jumps is normal for anyone. I don’t have a baseline for what *is* normal weight for me as I’ve never been at a stable point for my body”. She was willing to listen and actually run tests! And she’s open to HAES and why the BMI is bullshit.

    All that being said, I still catch myself wanting to say “you look great, have you lost weight?” and stop myself. How pervasive is that social conditioning? I am painfully aware that weight loss may be indicative of a medical condition and yet I still have to catch myself.

    On the other hand, I had a teachable HAES moment the other day at work when a co-worker said he had to go to the gym to “lose the weight for the wedding”. GAH

  43. Hiya Sweet Machine.
    I was immunised by accident with the fabulous Fat Acceptance
    after the experience of returning home from some international
    travel and adventures “in foreign climes” too sick too tackle stairs,
    and being bombarded with cheeriness…

    (TMI warning: Six months with nothing solid to report …)

    Thin! Wonderful! Great!

    “Ugh. Not really. No. Truly. I would like to get better.”

  44. I can completely relate to this. I suppose I could be categorized as an “in-betweenie”–my BMI is slightly overweight, although my clothing sizes are still quite small– 8/10/M. I’m just pretty short, so the biggest I’ve ever gotten is about a 14, and that was after having a huge baby, and only for a few months. I do have the thin privilege, without actually being thin. I still have quite a bit of fat on my body (enough so that I was teased mercilessly in grade school and my doctor told me I was “too fat” in high school), but somehow I fit into completely straight sizes. I’ve ever even set foot in a plus-size store, even when my BMI was “obese.” I guess I could call it “small privilege” rather than “thin privilege” in my case.

  45. Please stop complaining about your big breasts. It makes me feel like shit.

    I’m delurking because of this comment. Having big boobs when you’re as big as I am doesnt’ get me any of the chesty perks but I get all the chesty problems, back and neck aches, paying a fortune for bras that are hard to find, as well as being viewed as some kind of freak. So please stop making your body issues somebody else’s fault.

    I think Snarky’s fabulous, I always enjoy reading her comments here and on her blog ( http://snarkysmachine.wordpress.com )

  46. Having big boobs when you’re as big as I am doesnt’ get me any of the chesty perks but I get all the chesty problems, back and neck aches, paying a fortune for bras that are hard to find, as well as being viewed as some kind of freak.

    This is true. It’s really amazing how narrow the range of “acceptable” breast sizes for women are.

  47. Glad you’re feeling better, SM. And renewing an acquaintance with cheese cannot, in my view, be a bad thing.

    My one experience of involuntarily losing an appreciable amount of weight (in fact, my only experience of visibly losing weight by any means) was when I was 21 and about to be married first time round. I’d been 145-150 for much of my late teens, but during the month leading up to the wedding, I went down to 128. I was under a heap of stress, including the distinct possibility that my mother-in-law-to-be was going to sabotage the whole thing. I felt like crap, and my skin had to have half a ton of products I’d never have normally used on it to make it look anywhere near healthy on the day.

    (Bear in mind that 128 was thinner than it sounds, for me. The fat I have is densely packed, so I don’t look as big as I come out on the scales. People used to guesstimate my weight as a stone (14lb) or more below what I actually weighed. I only realized exactly how thin I’d been when, many years later, during a house move, I found The Dress. It was a big foofy Princess Diana-a-like thing, and it was about a British size 8.)

    The really sad thing? Back then I was still in the mindset, having had it drummed into me that I was a huge fat teen, that losing this much weight must be great, however awful I felt. But I got not one single comment about it. I’d like to think most sensible people could see how drained and pasty I actually looked but didn’t like to say so. My now ex husband, MIL and my own mother were, however, pretty quick to comment – negatively – when I put it all back on and then some fairly rapidly afterwards.

    This was totally isolated, because I’ve had badly stressed times, not to mention bouts of actual depression, since then, and I’ve never lost any weight from it, to my knowledge. (This is in fact one reason why my depression didn’t get diagnosed for a long time; I was saddled with a doctor who believed all depressed people stopped eating, therefore my low mood, crying jags and exhaustion must be something else. Possibly endocrine, and most likely diabetes. Which it wasn’t, but it took no end of tests to convince him of that.) I’ve also been married again, and despite another heap of wedding stress (this time involving whether my mother was going to sabotage things), I didn’t lose any weight that time. Neither have I ever lost any from a physical illness – but then, touch wood, I’ve been lucky enough never to have suffered anything too serious. I guess my body’s actually pretty resilient.

  48. Please people, don’t get your fitting done at Victoria’s Secret. They don’t sell in enough sizes and so they measure you to fit their bras instead of trying to find a bra that fits you.

    Go to Nordstrom’s or a real reputable fitter.

    And read this post. Really. And then read this addendum.

  49. Sweet Machine, thank you for posting this. I’m struggling with some size stuff right now (and trying to get out of playing the “what number is on the label” game, because I don’t think there are two labels in my closet that match right now…) and both this post and the links in it were really helpful for me.

    I hope you enjoy your blognap, and I’m glad you’re feeling healthier.

  50. I apologize if this isn’t totally coherent, but one of my roommates burned some pizza and set off our fire alarm at 3 this morning, so I’m kinda groggy.

    The thing for me about having big boobs – even with some measure of thin privilege – is that it makes dating suck. It’s really hard for me to gauge whether men are interested in me for me or whether they’re just angling to get a chance to see/feel the “gigantic boobies.” The last guy I dated told me outright that he preferred women with smaller chests and fuller hips/thighs. Now, I’m pretty hourglassy, but hips/thighs are definitely not where I carry more weight. (The woman my ex ended up marrying is exactly his “type.”)

    I’d also love to be able to go out and buy a sports bra that actually fits. Or go for a run without having to double up on bras. I hate how crew necks and turtlenecks look on me, but if I don’t want to have any cleavage, that’s what I have to wear. It feels like, unless I’m wearing a sack, my body is overly sexualized and there’s very little I can do about it.

    And the thing is, my mom wears a B cup. I’m a genetic anomaly in my family in almost everything about the way I’m built, so I never had any role models for how to be happy with my own body. I’m learning to deal with that now, but it probably intensified my already highly critical inner voice.

    I get how it can sound frustrating when people complain about something you’d love to have or be. It’s still sometimes hard for me to listen to my size-4 best friend complain about having gained 5 lbs., but she’s not doing it to hurt me and her feelings have value even if they don’t totally relate to me.

  51. To Princess R – cut the labels out of everything the minute you buy any clothes, and do the same on all your old things. That way, your clothes are just “You” sized. Otherwise, we get into that crap of some clothes being “good” because they are a small size and some being “bad” because they are a “big” size. Cut the buggers out and take away the power of the stupid little things. Ooo, you should see me and my scissors!

  52. I’m so glad that you are feeling better, Sweet Machine.

    One of my dearest friends has a stomach condition that makes it literally painful for him to eat, from time to time, and sends him to the ER, from time to time, and what seems almost routine to him seems so scary for the rest of us.

    My friend is a dude, so his body image issues are not the same as they would be for a woman in his position. There is something almost heartbreaking when I first noticed how thin he was becoming during the worst months – how his clothes hung off of him. And the thought that, for a woman, such changes might be remarked upon by casual acquaintances, not with concern, but with admiration? I don’t even know how to handle that thought.

  53. @liz, that’s not a technique exclusive to VS. Even Nordstrom’s does it. I have been sent out of there with a bag full of expensive, ill fitting bras. Lane Bryant never carries my size in store, so I’ve been measured, then remeasured and suddenly became a size they had on the racks, which of course did not fit properly. Basically, what I have taken to doing is getting measured every six or so months and sticking to two brands (wacoal and goddess) and my bras seem to fit better. Also TJMaxx often has wacoal bras CHEAP. 12.99 and I’ve been lucky to find several in my size at once! It was new hotness. Still, I can’t really count on that.

    /end of bra/boob/body talk for Snarky.

  54. Yay, SweetMachine! This post really was beautiful.

    On the breast-size subject, I’m a 36DD, and it took about two years of resizing to figure that out (Thank you, Soma Intimates, for not sucking), but the thing that bothers me most is when people *insist* there is no way I can be that size. “DD’s are HUGE, man, seriously!” No, ‘man’, they’re not. The lack of comprehension of what sizes are real and what they look like is just incredible. My husband didn’t know that sizes went beyond DD until I started reading Wapsi Square (a webcomic, very body-positive a lot of the time!) and shared it with him.

    I went the opposite way – I was sick for a couple years with the depression side of Bipolar and gallbladder problems (the doctor didn’t catch it… for three years of being sick. Apparently 20 is too young to have health issues.), a neck injury that only just got cleared up (ish), plus fibromyalgia wreaking havoc on my body – and I gained. Oh, how I gained – from when I got married until my husband returned from Iraq, I went from 135 to near 200. I dropped back down to 180 after a little period of time and my gallbladder surgery, then going off birth control, but mostly have been sitting pretty there. I’m trying to learn to love my body this way – I love my boobs and butt, but the rest of me, I’ve never really liked. I’m hoping to eventually get to be happy with it (I’m still bad with the fat talk, and even worse with talk that has nothing to do with fat – the phrase “You can’t lose ugly” is too common in my depressive phases). I’m an inbetweenie, but my family has always been very down on gaining weight, and I’m trying to break away from that.

