Published January 19, 2023
By Lib Campbell
Once in a while Hallmark produces a movie that resonates deeply with me. “Romance in Style,” starring Jaicy Elliot is that movie. Jaicy plays Ella, a seamstress who is also a designer. In the fashion industry, where she works, she does not fit the mold. She is a plus size woman on a mission to introduce plus size garments into the fashion world. Her new boss, Derek, learns much from Ella. In typical Hallmark telling, Ella also becomes the love interest. It’s nice to see the plus size woman win.
Sixty eight percent of women in the United States wear a size 14 or above. The range of sizes reported to be plus size is from 8 to 12. PLUS Model magazine identifies plus sizes as being from 10 to 14. Melissa McCarthy says, “women come in all sizes. 70 percent of all women are a size 14 or above, technically plus size. So you are talking to your biggest category of people and telling them, ‘You are not worthy.’” And therein lies the issue.
I am overweight and have been most of my life. As an elementary student, most of my clothes were from the Chubette aisle. Chubette for plus size girls and Husky for plus size boys are not life affirming terms. I weighed 156 pounds in seventh grade. By eighth grade, I was on diet pills. I remember not sleeping for weeks, hardly eating for months at a time. In high school, even at 136 pounds, I dated a guy who called me “Pig.” That was not a term of endearment.
Tom was the only one who ever said to me, “Everybody I have ever loved has been fat.” My wedding dress was a size 16; I weighed 165 the day we were married. Tom’s mother, herself a plus size woman once said, as she brought a platter of biscuits to the table, “If I am going to be fat, everybody is going to be fat.” I thought it only polite to oblige.
When I was 38, my weight had grown to 224 pounds. I wore a size 22 ½ dress. I had just gotten my Lane Bryant charge card when I made a life changing decision. I decided that I could be fat or I could be 40, but I could not be both. I set out on a diet from the American Heart Association and lost 75 pounds. I have never weighed that much again. I have, however, yo-yoed with the last 25 pounds over the past 35 years. Weight Watchers has proven helpful. Still, the smallest dress size I have worn is a size 12. That’s plus size, even though comparatively I look and feel the best I ever have.
Since the time of that initial weight loss, I have kept a weight journal on graph paper. I weigh every day I and record it along with a word or two about whatever is going on that might affect weight gain or loss. I record holiday meals, and theater popcorn. I record stressors, like moving day or tiffs with friends. The pattern in my life correlates daily events with weight outcomes. Even though I am plus size, I know where my weight stands, for good or for bad.
Body Positivity is a movement in America today. The stated goal of the movement is to focus on “acceptance of all bodies, regardless of size, shape, skin tone, gender, and physical abilities.” Jaicy Elliot, Melissa McCarty, Oprah, Kelly Clarkson, Selena Gomez and others speak openly about weight and discrimination against overweight people. They wear their beauty as plus size women with confidence and pride. Recently Selena Gomez walked the Red Carpet at the Golden Globes looking fabulous in a designer gown. Instead of naming her beauty or reflecting on her accomplishments as a singer, producer, and actress, she was body shamed for looking a little heavier than she was before. She sluffed off the critique and told the shamers to bug off. She said, “the moral of this story is bye-bye.” You can file this under the “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar,” column.
Fat Shaming, whether done by classmates, boyfriends, or parents, creates a life feeling unworthy and shamed. Such feelings are harder to overcome than the extra weight. I know. I have wrestled with this my whole life. Fat shaming is a form of bullying intended to hurt and diminish. Only small, insecure people bully and fat shame.
There was a time in the world when the Rubenesque figure was the subject of art and celebration. Curves were sensual and desirable. The Twiggy/Barbie phase ushered in eating disorders and body shaming. No longer could we celebrate that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
Nobody wants to be unhealthy. Nobody chooses to be fat. Human Ego is a fragile thing. And every human being has value. In “The Help,” Viola Davis’s words to the little white girl she babysits resonate with me: “You is smart. You is kind. You is beautiful.”
Judgers, haters, shamers and those who would destroy us cannot tell us differently. Let us be a people who leave mocking to the birds.
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite www.avirtualchurch.com. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org