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Fat versus flirty

A flirty little number can make you feel so much better...

pink and flirtyIn Charla Krupp's book How Never to Look Fat Again, she details certain things that a girl should avoid if she doesn't want to look as big as a bus. Bright colours and skirts with volume are two of her 'Don'ts', so she'd have been well ashamed of me at the weekend.

The thing is, dressed in my screaming magenta cotton frock with big skirt (including - shock horror - pleats at the waist), I may indeed have looked two feet tall, but I got plenty of male attention. Lots of looks, lots of smiles, lots of heads turning (often looking quite sheepish when they saw I had the DH in tow). When it comes down to it, there is a great big fat difference between dressing to look thin and dressing to look sexually appealing.

I've been fat and I've been thin, so I know that men like women in all sizes and can cope perfectly well with a bit of cellulite - what they don't go for is wallflowers, hunched shoulders and women who dress like little brown mice.

The thing is, too, on Saturday I felt absolutely rubbish. I had an upset stomach and nausea, and a bloated tummy (those pleats were very welcome) and I would really rather have stayed at home. So teamed with the magenta dress went stiletto-heeled boots, a tight little black cardigan, a fitted pink tweed coat and a lilac ostrich-finish handbag. Also, a full face of slap, including blusher and bright lipstick to give me the colour that nature had so thoughtlessly removed.

And after a couple of hours of trolling round town and picking up admiring male glances, I felt a hell of a lot better. I am no spring chicken, and not by any means a skinny chick, but clearly I'm not quite dead yet, either.  

 

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Gainers - no gain, it's a pain

For one subsection of society, gaining weight is the ideal situation

Came across a concept here that I find kind of strange - 'gaining'. People who want to gain as much weight as possible.

Rather like trying to lose as much weight at possible, this seems rather unhealthy to me. I would imagine that it's better to stay at a stable, natural weight for your height and level of activity rather than beating yourself up one way or the other. And surely deliberately making yourself obese will kill you in the long run?

Still, interesting reading, especially for anyone who's ever felt browbeaten by the diet brigade - so many women diet down to 7-10 pounds lower than they're really happy with, and some gainers, it would seem, eat very healthily, just too much of it.

Weight, though, is one of those things that is always a question of balance. For instance, I gained about seven pounds over Christmas. This is normal - I gain at least this much every year, then shed it again in the spring. But this year I kept an eye on it because last year I gained 27 pounds, due to the winter being very cold - and I didn't manage to shift it all.

A modest amount of winter weight gain, I always feel, is a natural process, and one that I observe with my animals, who all plump up quite deliciously in the winter months, then get skinny again as soon as the weather gets warmer. 

But only when the weather is crying out for salads and gazpacho will losing weight be a natural process, not a starvation diet. And the kinds of 7km walk I did last Sunday also help it to drop off fairly easily.

For me, the balancing act is that I look my absolute best at 8st 3lb (optimum weight for my height), but can't be arsed because that means watching every damn thing I eat. At 8st 12lb I can eat everything I like, but feel a bit too flabby. Maybe 8st 7lb will be a good compromise this summer - and the good news on that is that suddenly a whole raft of my clothes that didn't get worn last year would become available again as if they were new. 

 

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Big fat cow

Too disgusting to look at? If this woman is fat, the fashion industry needs its head examining

Hayley MorleySo, another weasel-thin princess has flounced off in a huff at being asked to dress a normal-sized woman.

Poor Hayley Morley. Dog rough, this girl, isn't she? I can see men queuing up to NOT have sex with her, given that she's an astoundingly huge size 14 and actually has bosoms. 

This is the girl who's caused a stylist to walk off a shoot at London Fashion Week, in protest at the size of the models. Given that the exhibition was precisely to try to counter the anorexically-thin trend in today's fashions, this strikes me as doubly bloody stupid.

If Morley, with her 34-29-41 figure and a height of 5' 9" is considered 'outsize', is there any real hope of fashion designers starting to design clothes that ACTUAL women look good in? Real women, with tits that need support, women with hips and stomachs and thighs.

It would make you laugh, really, if it wasn't so annoying. Thank heavens for Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman - no skinny-minny herself - who wrote an open letter to top designers in June this year, complaining that the clothes they were sending in for the magazine's photo shoots were too small for the models. "We have now reached the point where many of the sample sizes don't comfortably fit even the established star models," she said.

These are models who themselves are two sizes smaller than gross mares like Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell, who were certainly considered beautiful enough to pass muster in the 1980s. What price now for total heffalumps like Gina Lollabrigida, Sophia Loren or Marylin Monroe?