    This blog is really helping, as well as other blogs I read that you’ve linked to previously. I hope that eventually, hopefully sooner than later, I can love my body.

    Thank you *so much*.

  55. Paintmonkey–Yes! Yes yes yes! This is a great idea. I have a rather cool winter coat that I recently de-labeled, simply because I’d had it tailored after losing some SSRI weight. So, of course, I wanted to take the inaccurate size off. And then I realized I was being dumb. I have everything between a size M and a size 20 in my current wardrobe, and all of them fit, so what the hell is the point of letting that information bother me? So I took a pair of scissors to most of my other labels, and it’s been a joy.

  56. So please stop making your body issues somebody else’s fault.

    For what it’s worth, though, even though I know there isn’t necessarily any joy and a lot of frustration in having large breasts when you are fat, there are few figures less socially acceptable than a fat one with small breasts. That’s supposed to be the “saving grace” of being fat – it’s assumed we have big boobs. Mine aren’t exactly small anymore, and if the rest of my body were to shrink w/o my boobs doing so, I might be seen as large-breasted, but they protrude less and are decidedly less noticeable than my butt, thighs, and especially my belly. It’s definitely something I get insecure about. I find myself wishing my gut would shrink not in and of itself, but so it wouldn’t dwarf my damn boobs.

    Certainly, that is my issue and I own it. And I don’t find myself feeling like shit when other people talk about the travails of being more endowed, because of course I know they exist and how much it can suck. After all, small breasts on a fat body might be considered unattractive and not socially acceptable, but they don’t really affect how your body feels or functions. But let’s not pretend that just because there’s no physical problems with this figure that it’s all sunshine either.

    That said, I don’t know that the claim that “complaining about your big boobs is making me feels like shit” falls into the point that the “It’s Not All About You” post is making. IF there are any complaints about big boobs here, it’s not about them being “gross” or “ugly” or anything like that. It’s a completely different “problem” than that of having smaller ones – right? One is about the physical discomfort and difficulty clothing them, the other is about being seen as “unwomanly” or inadequate. Now, when it was my best friend in high school complaining that her boobs were never going to get big enough when she was two cup sizes larger than me at age 14, THAT was fucked up.

  57. I’m glad you’re feeling better. In the last couple of years I’ve been trying to deal with the opposite problem, as I’m fairly sure I’ve gained weight because of my arthritis, and that I may well gain more. Not being comfortable in perfectly serviceable blouses that I like is a pain, but at least I dumped my asstastic gynecologist, who was obsessed with my weight.

    No embiggening as of yet, but I’m guessing it’s because I fail at having a noble spirit. I’m working on that, too.

  58. I’m so glad you’re doing better! And how nice it was for me to start this day off reading a celebration of weight gain. Truly.

    I had my own little moment of “look how far I’ve come” when I put on some pants that do not fit me that well. They are the right size but something about them makes them fit me awkwardly. Well there was a time that my self esteem would take a big hit over that but instead I only thought “these pants are all wrong for me. Why am I still holding onto them?” And off they went and straight into my give-a-way box, soon to be replaced with pants that I feel good in. No self-hatred involved.

    Am I the only one that can’t cut out labels because I can’t remember what size I need when I go to buy pants? heh. I do most of my shopping online and I actually have to go grab a pair of pants from that shop that I know fit me well to get my size before I can order. Even when I go to the shop to buy there instead, I don’t try anything on. (really, really hate that whole experience!) so I need to know my size before I go.

  59. On the breast-size subject, I’m a 36DD, and it took about two years of resizing to figure that out (Thank you, Soma Intimates, for not sucking), but the thing that bothers me most is when people *insist* there is no way I can be that size. “DD’s are HUGE, man, seriously!” No, ‘man’, they’re not. The lack of comprehension of what sizes are real and what they look like is just incredible. My husband didn’t know that sizes went beyond DD until I started reading Wapsi Square (a webcomic, very body-positive a lot of the time!) and shared it with him.

    OMG, yes, THIS! Man I wear a size 16 or so in most clothes and am decidedly bottom heavy (except broad-shouldered). While compared to my thinner friends I am not exactly flat-chested, all of the people I know who are around my size or larger have significantly bigger boobs than I do and struggle to find bras their size. The tag on my favorite bras that I finally got measured for a couple months ago? 38D (though I might even do better to go down a band size to a 36DD but I haven’t bothered trying – but I’d been wearing a 40B for months before that). TRUST ME it’s not huge. I can’t even achieve cleavage with a push-up bra unless it’s under a very tight dress; in profile my stomach sticks out about two inches further than my boobs do wearing a bra. It’s just that mainstream bras are made for thin women, women on whom a D cup really IS pretty large, relatively speaking, and nobody has a concept of the fact that cup sizes are not all the same on the same band size and so on and so forth and YEAH. I loved how my stacked size-10 friend stared at me when we were talking about bra shopping and was like “Um, you know, *I* wear a 36DD so I dunno about this Daph.” I ordered her to Nordie’s and SHOCKINGLY she is much comfier in a 34G. Lulz. But yeah, this new bra size for me this year has made me desperate to revolutionize the standard idea of bra sizes. VS HAS YOU ALL SCREWED UP PEEPS.

  60. SM- oh gods, cheese. Say hi for me. I miss it terribly. (YAY HEALTHIER YOU!)

    LilahMorgan – “acceptable” is defined as “whatever the guy looking at you decides” isn’t it? *eyeroll*

    I have this mental image of coming to SP tomorrow and seeing a message “Sweet Machine is asleep” at the top of the page. ;)

    (No one is going to get that reference are they?)

    DRST

  61. And back onto the non-hijack topic, SM, I’m also glad to hear you are feeling so much better. I actually gained weight last winter due to ill health. (My metabolism is apparently pretty sensitive to high consumption of refined carbohydrates – no surprise, the only way my cardiologist dad keeps himself under the “obese” threshold is by eating a completely austere Atkins diet – but that was kind of all I could eat for a few months because of stomach problems, and my knees basically ordered me to move as little as possible.)

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around and accept the idea that just because I’m slowly, steadily improving these days, that doesn’t mean the weight will magically disappear. I am reminding myself to just be happy I can have more fun with food these days, and walk miles without crying, and will probably get back to yoga soon. I know my body – it’s not going to lose weight without severe interventions that will just set it back to worse than it was before all this crap (dieting doesn’t work, and it really REALLY doesn’t work for me; I have never lost more than about 5 or 10 pounds despite making concerted efforts plenty of times when I was younger, even after significant weight gains). So I’ve packed away the size 12s for Goodwill or selling on inbetweenies on LJ, and I am getting there. I didn’t freak out over the gain because I felt so physically shitty at the time that I didn’t care, but also because I knew that the things that were causing it (lots of rest, lots of potatoes, minimal activity) were the only things that kept me from feeling 100 times worse. Feeling as good as I could manage was the important thing. Thank you, HAES.

  62. What I appreciate about SP is it challenges me to speak authentically from my experience yet keeps me engaged in hearing and responding to criticism in a productive and meaningful way. (regardless of whether or not I agree with the criticism)

    That said, I have no idea what it is like to have different breasts. I have had these since I was about nine or ten years old and they have felt very much like a burden, both emotionally and physically. The physical is easier for folks to understand, but the emotional is more challenging.

    There are the two stereotypes about large breasts that intersect with being a black female (for me): being hypersexualized (it works differently for other kinds of women and I recognize this) and being considered “a bimbo” or “uncultured”

    Still, I know it’s all relative. One of my former coworkers has a rack my size but she’s considerably smaller than me. Her experiences are vastly different than mine. I can see how my fat insulates me from some of the really hellish sexist shit she encounters. I don’t feel like crap when she talks about her challenges, even though she benefits from several privileges I don’t have. I see where we have commonality, which is trying to find comfort (and good bras) in loving the bodies we have.

  63. I noticed something was different, but I thought you had just bought a fancy new hat or something. MUST….BECOME…MORE….OBSERVANT

  64. This was exactly what I needed to read. I’m also an in-betweenie who, thanks to much healthier FA-influenced attitudes about food and exercise (NOT starving and NOT hobbling around after deliberately punishing workouts) have found myself returning to the weight I was in college, a weight I thought was enormous then. I wish I were handling it as well as you, but at least I’m trying! Buying clothes has been a bit of an ordeal, since I’m now 2 sizes larger than I was at this time last year. This hasn’t been an easy year financially, and walking around in clothes that are too tight just makes me feel shitty and gives me all kinds of FOBT delusions.

