My good friend Sam pointed out recently that women can laugh at anything in the world except weight. It made me laugh at the time – partly because Sam’s girlfriend Kate has a truly enviable figure, and partly because it is completely and utterly true. Most women have some sort of crazed complex about the way they look – whether their nose is too big, their forehead too high, or their legs that bit too short – but I think it is fair to say that each and every one of those women will also have some sort of hang up about their size. From the skinny six to the ample 20, it seems most women cannot abandon a certain amount of stress over their figure.
But this, of course, is no great revelation. We are more than aware that women are somewhat obsessed with size. Look at Heat magazine’s cover on any given week – they condemn a woman for being too thin, celebrate her if she gains a couple of pounds, then damn her all over again when she is branded as ‘fat’ and has ‘let herself go’. The Daily Mail claimed last week that Cheryl Cole was ordered to lose two stone for the US version of X Factor. Two stone? From where, I ask? I know her hair has been particularly large lately, but you would probably have to chop both her arms off to remove nearly 30lbs off poor old Chezza.
What is the goal we are striving for, when we jog, swim, spin and yoga ourselves into oblivion, while simultaneously living on lemon water and the odd cube of cheese? Is it for our health? I am all for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and keeping fit, but is this really just an excuse? The healthy weight range extends much further than most women’s dream weight, so I can only assume that being thin is some sort of prized ideal, where other women eye you up enviably, and you become part of a secret sect of women who all praise your diligence and self discipline.
I am a victim of my own complexes – I battle between the urge to be the ‘perfect’ woman (what happens when you get there anyway – is there a parade? Are you welcomed into the universe of smug skinny women who congratulate you as your tummy rumbles? And when you get there, what happens next?) and the urge to reject the ideal completely. Is it really the case that only one body type can be recognised as ideal? Perhaps it is because my own body is far from it, or perhaps it’s because I am afraid of what would happen if I got there. Would I religiously run six miles every night just to keep the flab at bay? Would I feel horrendously guilty every time I ate a cupcake? Would I become one of those women that only bakes for other people, then looks on hungrily while my inner child slowly dies of starvation? Who would I be if I wasn’t ever so slightly fat? And fat – what an ugly word! There is no escaping the fact that women like me call ourselves curvy, with the unspoken F word standing like the proverbial (cake-eating) elephant in the room.