To confirm how mad it all is, what does this sound like?:

broad shoulders

naturally small to near-flat breasts

near-flat buttocks

heigh of 5' 10' or above

BMI of 16-18

elevated waist-to-hip ratio.

These are classic characteristics of catwalk models. Not requirements, exactly, but the closer you fit to them, the more likely you are to get work.

They are also, dear reader, classic characteristics of adolescent BOYS. 

Enough said?

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To see ourselves as others see us...

Weight is clearly a cultural issue, not just an aesthetic one

French women are the thinnest in Europe but don't realise they are, while lardy Brits think their weight is normal, according to research from France's National Institute of Demographic studies.

Although five per cent of French women are clinically underweight, they don't believe themselves to be - they think their weight is normal. "This shows that what people consider an ideal weight in France is lower than in other countries," said the study's author Thibaut de Saint Pol.

Meanwhile, many British (and Spanish and Portuguese) women who are not thin appear to think of themselves as 'seriously skinny' - perhaps because they are simply not as overweight as their peers.

Overall, in this study, which covered 15 European countries, only the French have a majority of people of both sexes in the 'normal' weight range as advised by the World Health Organisation - in every other country, people are moving into the overweight ranges (a Body Mass Index over 25). 

The study also found some interesting differences between the sexes. Women who are underweight rarely appear to denigrate this - to be underweight is to be thin, and to be thin is to be desirable in European culture: it is when women gain weight that they find it unacceptable. However, men are more likely to denigrate themselves for being underweight than for being overweight, because a certain degree of overweight is seen as showing strength.

However, for any woman carrying a bit of weight after Christmas, there is one ray of sunshine - their men are generally in worse shape than they are. The mean weight for men is overweight in every European country except France and the Netherlands. 

 

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Chloe Marshall - fit, fat, or maybe?

Chloe Marshall's weight is causing a furore in the UK

blog imageFor those who don't know, the reason is that Ms Marshall is the first plus-size girl to ever get a place in the Miss United Kingdom beauty pageant. That fact has brought out doctors, dieticians, bloggers and journalists in droves to comment on her fat/curves/health/BMI and the rest, and whether she should be a role model for young girls or considered a fat disgrace. Can't be easy when she's only 17.

Marshall is 5ft 10 tall, so a standard catwalk height, and weighs 176 pounds (12 stone 8), which gives her a BMI of 25.3 by my calculations. Her measurements are 38, 32, 42 and she's a UK size 16 (for women of my age, that used to be an 18).

I dunno. I have to admit that, for myself, she does look fat. Maybe it's the photograph that makes her look so heavy but I would have guessed she weighed far more than this.

But I also have to admit that my judgement on 'fat' is an aesthetic one, not a health one. There, I haven't got a leg to stand on. A BMI of 25.3 is into the overweight category, admittedly, at obesity grade 1, but it's by no means unhealthy and not even approaching medically obese (the 'normal' range for BMI is 18.5-25). Marshall says she exercises regularly and eats healthily, and a weight of three pounds over the BMI 'normal' range has no impact on your overall health statistics that I'm aware of. You could lose this much with a trip to the sauna.

blog imageI wondered if my reaction was because we're used to seeing bikinis photographed on women who are terribly underweight. But on reflection, I don't think it is. Take Giselle Bundchen as an example, since she's a leading Victoria's Secret model. At 5ft 10.5 tall, so nearly the same as Ms Marshall, she weighs 130 pounds (9 stone 3) and measures 34, 24, 34. That gives her a classically desireable hourglass figure and a BMI of 18.4 - a smidgen below the normal weight range.

They're very different-looking women but they both fall into the category of 'don't worry about your weight, love' - one slightly under, one slightly over. (Incidentally, in my time I've been as low as 17.6 and as high as 26.5 without feeling bad about it either way.)

So why do I feel that Marshall looks fat?

Part of it may be social conditioning, but there's also the fact that there's more to weight than your BMI - there's also your muscle to fat ratio. When I was growing up, the saying was: "If you can pinch more than an inch, you need to go on a diet". To me, Marshall looks like she could pinch considerably more.

blog imageSo instead of a model, let's compare her with a professional athlete - Serena Williams. Williams is also a big lass - big arse, big legs, big boobs. She's the same height - 5ft 10 - but weighs 146 pounds (10 stone 6), which gives her a BMI of 20.8, bang in the middle of the 'normal' range and as close as you'll get to ideal. Her waist measurement is 28 inches, and you can bet your bottom dollar that she has a high proportion of muscle to body fat - she's a powerfully built girl.

For my own part, I feel this fit and muscular body is the closest to what a truly healthy woman should look like, and if I had a teenage daughter, I would prefer Williams on the catwalk rather than Marshall as an image to be emulated.

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