    But I finally, FINALLY went out and dropped a cool $300 on new bras, panties, and pajamas, and it feels SO DAMN GOOD. For one thing, I’m thrilled after months of financial stress to be able to afford to do that, and my 38D’s are so very happy with me right now. Seriously, I was trying to get away with a 36C (which I don’t think ever really fit me, but, ya know, delusions are powerful things), and when I walked into the store, the saleslady looked on me with pity, and sent me home with some really pretty and much more comfortable stuff.

  65. I’m gaining weight too after about a year of being underweight. It wasn’t a medical issue for me; in fact I’m not sure why. My period has come back (I hope for good this time; pregnancy tests are nervewracking for this childfree dame even when the chance they’ll be + is close to zero) I have a bottom again (I caught my back view in the mirror the other day and saw yes! booty!) But I’m nonetheless mainlining Shapely Prose to keep the negative thoughts away, which fact in itself makes me think just how pervasive and freaky the internalised hatred racket is. I’ve never dieted, never been fat. And yet I *still* have this funny little nostalgia for the bony-gorged, bumless 96lb me, even though she doesn’t look anything like as good as the 110lb me that I am now or the 117lb me or the 129lb me that I’ve been at other times (never been any heavier than that, so not sure what it feels like). I’m going to have some cheese!

  66. I noticed something was different, but I thought you had just bought a fancy new hat or something. MUST….BECOME…MORE….OBSERVANT

    To be fair, the hat does come with a full body veil.

  67. I’m glad you’re feeling healthier! It’s inspiring and helpful.

    For the past year, maybe, that body has been turning on me in unpleasant ways and I finally made a doctor’s appointment (which I was miraculously able to get for tomorrow, though I just called today post-yakking up my breakfast), though I am loathe to go because I am now ten pounds heavier (I think) than I was last time I saw her, when she said I should maybe lose ten pounds because I carry weight around my middle and that apparently means insta-heart disease death or something.

    So for a year I’ve been weighing the over-sensitive gag reflex, over-sensitivity to food textures and smells, the vomiting, the headaches, the pseudo-starvation way I’ve been eating because I just can’t work up any enthusiasm over food anymore (which also means I have very little energy for school and working out and fun stuff I like to do. Fuck this is depressing to write out) versus dealing with doctor bullshit. Fuck. I am going to go cry some more.

  68. Jeez, what is up with the “I hate my big tits” thing? Is it OK to love our bodies but not our breasts? I do understand the unwanted attention thing that Snarky talks about, and the fact that simply being women opens us up to all sorts of nauseating attention from other people, but let’s put that shit where it belongs. Aim it at the stupid fucks who expect twelve year old girls to appreciate grown men staring at their bodies.

    I loved your post, SM — I read it with a big smile on your face, because I recognized the feelings you were describing. In my dieting days, I always felt odd when I was a different size than my ‘normal’ (fortunately, I always went right back to it as soon as I stopped the diet). Nowadays, I like my ‘normal.’ It would feel really weird to me to be any other size.

  69. I got incredibly angry at someone who was a friend of a friend while we were out to dinner. We were talking about roommates, of all things, and I mentioned that my college roommate had to move out halfway through the year because she had Crohn’s. This FoF said “Isn’t that the disease where you can’t keep anything down? I wish I had that.”

    “NO. You REALLY don’t.”

    “No, you don’t understand. I mean, you would lose so much…”

    “Crohn’s is really terrible. I had to watch my friend suffer through it, and now my sister-in-law. You don’t understand what you’re saying. Please stop.”

    And then I looked around to make sure that Mr. Shoshie hadn’t heard, because he would have been even angrier than I was, and I don’t like to see him hurt. Fortunately, he didn’t overhear this part of the conversation.

    I really hate our culture of lose-weight-at-any-cost.

  70. Well, to be fair, there can also be pain issues thanks to giant boobs on small frames, painful exercise, utter frustration with super-limited clothing options (I wear a size 12, but my breasts need at least a size 18, so any shirts or dresses I buy I have to either alter myself, which I no longer have time to do, or pay someone to do it for me, and since I have to pay a premium for bras that fit, as well as more for shoes, which are mostly ugly, since women who wear my size apparently only want super-pointy toed high high heels or orthopedic wear, I don’t have a lot of money to do that either), emotional crap brought on by people making assumptions and treating you like shit for naturally growing large breasts, adolescent scars, etc. It’s hard not to hate the breasts instead of the billion and one other things that really deserve the hate, because then I would never ever stop punching people.

    Of course, I don’t actually hate my breasts. I hate the hassle and pain foisted on me by a world where women’s bodies are wrong, full stop, no matter what.

    /my part in the boob derail

  71. Glad to hear you’re feeling better.

    I just want to nth how uncomfortable weight-related comments make me, especially when they’re about weight changes due to illness or medication. Among that statistically invalid sample of People I Know Who Have Lost or Gained Weight, probably at least 1/2 of the changes were due to or significantly influenced by meds and/or illness. I know that’s what happened with me, and after the two years it took to deal with the eating issues that weight loss brought (during which well-intentioned jokes that I might “disappear” made me ecstatic), people’s comments started to make me really uncomfortable. It just strikes me as really creepy to assume things are the result of deliberate control or that bs idea of “letting oneself go” when in reality self-control often has very little to do with it.

    The thin = health = desirable fallacy annoys me so much. So very very very much.

  72. Jeez, what is up with the “I hate my big tits” thing? Is it OK to love our bodies but not our breasts? I do understand the unwanted attention thing that Snarky talks about, and the fact that simply being women opens us up to all sorts of nauseating attention from other people, but let’s put that shit where it belongs. Aim it at the stupid fucks who expect twelve year old girls to appreciate grown men staring at their bodies.

    I don’t think it’s that we hate our large breasts, but that they’re often a nuisance. I’m 5 feet tall. I’m small framed. And thanks to the miracle of genetics, I had D-cups by 8th grade. I now wear a 30G (actually, I probably wore a 30F back in 8th grade, but 34D was the closest I could get then). I have to buy my bras from the UK since US manufacturers have universally decided that women with cup sizes larger than AA need size 30 bands. Whereas women in standard sizes (32A-38DD) can go into Victorias Secret or, heck, even Target, and find something that fits, I get to deal with mail order. That is not my fault; it is the fault of the narrow-minded manufacturers. I get that. Doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

    I wasn’t under the impression that to love something, you have to be thrilled about every aspect about it.

  73. “Crohn’s is really terrible. I had to watch my friend suffer through it, and now my sister-in-law. You don’t understand what you’re saying. Please stop.”

    Oh god. Mr Machine’s father has a very bad case of Crohn’s and has had multiple parts of his intestines removed. But he sure is skinny!

  74. Lucizoe–I think your comment is a super-powerful statement about why doctors need to get their heads on straight regarding their treatment of fat patients. Would you consider printing it out and handing it to your doctor? Maybe just saying, “FYI, you need to reconsider the way you discuss weight with your patients”?

    Your doctor is making you sick, or is impeding your ability to get better, because he or she made you feel rotten about your weight last time you came in. There is something deeply wrong about that, and your doctor needs to get back on the “First, do no harm” bandwagon.

    (I’m looking at this from the preemptive attack point of view–that you could head off any stupid weight-related comments by making your doctor aware that they’re inappropriate. But I’m kind of a combative personality. If it would stress you out, don’t. Your health is more important than knocking some compassion and good sense into your doctor’s head.)

  75. I’m glad you’re feeling better, and your body is getting back to where it belongs for you. The congratulating people on weight lose is weird, and difficult to navigate. I had a bad moment that was a fail on my part a while back. I had a wonderful teacher who was always trying to lose weight and was told to by her doctor. She talked about it a lot, so when I went to visit her I noticed she had lost weight and I congratulated her because I knew she had been trying. She gave me a really funny look and just nodded. When I thought back over it I remembered how right before I started taking her class she had just recovered from a battle with cancer. I realized then that the weight lose could be a result of a relapse. It wasn’t, but I still felt terrible about it afterward, and the possibility of what I could have been saying.

    Also, speaking of boobs and discussing the fucked up problems that come with them, bust has a message board on their blog that’s a small boobs support group, which in talking about things they like about their small boobs, they basically implied that big boobs were saggy and not cute and perky. Which was a reason for them to like their small boobs. Sigh. I love Bust, but lately they’ve been pulling stuff that makes me angry like that.

  76. bust has a message board on their blog that’s a small boobs support group, which in talking about things they like about their small boobs, they basically implied that big boobs were saggy and not cute and perky

    Unfortunately, this isn’t specific to Bust and seems to me to be a manifestation of the whole “I don’t like myself, but if I put down the person who has what I want, maybe I’ll feel better” thing. I posted about this somewhere else, but if people are really secure in themselves, they don’t need to bash other people in order to justify who they are or what they look like.

  77. I love my breasts, because they are part of my body, and I love my body, because that’s me.

    I am frustrated and annoyed by people who judge my character based on the size of my breasts. I am nettled and impatient with clothing manufacturers who make it difficult for me to find clothing that fits me, rather than some hypothetical woman with breasts that are sized differently than mine. I am despairing about a society that treats breasts as the object of ridicule and lasciviousness and denies women’s agency over their own breasts.

