Sunday, 3 May 2015

Body Image

Body Image

Oooh, only blog 2 and I’m going to be controversial already! I will state from the outset that I am going to make huge sweeping generalisations here. There are always exceptions, but let’s go with ‘the norm’ for the purposes of this article. Please bear with me.

This weekend has kept highlighting this issue to me…

Firstly, on my Twitter feed I suddenly started to get lots (and I’m talking almost every other Tweet) showing me those ghastly before and after shots, advertising some slimming aid / tablet / diet (#unfollow!!).

Now, (having worked oh so briefly as a model many moons ago), those shoots are often fake. Shock, gasp, horror! What? The diet industry lie to us?? Surely not. Well folks, you’d be surprised what you can do with a change of clothes, a round of exercise to get your blood pumping, some make up (including shading to men’s abs etc.), clever lighting and a better camera angle. It is quite possible to get a dramatic ‘difference’ within an hour or two.  So, I tend to err on the side of not believing that tripe. Besides, if you want to actually lose weight I’m afraid the very boring yet very true old adage must apply ‘eat less, exercise more’. Sounds simple, but oh so tricky to do. I’m mid diet myself at the moment, so I can join the ranks of whingers quite happily.

Secondly, the fashion industry as a whole uses the ‘size zero’ model. This is why my own modelling career was short lived by the way; I was a UK size 8 (6 in the US) back then. How obese!? Now, the current average size of women in the UK is a size 16  (rightly or wrongly). This has gone up from a size 14 in the year 2,000, and that was up from a size 12 in the decade prior to that. I am not going to enter the dangerous debate of judging those sizes at all. There are some healthy people of all sizes, and unhealthy people of all sizes. Plus it is very dependent on your height too. But we all know there comes a point when you are actually obese or severely underweight (both ends of the spectrum are hazardous), and this will start becoming a danger to your health. See, I’m starting to digress already! My point is that the average UK woman at the present time is 5ft 3 in height, weighs 11 stone and wears a (UK) size 16. Now, to the modelling industry this is called a “plus sized model”. Actually, the plus sized model tends to fit in the 12-14 dress size category.

The industry’s own models have to be at least 5ft 8 for a start. But you’d be hard pushed to find one below 5ft 9. Their age tends to range from 16-21. The fashion model measurements mean at largest a size 4 is the ‘ideal’.

Now, is it me, or do a lot of us wonder who these clothes are designed for? What looks good on a very thin, straight up and down figure is not going to look good on a curvy/average sized girl. It’s just not. I’m willing to face the facts. So what hope do we have when we go out into our high street stores to purchase something flattering? There are literally millions on size 16 women in the UK (over half of the female population) trying to find ‘something nice to wear’! Please would someone design clothes for them too?

The good news is that there seems to be a growing pressure to go against this outdated mind-set, and to tiptoe ever closer to a model sized somewhere approaching a ‘normal’ size. So, I’ll leave that bit there.

One should also factor in the magazines and their airbrushed celebrities as well by the way. It’s a wonder we don’t all have eating disorders. Most of us women folk do tend to have an unrealistic body image though. Instead of embracing ourselves for the sacred feminine within us, and celebrating our natural weight (yes we all have one, and deep down we know what it is). Yet we try to squidge ourselves into clothes that are an ‘acceptable size’.

Just out of interest, if you polled 1,000 men how do you think they’d describe their ideal woman? In my experience men (and by that I mean adult males from mid-twenties onwards) like “a woman with curves” and they justify this often with “I don’t want to shag a stick which might snap”. Their words, not mine! So, I call to women folk everywhere to get real. Love yourself!

But let me get down to the real point of this blog. We, as authors…what do we do? Are we contributing to the unachievable goal? I have read many many romance novels. I hate to admit, most actually have the ‘slim’ and beautiful heroine. Those which don’t tend to go to the extreme to prove a point.

I have tried in my own novels to step away from that, but confess I have probably fallen into the trap a bit despite my best efforts. Amanda and Claire in True’s Love are a size 10 and 12 respectively. In my defence, they are young and, well, let’s just say Amanda gets plenty of exercise to achieve this figure. And they’re still not super skinny. Am I allowed to get away with that?

In Rekindled Love Sophie reaches middle age, and I did ‘make a thing’ of her paranoia over her body ‘wobbly bits’ and all. But her man at that point loves every inch of her.

Now, I’m not stupid. People read to escape their everyday lives, and few would actually want to read about older women who are a size 16-18, have skin problems and greasy hair. But perhaps we can meet in the middle somewhere? As authors we have some degree of power. Are we able to shy away from super skinny ‘perfect’ looking women? This is the point up for discussion. Over to you…