    But I love my breasts. Whatever size they happen to be. Because they are part of my body, which means they are part of me.

  78. @Starling – Heh, thanks!

    Yeah, my doctor isn’t super up on FA or HAES, I’m guessing. She doesn’t go on and on about my weight, and the “maybe lose ten pounds” thing was really the only mention of weight from her ever. It’s entirely possible that I’m just rationalizing reasons not to go because I’m a little depressed lately and so my anxiety is ramped up, so I don’t want to do anything at all, least of all go to the doctor (or the dentist, which is something else I need to do, or the gynecologist, since I have a years-long, fairly constant yeast/bacterial weirdness going on that nothing has ever been able to help, thanks no funding for women’s health research!), but I’m so freaking tired of not feeling well. Last year I was getting lots of unexplained bruises and suddenly growing a lot of little skin tags, but all my blood work was within normal ranges and the bruising stopped, so I felt sort of “whatever” about the whole thing and figured my admittedly not-great diet and sporadic exercise had more to do with how I felt.

    Then, I started coughing non-stop for weeks, to the point where it was making me throw up, and so I was sent to the allergist, who found nothing at all (although I have my questions about their methodology – they finally had to inject the control histamine subcutaneously to get any reaction at all, but the rest of the allergens they just wiped on my arm, as they initially did with the control. Shouldn’t they have injected everything?), but referred me to another doctor to get checked out for gastric issues, specifically acid reflux, but I never went because I am pathologically disorganized. So it’s probably that acid crap, just exponentially worse now, because I can’t get my shit together like a grown-up.

    I would love to know if any other depressed kids grow up to be utterly befuddled adults when it comes to taking care of one’s self, or if it’s just my overprotective mom making me think I don’t actually have any autonomy when it comes to my own freaking life. I really don’t think I know what “normal” or “healthy” feels like anymore.

    Sigh. Issues. I haz them.

  79. Thank you so much for this post. I am in the exact same place you were a year ago. A year ago, I was diagnosed with IBS. I had to change my diet, and subsequently lost thirty pounds (I am still losing).

    I went from being 5’4″, 180 lbs, to being 150. A size 14 to a size 6. It is an extremely jarring, but also (UNLIKE the media would have you believe) a largely NEGATIVE experience. I went from being comfortable and familiar with my shape to feeling almost like I am out of my own body.

    People comment on my weight loss as it’s this wonderful, positive thing, not knowing the damage they are causing. Not knowing that due to the comments I have gone from a confident, comfortable young woman to one that is always in a panic about “gaining it back.” My clothes. God, my clothes. I had so many pretty ones, none of them fit me anymore. I have had to buy new wardrobes so many times.

    What hurts most, what really brings tears to my eyes, is the different treatment I get. From everyone. From strangers especially. There are so many times when something has happened to me (free this, free that, “oh don’t worry about this”, random hi’s and may I help you’s, etc) that I know would not have happened to me at my larger size.

    There really isn’t a “cure” for IBS. I just have to keep eating what I eat, finding a balance, and denying myself all the things I love. It’s not a happy life for the most part, but feeling healthier (not because I’m skinnier but because I’m not sick to my stomach all the time) is worth it. I just wish I didn’t feel like I was under a microscope all the time. I long for my old confidence…and I wonder how long it will take for me to be comfortable with myself again.
    So again, thank you for this. I love this blog.

  80. @Alibelle – it distresses me that that is still going on in that thread. About four years ago I pretty much stopped reading and contributing over there, after six years of doing so, as it seemed to me that a different sort of person was taking over the community. Less genuinely counter-culture and more mainstream-approved-alterna-pixie, “what do boys like??!??!” sort of crap.

  81. @snarkysmachine Thank you for putting into words something I was trying to figure out for myself. I’m white, but some of the same boob stuff comes up for me, especially since until recently I was a redhead. (I dye my hair frequently, but red was my standard color for a good while now.) When you’re a redhead with large boobs, it seems you *must* be a turbo-slut, and even people who’ve never met you and will never see you again feel obliged to comment on this fact and it…ugh.

    And that’s without addressing the baggage I’ve been carrying about having the ones I’ve had for a very long time. (Some friends of my mom finally took me to get a bra in the third grade because they couldn’t stand to see me look like I was in pain from not having support any more.)

    Uh…I hope this isn’t thread hijacking or anything. (This is the first time I’ve ever commented this much to SP, and now I’m all worried about my manners.)

  82. Meems, you’re right that Bust certainly isn’t the only one doing it, I just hate it so much more because Bust helped me learn to not be so hard on my body before I ever found FA.

    Lucizoe, I know, I still read and will continue to, but I keep seeing things pop up that really upset me over there. They posted about the female officer at Fort Hood and someone in the comments had a reaction to it very similar to Kate’s over on broadsheet, another commenter pulled out the “this is why feminists get such a bad wrap,” response. And in the boob thread they have a subthread about how emmasculating is it when men say that their wives “make them do things.”

    But ultimately it’s not Bust, it’s that they don’t regulate their comments at all. It’s amazing to me that SM and the rest of the moderators aren’t sick all the time fighting trolls and moderating must be very hard on the immune system. Maybe they’re trying to “help” you by making you sick so that you’ll lose weight. That seems a trollie thing to do.

  83. SweetMachine, thank you so much for writing this post, and for writing it today. I have been feeling very sick for longer than I can remember, and recently found some meds that do help. The side effects? Well weight gain and other things that feel and look like it (water retention, constipation, etc). I’m just decided–after going off it and then on again–that I choose my Self. That I choose to feel well and to have the opportunity to engage in the world around me. And that I will be fatter than I am now in order to do that.

    Making this decision and feeling empowered about it felt so good and so new to me–like hey, look who has other things going on besides the Fantasy of Being Thin.

    And ditto, the clothes are the hardest part. For the sheer annoying errands and cost and fewer options the larger I am.

    Thanks again for putting this out here for us.

    Ashley

  84. With all the talk about getting measured for bra size and salespeople magically measuring you as a (wrong) size on the rack, I have to ask: what’s the best place to get measured? Are there stores that can be trusted?

    I got measured once ages and ages ago and it was wrong wrong wrong. At the time, I assumed it was just that I had a fucked-up body that “couldn’t” be accurately measured. But now…safe to say, I’m doubting that conclusion.

  85. Congratulations on your happier relationship with delicious cheese – and, of course, with your body.

    I’ve never lost weight due to health problems, but I’ve gained weight due to health problems on multiple occasions. Then I’ve gotten better and the additional weight has come off. Something I’m dealing with right now is that it’s really, really hard to separate the two feelings of being happy I’m losing weight because it means I’m recovering from the medical problem that caused the weight gain, and being happy I’m losing weight because I’ve had a bad case of the FoBT since I was like 6.

  86. SM, I’m so glad your health is improving!

    Cate, the best rule of thumb I have found is that your band size should be close to your ribcage measurement (with allowances for comfort – some don’t like their band very tight. But it should be as tight as you can stand, because a]elastic loosens pretty quickly and b]the band is what gives you the most comfortable support). Keep that in mind, then count the number of inches between your ribcage and bust measurement and assume each is a cup size (this is BY NO MEANS accurate, but gets you into your rough range). Then go try on a hell of a lot of bras in a couple band sizes close to your ribcage#, and a range of cup sizes, and I hope dearly you find one that you are very comfortable in (bonus if it’s cute – that can be the hard part with big boobs, sadly).

    If, like me, you can’t do this in stores, because your size is very rare – most bra websites have free or not-too-expensive returns…

  87. You can also sometimes get Nordstrom’s or specialty lingerie stores to order in more sizes of bras they carry if they are made in your size.

  88. I started buying my bras at Soma, which is the lingerie division of Chico’s. It’s important, though, that you find a store whose price range, service, and selection makes you happy. I would check out any boutiques or department stores that have products that appeal to you, talk to the salespeople, and get measured a couple of times. As with clothes, I find that my bra size can vary a bit from brand to brand.

    Most stores only keep the most popular sizes on their racks, so always ask if they have more sizes in the back, and if all else fails, check out their website and see what sizes they carry there. Good lingerie salespeople love what they do and will bend over backward to see you in the right bra. I’m finding that lingerie shopping can be a very body positive experience if you find the right place to shop, so it’s definitely worth going to the trouble.

    The best part was when I asked if I could wear one of the bras out and the saleslady said she would throw my old bra away for me right then and there. It was surprisingly cathartic.

  89. SM: Mazel tov times infinity!

    Also, to get braggy, I realized the other day that I haven’t dieted or weighed myself in over a year. Just turned 30, and it’s probably the longest stretch I’ve gone since I was 11. Thanks, society. But now: I feel so happy! I like how I look! I enjoy my physical extension in this plane of existence! I eat what I want, drink what I want, wear what I want, work out when I want, spend mental energy on shit other than self-hate and weight obsession, don’t apologize for taking up space.

    It’s like, duh, this is how humans are supposed to function. I honestly feel like an FA Jared. Just ignore bullshit at breakfast, ignore bullshit at lunch, and eat a delicious, satisfying dinner, sans bullshit. The Sanity Watchers Lifestyle Change Healthy Living Plan worked for me.

  90. I’ve been in a weird bizarro weight world with my doctor. I’m going frequently now, because I recently started blood pressure pills, and I’m also losing weight. It’s a new doctor, and she’s been really good about not being pushy about losing weight, but she’s also being all “yea you” every time, asking me what I’m doing, etc. I have to admit that my lizard netherbrain is still a little “yea me” too, but I keep trying to explain to her (and me) that when I first saw her, I was at my highest weight ever and had just been through a particularly hellish few months (I stress eat), so I was at the upper end of what my body can take, and now it’s just returning to its own normal, and no, I’m not doing anything special. I’ve been so up and down the last 10 years that I don’t have any idea where my set point is (and my body might not either), but wherever that is I’m sure it’s a heck of a lot higher than she would want it to be. I’m not losing weight so much as just recalibrating. So for the first time in my life I’m in the position where my doctor is happy about my weight and I’m the one saying hold on a minute here, ’cause this ride ain’t gonna last.

  91. Cait Says:

    “I got measured once ages and ages ago and it was wrong wrong wrong. At the time, I assumed it was just that I had a fucked-up body that “couldn’t” be accurately measured. But now…safe to say, I’m doubting that conclusion.”

    You have no idea how familiar that sounds to me. Oh my, yes.

  92. SM – I’m so glad to hear you are doing well.

    Cate – I’ve always had a good experience getting fitted at Nordstrom, and I’ve been fitted there when I weighed 180 pounds and wore 38D, and when I weighed 130 pounds and wore a 34D. My partner has been fitted at the same Nordstrom and has said never again. Her breasts are much larger than mine. She prefers Lane Bryant.

    The worst fitting ever? The Hanes-Bali-L’eggs-Playtex store that is in every outlet mall I’ve ever been to. I like some Bali bras, and after I lost weight (due to illness) a few years ago I wanted to get measured again. The saleswoman acted like measuring me was a huge hassle for her. I have no idea if it was because I was inbetweenie sized at that time or if she would have treated a thinner woman that way too. She measured me at 38D. I told her I was wearing a 38D, and I showed her how big the bra was on me. “Well, maybe try a 36 then,” she said, clearly finished helping me. I noticed a huge difference in treatment as I moved through sizes from 18 down to 8, and I also had people complimenting me when I was unable to eat. One woman in my office would go on and on and finally I had to sit her down and tell her why it wasn’t ok to wish for anorexia and especially not aloud in an office full of women.

    I have to find a new doctor as I’ve moved hundreds of miles away from where I used to live. I’m less than thrilled. I’ve seen my medical records too. First line, first page from one of the doctors: Patient is diagnosed with migraines, depression, anxiety, and obesity. I was all of four pounds over the obese line at the time, and I was seeing him for the migraines, not my weight. I should have refused to get on the scale.

  93. I am having a rather similar thing going on with me. I’ve gotten comfortable with being solidly, unmistakeably fat. Big breasts, big belly, big behind, solid strong long legs. It fit, I realized, for I am very intelligent with a huge curiosity bump about the world in general and history and biology in particular, and I am generous and compassionate and highly sexual.

    And then I went on amphetamines for the mental condition that was making my life hell. And I’m losing my appetite, which means I’m losing weight.

    I literally panicked for a moment when I first realized I didn’t want to eat normally, that I couldn’t; I’d be sick if I tried. Because I do not want to be thin, not what society calls thin. But I am making peace with it now. I will be who I am whatever amount I wind up weighing. I doubt this ass will evaporate; it’s a family characteristic, and F/G cup breasts don’t evaporate either. The tattoos will not fade from my skin. I will still be me.

  94. I have much love for Nordstrom’s. It was the first place I ever actually got fitted, when I was like 19 or 20, and the difference was amazing. I had been in cupsize denial and wearing B’s and C’s (mostly the same bras I had bought in high school), when I was actually a DD. I had a bit of an emotional crises when every year for a while my boobs kept getting bigger and bigger, while other random parts of my body were shrinking. I got an inch shorter and went up a cupsize. I went down a shoesize and went up a cupsize. I was fairly sure my breasts were attempting to devour me. Most of my relatives just pet me on the head and said that they would get smaller again as I lost weight (it was assumed I wanted to lose weight).

    At the moment I’m not even sure what size bra I am, but I’ll be getting another fitting in December. I don’t find my breasts unattractive or anything, but it sure is annoying to keep paying so much for these lovely bras and having them not fit six months later.

    I chorus the congratulations for Sweet Machine! I’m really glad your health has improved.

  95. Oh, another thing that’s less positive:
    I too lost a lot of weight this past summer due to illness. It started with a 2 week intestinal virus from hell that led to some embrassing at-work incidents. Immediately after that I got my wisdom teeth out and somehow the muscles in my jaw got messed up, and eating was no longer an enjoyable task for a few weeks after that. I really only did it when I had to (when hunger was making me more uncomfortable than the act of chewing would).

    Of course, I got a lot of comments about how “great” I looked, and how whatever I was doing to my body, it was working. Except I wasn’t doing anything. It’s really bad, but while rolling my eyes at these people who are complimenting my weight loss, I was also sort of telling myself how I’d lucked out. I had lost weight without “selling out,” as if all people who go nuts over diet and exercise in an attempt to lose weight are “sell outs” and I’m somehow superior to them because I’d accomplished it accidentally. But at the same time I was frantically trying to think of ways I could avoid inevitably gaining it all back, so really I’m a big ol’ hypocrite.

    And hey, surprise: I gained it all back. I just wish I could be happy about it, and tell myself that it’s because my digestive system stopped hating me and my jaw healed and I can finally enjoy my food, but instead I feel guilty and lazy, and I don’t even know why.

  96. I understand what happened to you. Due to stomach problems about 2 years ago, I lost about 30 pounds in what felt like overnight. One day I went to bed as me, the next day I saw a thin woman in the mirror. And that thin woman was ill, she couldn’t eat without pain but everyone around her told her that she looked wonderful.

    For awhile I had a thing about watching people eat, watching them enjoy their food. Which I know they didn’t appreciate, that many of them probably thought they needed to lose weight. But for me, I would take the weight gain if it meant that my stomach was whole again.

    Right now, I’ve gained a tiny bit because I’m discovering which foods I can eat and which to stay away from…but I do wish for the treats everyone takes for granted. It would be wonderful to have a day where I didn’t have to weigh the risks of anything I put into my mouth. At least I’m starting to feel healthier again.

    Buying clothes off the rack still feels strange to me.

  97. The ex-boyfriend that everyone secretly hated analogy is right on. About 9 years ago my dad died and the sudden-ness and stress of it screwed up my digestion and my appetite it took like a year to get right, a few years later my mom went, and again I went through the same thing, and each time people would tell me how great I was looking. I was miserable, and alone, and in pain. I met a new friend through a support group after my mother died, and at that time I was down to a size 14 u.s. (usual 20-22) and it was so odd because my pal was heavier than I was at the time, but I got a lot of “you don’t know what it’s really like” stuff when we’d talk about fat-chick culture, but oh I did. It’s an eye-opener for sure, exposes a lot of prejudices that you otherwise rarely get to see.

    and thinking of this made me want to tell a story about my mom, one time we were strolling through the mall -years ago- and my mom stopped at the counter of the tanning booth place and asked them if they could help her because she has trouble tanning underneath her rolls of bellyfat. ” do you have some special tape or something for when I’m in there? ya know to sort of hold it up? ” – The look on the faces of the women behind the counter was priceless, they laughed awkwardly when my mom said she was just kidding. They just didn’t get the joke, I guess. We laughed all the way home, though.

  98. I enjoy my physical extension in this plane of existence!

    I love that phrasing :-)

    I was rather scared off of bra fitting since the only time I went they said, “Oh, you’re a 32C. We don’t have that size; try a 34B”. Well, yes, that had been what I was wearing and it didn’t fit right. Hence the getting-myself-measured thing.
    Now I have my happy utilitarian-yet-purple mail-order bras and do not ever have to go into scary lace-filled lingerie stores again :-)

  99. On the bra thing, I was in Lane Bryant last weekend, because my damned PCOS is making my body keep inching up in weight and I desperately needed another pair of pants I could wear to work that fit me.

    The woman running the register was taking all my information and I kept waving my LB charge card around going “Don’t they have all this already?” And she would apologize and assure me I wouldn’t have to enter all this again ever (yeah I believe that, really). Then I refused to give an email address, which I’ve always done because I get enough junk email thanks. She looked at me, “Don’t you want to get information on sales and things?” I told her, “I only ever come in here to buy pants, since your shirts don’t fit me right and you stopped carrying my bra size several years ago.”

    She looked down at my chest (C up on a size 24 body, so not the stereotyped big tits everyone including LB seems to assume must come with being that fat) and frowned. “We don’t carry your size?”

    “No.”

    She looked like she didn’t believe me, but even the online store doesn’t cover me now. This is the second time I’ve told a salesperson in LB that they’re not really adequately covering their clientele (politely – it’s not this poor retail clerk’s fault the corporation makes these decisions).

    DRST

  100. I have really tiny boobs (A cup) and I’ve always wished they were bigger so I could wear spaghetti straps and low necklines and stuff – but oh well, not much I can do besides mutilating my body so I may as well be happy with them :)

    One of the issues I am worried about though is the problem of breastfeeding. I have the same size chest as my mom, and she wasn’t able to breastfeed me since it’d cause her intense pain since she didn’t have enough milk. I’m not entirely convinced that breastfeeding is so much superior to formula like the media claims, but I’d prefer to do things the natural way if possible.

    As for the creepy ex-bf – funnily enough, as much as I later despised him for a bunch of reasons, he was one of the first few to point out (rather unhappily) I was losing too much weight during my anorexic stage. Almost everyone else kept congratulating me until the 80 lb stage and then it turned into OMG EAT A HAMBURGER SKINNY BITCH! (Honestly, people are so damn rude to anyone who doesn’t fit into a very narrow range of sizes, big or small. In the bathroom I used to accidentally hear girls talking about how gross and anorexic “that girl” was – followed up by something like “and now I can’t eat today” since apparently I reminded her of her own fatness and of course it was all my fault. Yech – get a life people!)

  101. I have really tiny boobs (A cup) and I’ve always wished they were bigger so I could wear spaghetti straps and low necklines and stuff

    Again, this is a great example of how it’s not really about bodies per se. I have never been able to wear spaghetti straps, either, because of my big tits. Our bodies are not the problem: the clothes are the problem. The clothes are made for a narrow range of bodies, which doesn’t even cover the people in the middle of the size and shape spectrum, let alone those on the margins. We must stop basing our thoughts about our bodies on the arbitrary standards of clothing manufacturers and fashion designers. They are not in it for us.

  102. I have really tiny boobs (A cup) and I’ve always wished they were bigger so I could wear spaghetti straps

    You can’t wear spaghetti straps? See, I had always thought my breasts were too big to wear anything that doesn’t hide bra-straps. Strapless bras just don’t hold me up, and I envied smaller-breasted women to be able to wear shirts and dresses that were thin straps, strapless, etc.
    Of course, then I discover that women with very small breasts also can’t wear these looks because their chests don’t fill them in correctly, or something. Which leads me to the conclusion that we’re never too big, or too small, to be told by the fashion industry that our bodies are wrong and we don’t deserve pretty things.

  103. Blu, I was a breastfeeding educator for several years as part of my job and breast size has *nothing* to do with milk supply, so no worries (it is commonly thought, though). Basically, the fat on top of the glands makes breasts bigger or not, and that fat doesn’t produce milk. Conversely, you could have big breasts (lots of fat) and malformed glands, leaving one with issues producing milk.

    The #1 problem for women with supply issues is that feeding is not often enough. This could be because the latch isn’t right (causing pain–proper latch is enjoyable, not painful) so milk isn’t coming out properly, or because formula is being given (formula samples are given for free to dry up women–the companies aren’t just being kind!), or because feeding is on a schedule instead of on demand (same way us adults feel better feeding on demand!). I can’t emphasize enough what a big issue this is–well over 90% of supply issues are from this, and it makes me so sad because moms are either given the wrong info or not supported! Most moms won’t “just know”, traditionally you would be taught by other experienced women.

    If anything, I would say the benefits of breastfeeding are *under*stated. During training, I learned many, many facts not commonly told (informing women about them was not considered “PC” because it would make formula feeding moms feel bad, or make our formula sponsors angry). It’s not like the fatboogaboo info, it’s clear that breastmilk has many things that cannot be created in a lab, and formula has many things babies don’t digest well (sooo many formula fed babies I saw had GI issues. Very, very common. Many parents can tell you what brands their baby can tolerate and what they cannot. Poop is really different, too).

    I honestly found the benefits to be more emotional than anything–once you get over the learning hump, it is an amazing experience, which is why support is so important. (BTW-Much love to ALL the awesome moms, breastfeeding and not. I know everyone’s circumstances are different. It’s a tough job!).

  104. @blu, I’m a D cup and had a lot of trouble nursing my daughter and generating enough milk. As far as I can tell, it’s not about cup size but sheer persistence. Educate yourself, don’t feel shy about contacting La Leche League or consulting with a lactation expert. By the way, I finally weened my daughter at age 2, so it does get better.

    I have actually been on both sides of the cup spectrum. Blissfully braless in my twenties, then more buxom in the thirties as I gained weight, finally post-nursing I have settled at a full 2 cup sizes larger than pre-baby. Even though I’m approximately the same weight. My husband loves it, I am weirdly indifferent.

  105. It has always blown my mind when people congratulate each other on losing weight.

    I remember being about 15 years old, at a church potluck, and going back for seconds. I had gotten mostly fruit on my plate, and as I was heading back to my table, a very sweet older lady commented, “Oh look at how good you’re being! That must be how you lost all that weight!”

    Have I mentioned I was fifteen? Like, in-the-throes-of-teenage-insecurity-fifteen?

    I was flabbergasted. I hadn’t tried to lose weight. I had lost some, but not lots, with no clear health or lifestyle issues to blame it on. I was now ashamed of my plate, because although it looked “good” because of the fruit, it was also seconds (shock and horror!!). And the thing that kept haunting me was, “All that weight? Good gravy, how much did she think I weighed before?”

    You would think that somehow, somewhere along the line, people would realize that saying, “Wow, you must be losing weight, you look great!” says a whole lot about what they thought I looked like before. It’s like a simultaneous insult and compliment that is never, ever, ever helpful. To anyone. No matter whether you view fat as neutral or not.

    So glad that there are people being a voice of sanity on the subject.

  106. Re my comment above–“informing women about them was not considered “PC” because it would make formula feeding moms feel bad, or make our formula sponsors angry”–obviously I think the feelings of non-breastfeeding women are important! But I have mixed feelings about these decisions to omit so much information. I have seen women cry when reading a fact sheet about breastmilk, and say they wish they had been more informed before their baby was born. I also know formula companies control things quite a bit (remember the Nestle boycott on the 80s?). I don’t know how much of the decision is due to actual sensitivity and how much is actual intentional omission. So I don’t mean to be glib with the “PC” comment, and would edit it out if there were a feature.

  107. Yeah, wow Anna, I for one am glad you’re discouraged from (intentionally or otherwise) guilt-tripping women who can’t or even (gasp) choose not to breastfeed. I mean, you realize how much not breastfeeding has been historically demonized to pressure women to stay in their appropriate roles and out of the workplace, right? I agree that choices should be informed ones, but there’s more than enough blaming of mothers for not being impossibly perfect as it is. And there are plenty of ways to give them that information that isn’t framed in terms of how much better it is to breastfeed, which automatically assigns judgment.

    Aaaanyway, as for spaghetti straps, being short-torsoed and small-busted means I can only buy tops with adjustable straps, to avoid flashing the world. It sounds like some of you guys might be assuming small-breasted women [can] go braless? I never do — and my understanding is that most women with small breasts still need some support. Often more than those little bra-top shelf things. I just wear a bra with spaghetti straps because I don’t personally care if the straps show a little (though I try to wear a bra that looks reasonably okay with the top). YMMV.

    Also, I totally get you guys on the changing breast size and needing new bras issue. I mainly seem to gain and lose weight from my chest, which means their size can fluctuate a lot and I periodically need to go buy up a whole bunch of new bras, ugh. And I am a huge fan of getting fitted at Intimacy, but I can only afford a bra there once in a very long while. :( very sadly. Oh Marie Jo bras, why are you all $80+???

  108. “Just ignore bullshit at breakfast, ignore bullshit at lunch, and eat a delicious, satisfying dinner, sans bullshit. ”

    I love this. It applies to so many things in my life right now.

  109. What hurts most, what really brings tears to my eyes, is the different treatment I get. From everyone. From strangers especially. There are so many times when something has happened to me (free this, free that, “oh don’t worry about this”, random hi’s and may I help you’s, etc) that I know would not have happened to me at my larger size.

    This resonates with me. It’s so weird to experience this kind of treatment. It makes me angry and usually catches me off guard.

    In other news: I love my boobs. Dislike the way in which clothing makers, regardless of their clientiele do not work to create clothing for a variety of body types. It doesn’t seem to work well for anyone!

  110. I used to look down on a coworker’s clothing choices, because she wore (and still does) clothes that don’t always, or even most of the time, ‘flatter’ her body (she’s also fat). Then I got to know her, found out she’s awesome, and figured that she wears the clothes she does because she likes them. Because of that, I got myself to stop thinking I can’t wear this and that, and wear all the stuff that is cute but doesn’t hide or shape me into something I’m not. Nowadays pretty much all outfits people wear make me smile, because I like to think that they love their clothes and don’t give a crap if they don’t look like some arbitrary standard of ‘optimal’ all the time.
    I wish I could thank her without betraying what an ass I was.

  111. Volcanista, I gotcha. I worked with a specialized population (not from this country) that pretty much wanted to breastfeed but worried that formula was better since it cost money and had a fancy nutrition label and lots of advertising for it, so that was where I was coming from. They would tend to have shame about *breastfeeding* (also because of many, many dirty looks in public–mostly from other women). I didn’t really work with anyone ashamed of not breastfeeding, but I’m sure it’s just due to the demographic.

    The biggest barrier was, of course, a class issue– many moms had to go back to work early and their employers were not about to give them the (legally mandated by our state) time and place to breastpump.

    So I see 100% your point about the larger issues shaping the whole thing. Society can shame moms but can’t actually do anything to help them or make their lives easier, right?

  112. @Anna – Thanks for the info! I don’t think my mum was educated on it really well – she’s REALLY flatchested (like, no chest at all, less than most guys even) and very thin (poor family, so malnourished), so they probably thought she didn’t have any milk. She felt really bad about it; when I was born my parents were still in China and had to spent most of their monthly salary on expensive Japanese formula since nobody trusted the Chinese brands. I’m young and not planning on kids any time soon (plus I have PCOS, so I’m getting ahead of myself here – still up in the air whether I CAN have kids or not), but hopefully the ob’s would give me more info then. (And yes, Nestle is evil.)

    I can’t pull off spaghetti straps since those dresses and halter tops are usually far too roomy in the chest area for me – practically anyone sitting next to me can peer down my top and see waaaay too much info if I’m leaning forward. In any case I’d rather not wear things that scream REMARKABLY FLAT CHEST, since people already mistake me for being a preteen. Though I guess it’s not really a strap issue so much as just about every top having a bust-waist ratio that’s rather awkward for me…barrel-shaped tops anyone? I call them rice buckets, like the awesome bamboo kind :)

  113. SweetMachine,
    I am also really glad to hear you are feeling better.
    I’ve had an interesting experience getting slightly smaller in response to a return of a health issue that very much was getting in the way of quality of life — and getting just smaller enough (but not “whole enchilada” smaller) to address the issue.
    What I’ve found is that my body image has pretty much adjusted to this new somewhat smaller size (me, just smaller, like instead of a 44 DDD, a 42 DD) — still not able to shop in non-plus sizes (I bought one suit from a straight-size line in the largest size they had, in a beautiful aubergine, but the fit was a huge mistake). I miss some of my favorite winter clothes which are too big and I’m not giving them away. I feel embiggened when I have increased a bit and smaller when I’ve decreased a bit, but mostly I feel about the same.
    Today, a friend saw me who knew about the reason behind the change and commented on my smallerness — in a way that didn’t feel complimentary so much as just noticing. I’m going through a really, really tough time and I’m using a few different venues of dance expression and some other incedental activities to deal with it, and as a result, I’ve had some changes in physical endurance as well, which I think makes me look a bit different too, to the discerning eye of this friend.
    Bottom line, I’m coming to the idea that our bodies are really amazing, and not just our bodies, but really the whole multicellular organism-thing. That our bodies can store and then use energy is, well, amazing. I am able to really see it in that light these days, and know that if my body returns to storing the amount of energy it was used to (or believes it needs), well, I won’t be surprised or disappointed as much as just needing to seek another strategy to deal with the health issue I was seeking relief from.

  114. I can relate. I once had a bad year, health-wise (broken wrist, chicken pox, etc) and lost weight. I got so sick of people complimenting me when I felt and looked horrible.
    I went off birth control recently and as a result I’ve lost a little bit of weight and a lot more has shifted around. It is odd, feeling everything in slightly different places.

  115. Congrats on your improved health, SM. And on your joyous reunion with cheese. I can’t even imagine how much I would miss various cheeses if I were unable to eat them!

  116. I so far can’t buy a bra that fits my new (bigger) breasts and still afford to eat, so that’s a bit shit. Why are good bras so expensive?

    Sweet Machine, I’m so glad to hear your health is better, and you have been on fire for the last while here. Thank you for your patience and all that you do. Enjoy your break! I will dedicate my next questionable bout of karaoke to your good self. (You’re welcome.)

  117. Someone–whoever recommended Orchard Corset Store in NYC on an open thread a few months ago, I finally went and got new bras. Thank you thank you thank you. And the Wacoals were 1/2 off.

  118. I’ve been reading all the thoughts above and some things strike me as very obvious….perhaps we could make them into handy tips for men.

    1. We all like Cheese…a lot
    2. Big tits are brilliant and alarming in equal measure.
    3. Telling us we have lost weight and “look much better” because of it, means you will be not be asked to share our cheese or our big tits.

    Please feel free to use my wisdom, Menfolk.

  119. Just recently, my boyfriend and I saw a pair of friends that we hadn’t seen for a while. They had just gotten married, so they’d been crazy busy for months. The wife-half had lost A LOT of weight. Having been married before, I immediately got a vision of her working herself to death on a treadmill to fit into the right dress and take the right pictures, ’cause I did that, too. I could tell she was proud of her new body, and I didn’t want to take that away — she’d worked hard for it — but I also know that statistically, she’s likely to gain this back. I didn’t want to tell her how good she looked now that she lost some weight, since that carries the implication that once she gains that weight back, she’s going to look bad. So I complimented her shoes.

    Everybody else in our group went around telling her how great she looked, all skinny now, did you lose weight, I mean wow it’s a real difference, etc. When it got to my bear, he just stood there kind of silently as awkwardness built up around him. It was HIS TURN to say something, and he just didn’t. Eventually he found a way to move the conversation along without mentioning her weight or appearance.

    Later he explained to me that he had wanted to ask her a million questions. He’s overweight right now in a way he’s unhappy with, and his first thought was to interrogate her about how she’d done it. But he held back. He told me that many years ago, an old friend of his had returned after a long trip to India. She’d lost tons of weight, and he immediately commented on it. “I had dysyntery,” she responded.

    Since then, he tries not to comment on women’s weight, even if he can sense that they (or others) might want him to. He hasn’t been married before, so he didn’t immediately connect the wedding with her weight loss. Instead, he thought, “What if she has an eating disorder? What if she has cancer? What if she has a really serious problem that caused her to lose all this weight and here I’d be telling her she looks great now that she’s ill? Which is also telling her that she’ll look bad if she gets healthy?” Not knowing how to deal with any of that in a socially appropriate way, he just kept his mouth shut, and made a silent resolution to himself to specifically compliment her when/if she gains weight back.

    I dig my bf. He’s good sauce.

  120. Re: Lane Bryant not adequately covering their clientele

    They fail at both cup size extremes. My problem is that their cup sizes run bigger than non-plus-size cup sizes. I wore a C cup before I was in plus sizes, but when I started shopping at LB, even their B cups were too big. My breasts grew after I went on birth control, so now I can wear their B cups. (I do like their bras – they last pretty well for the price.)

    At the other end of the bra-size-fail spectrum, one of my friends complains that she can’t buy their bras because they don’t carry a cup size large enough for her… and she can’t buy their tops because there’s too much room in the chest!

  121. Anna: The Nestle boycott is ongoing. Baby Milk Action are still working hard!

    volcanista: Refusing to provide reasonable maternity and paternity leave just uses breastfeeding as an excuse; it’s actually just shitty corporate behaviour. Women and children get chewed up and spat out by it either way (stay hme and breastfeed: low social status and poor role model! go out to work: Bad Mom!), and I’d argue that men don’t benefit much either.

    Anna: Lots of well-educated middle-class women are discouraged from breastfeeding by a combination of lousy or nonexistent breastfeeding information, formula marketing, and social pressure (work! freedom! sleep! and infant formula is necessary so fathers can bond!), AND told that they are neglecting and endangering their children by failing to give them “the best” (not “the biological norm.”) all at the same time. There Is No Win. Luckily, there’s Prozac. Er.

    Here in the UK, it’s mainly charities doing the useful breastfeeding support, with actual healthcare workers who *ought* to be doing it (according to their overcrowded job specs) being badly trained, totally misinformed, overworked and underpaid. Ho hum.

    And because actually this is on-topic, I want to reiterate the thing about feeding on demand, following hunger cues, and not screwing babies’ appetites up before they are even weaned. Which can be done beautifully with breast OR bottle. As long as the people weighing and judging the baby at the well-baby visits *use the right growth charts*.

  122. @Michelle: My problem with LB is similar to your friend’s problem. I’ve sized out of the bras they carry (that are the styles that work for me), but I’m nowhere near the upper end of their size range in tops.

    I mostly quit shopping there for clothes because I’ve hated their styles recently, but I was still buying bras until they started re-designing, and I grew out of their size range in the boobs.

  123. @Harriet Jacobs: give your bear a high five from me – he sounds awesome.

    I lost a substantial amount of weight about 15 years ago, and then lost more when I became clinically depressed as a result of a perfect storm of pain medications and asshats in my personal life, and I could not stand the “you look so good” comments. Yeah, I got more attention from men, too, but they didn’t treat me like any more of a person with agency than before I lost weight – I was now just an object they would deign to fuck.

    (Fortunately, I have my excellent Bob, who loves me at any size, and is taking me on a cruise for my 40th birthday.)

    I never, ever want to be that depressed again. I’ve gained about 20lbs back from my lowest (I classify as “overweight”, which makes my friends laugh like loons, since they all describe me as “the small one”), and I struggled with it until recently, but I made a pledge to myself to take FA into my heart and live with love for my body.

    The most clear indication for me of the mental disconnect people have over weight is the expressed desire to be ill so they can lose weight. It simply proves for me that “thin” is not about health, just looks. And anyone who automatically says “thin is healthy” is full of it.

  124. The most clear indication for me of the mental disconnect people have over weight is the expressed desire to be ill so they can lose weight.

    It’s also such a stark denial of the sick person’s subjectivity — an inability to accept that someone might have a bodily experience that is painful or scary in ways you don’t automatically understand. My dad often made “side benefit” jokes about me getting skinny, until I went to visit him for a week and he saw how many pills I was taking, how careful I had to be about food, and how lousy I felt pretty much all the time. It was like he really just didn’t get that what I was experiencing was not only bad in terms of “oh, I have to go the doctor a lot and get tests done” but also in terms of living in my own damn body.

  125. Conversation from last night with guy w Crohn’s disease (and his sister)

    Him: “Obesity should be penalized”
    Me: “no it shouldn’t. Bodies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Sometimes obesity is a SYMTOM of disease, not a cause, and anyway 95% of people who diet to lose weight gain the weight right back within 5 years. AND! Overweight and obese people actually have longer lifespans. Look it up.”
    Him: “It’s bullshit that people can’t change their weight. Look at me! I have Crohn’s and it’s hard to keep enough weight ON, but I’m 210 pounds and all I had to do was work out with weights for 2 hours and eat 6 small meals everyday”
    Me: “Did you just listen to yourself? You’re a childless man. How many people in this world have TWO! HOURS! A! DAY! to give to weight training? How many people in this world have the time to eat every three hours?”
    Him: “…”
    Me: “Right. Never make the mistake of thinking that your experience can be universalized.”
    Her: “Is that true about the 95% and the longer lifespans?”
    Me: “Yes. Check out pubmed.”
    Her: “Holy cow.”

  126. It’s so true that people WISH for illness. My best friend, who I adore, recently commented on my weight loss by saying I look “really fantastic.”
    “What are you doing?”
    “Well…I got diagnosed with IBS.”
    “Oh.”
    “So I can’t eat cheese, and greasy or fried food, ever again. Ever.”
    “I wish I had IBS.”
    “……”

    REALLY? You want to not be able to keep food down? You want to crave pizza 24/7 but not eat it knowing it would make you horribly ill? Really? Really?
    Whenever anyone comments on my weight loss now, I just make a point of saying:
    a) I lost it because I’m ill and
    b) I would gain it all back if it meant I could eat pizza again. And I mean that!

  127. I’ve been struggling with my weight and image lately. I’ve been struggling in school, and had begun to skip meals in order to regain a sense of “control”, which I know is dumb, but I can’t help it. I had lost three notches on my belt and a pants size, and have been feeling really crappy physically, but at the same time still somewhat pleased that I was getting smaller. I also recently obtained a new friend who’s thin…he’s 6’3″ and 145 lbs. And I dunno why, but I guess I feel…a little…huge around him? Right now, I’m about 5’8″ and 275, I believe. It’s kind of silly, but yeah. Dumb. So yeah. Things have been really been messing with my head, and feeling a little thinner was helping with my image, or something idiotic like that. But I feel like shit. *sigh* I do not want to do this anymore, there’s nothing wrong with the way I look and I know that, but it’s so hard to shake that feeling that there’s just something wrong with you; it’s everywhere.

    But this helps. It gives me hope that I’ll be okay, too. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you.

  128. Sweet Machine, I’m so glad that you are feeling better!

    I finally got fitted for a bra and I was just astounded. I had been wearing a 36 A and adding lots of bra extenders at the back. I got fitted at a great place — a small lingerie shop called Sunny J’s in Plymouth MI (in case any other Shapelings can go there). As soon as the sales lady saw what I had been wearing she said “I think you are going to be very pleased you came here!” I walked out with a 38 D Wacoal. Me! A D cup!

    I then took my new knowledge of how a bra can fit to other stores with less expensive bras and found something in Hanes and in Just-My-Size that also work well. (40 C.) (Not as nice as the Wacoal, though.) Oh my, a bra that fits (and supports) is wonderful!

    (I carry my weight below the bust and even as I gained weight, my bust is small compared to the rest of me, which must be how it escaped me that my size wasn’t A cup any more!)

  129. Melena – you ARE ok . In fact you are a milllion times more than that. Everyone here understands how you feel and has your back. Enjoy your life – you sound fantastic. Your new friend obviously thinks so! The illusion that reducing food and dieting gives us control is bullshit, but I’ve been there thinking that too, so I understand. I eventually saw that all overdieting did for me was take me to a place where I actually lost control, and suddenly had no power. You have the right to eat what you want, to weigh what you weigh, and think how you think. You have the right to be strong and feel strong and tell people who don’t like it to blow it out their hole. The whole world is there for your taking, so don’t apologize to anyone for occupying your space and being you. You are the only one that can be you and do the job right!

  130. I’ve always been skinnny, but as I enter the twilight of my mid-thirties, my slowing metabolism is starting to show.

    It’s odd hearing people comment on my growing belly. I’m not offended so much as surprised. I never thought I would hear myself described in this way.

    Kind of messes with my self-perception a little.

    Which is not always a bad thing.

    Dan

  131. I’m so glad you are feeling better!

    I’ve been spending more time with my family lately and I was shocked at how blatant my grandma is with the weight talk. We were eating otu and my cousin ordered desert, and she asked ‘I thought you were watching your weight.’

    She also commented last night one that same cousin’s mother, one of my aunts. She recently lost a LOT of weight (to my eyes she looks far too thin, and she has gotten more easily stressed and much less of an organised and capable person – how much of that has got to do with always being hungry I couldn’t tell you.) Grandma commented that she’d ‘stacked a bit back on recently’. Good lord!

    Let me tell you that my grandma said this in the tone of someone concerned for her family, who was trying to help them in an endeavor that is important, not in a judgy way. But I was shocked! Partly because of my own FA journey, but partly because she never says anythign to me, and I’m the obviously fat one. I guess I am without hope?

    Although now I come to think of it, she did show me a photo of one of Fergie’s (the royal, not teh singer) daughters in a bikini, showing her very moderate curves, and told me that ‘I didn’t have to worry, see, she looks lovely, even though she is fat’.

    Shoot me, now.

  132. I’m in the same boat as Amy and some others (I can’t remember all the names, though, sorry!) – I’m gaining weight because of chronic pain and being unable to exercise. (Funny how I still expect someone to jump out of nowhere and tell me that’s just an excuse, you can exercise anywhere if you really want to; somehow, being in massive amounts of pain from my joints makes me NOT want to move them, thus, NO, actually, I DON’T want to exercise. Besides which, it’s boring to me.)

    I’m slowly coming around to this level of acceptance, that if I feel ok, that’s more important than how I look because if I feel like crap, I can’t enjoy looking good anyway, and if I feel good, I’m more likely to look good.

    Something like that… I can’t articulate it well, but yay positivity and happiness!

  133. I’ve recently dropped a few pounds on the Adult Orthodontia and Gum Surgery Diet. Hey, maybe I can spin that into a new diet book and cash in! Eat all the mashed potatoes and pancakes you want and STILL LOSE WEIGHT!

    Holy crap, even toast is too uncomfortable to eat lately. I’m supposed to avoid chewing on the right side (the site of the gum surgery), but since having my braces adjusted Tuesday morning it hurts to chew on the left side! And my bite is totally hosed. @#$%&!

  134. wow… powerful… thank you so much for this post! I have been a 14 give or take most of my life but spent a year in Istanbul i smoked and drank as if there was no tomorrow, was constantly love sick over some Turkish jerk and in my dis-ease and bad self management I got down to a 10. I saw my hip bones for the first time. I was lavishly praised… but felt so horrible… I had chronic bronchitis there… it was so strange to seem like i looked so “good” when I was so bad inside. It was a strange place to be i felt like a thin imposter… returning to the states and 4 years later I am back at a 14 though I did fight it every step of the way. I think I have finally finally come to accept myself. Actually love my curvy jigglyness and I find other women who are bigger than “societal norms” to be surpassingly beautiful too, as if that is right where their body wants to be.

    so no regrets no self loathing no violence but tenderly lovingly gratefully loving this body of mine. Allowing my body to gently be where it settles in and with no excuses, defensiveness or regrets.

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