Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

November 27, 2009

Raise Your Hand if You Think This is Realistic

Filed under: Superfantastic Fattitude,The Fat's in the Fire,Uncategorized — Francesca @ 8:40 am

According to the most healthy-seeming, reputable weight charts, at 5’1″ Francesca is “supposed” to weight between 106 – 132 pounds. At 132 pounds, her BMI would be exactly 25, the most which is considered “healthy” before moving into “overweight.”

For years Francesca has been trying to remember when she last weighed 132 pounds. She knew it was before college, because she remembers, in her first year of university, doing a Jane Fonda tape every day and being very excited to go down from 153 to 145 pounds. (When she graduated from college she weighed 162, and in the 14 years since has gone well over the 200-pound mark.)

Lo and behold, when Francesca visited her dear parents a few months ago, Mamman — who had been busily working on clearing the old home of unnecessary papers — handed Francesca a stack of old school report cards and lovingly asked Francesca to please remove them from the premises. Francesca dutifully took them home and filed them under “Nostalgia.”

This past weekend Francesca went through the report cards, and among them found copies of the school health records as well (proofs of immunizations, that sort of thing). According to the doctor’s report of 1987, Francesca at that point weighed 60 kilograms: exactly 132 pounds.

In other words, at the age of 37, Francesca is expected by her doctor, Weight Watchers, etc to recreate the body she had in tenth grade.

Society is full of people who wish they could fit into their prom dress, and the answer is usually that women are expected to gain weight as they age. The last time Francesca weighed 132 pounds, prom dresses looked like this:

1987 prom dresses

Francesca is intellectually honest. She knows she could take  better care of herself — exercise 4-5 times per week instead of 1-2 times, eat more fruits and vegetables, drink more water — and that if she did these things she would be much, much healthier (which is the point) and perhaps lose 10, 20, maybe even 30 pounds (which is beside the point). She would be stronger and better fortified, and still obese at 170-180 pounds. That would be plenty fine with her.

Go down to 132 pounds? Really? Who are we kidding? (Not Francesca, obviously.)

November 23, 2009

Big Happy Girl

Filed under: Superfantastic Fattitude,The Fat's in the Fire — Francesca @ 12:03 pm

Francesca loves the Dear Abby, who recently fielded this question (warning: Mother-related Triggers ahead):

* DEAR ABBY: I’m 32 and a “large girl.” I am also intelligent, witty and fun to be around. I make friends wherever I go. The problem is my mother — who is also big — keeps telling me that heavy women are not desirable and we must “settle” when it comes to choosing a mate.

My mother has had two long, unhappy marriages. She’s always saying I think too highly of myself and my standards for men are out of my reach.

Abby, I would rather remain single than marry someone I’m not happy with just to have a man. I’m not looking for a movie star; I just want to find someone I’m attracted to and who has the same values and ideals that I have.

Is Mother right? Am I setting my sights too high? — HAPPY BEING ME IN MASSACHUSETTS

Francesca, of course, answers: Keep looking for someone who makes you really happy, and if that never happens, then meanwhile be happy being with yourself. The mother’s self-loathing attitude of “fat people do not deserve to be happy” is poppycock, and anyway is based on the old-fashioned assumption that being married is necessary, that it is better to be married than to be happy. Poppycock, says the single Francesca once again.

What say you, dear readers? And just how badly do you wish to smack this mother into her senses, on a scale of 1-10?

*Image by

November 13, 2009

Understanding Yourself and Others

[Note: A new “From Francesca’s Inbox” is coming tomorrow morning!]

A while back, Francesca and Plumcake each blogged about avoiding loneliness. Among other things, Francesca mentioned a course she has taken called “Understanding Yourself and Others.”  Commenter avi wrote:

I would like to know more about the “Understanding Yourself and Others” events. To my surprise, I might be ready for something like that. But from the outside, it seems a little cultish. Would you tell us more about it?

Finally Francesca has had a moment to compose her thoughts about this wonderful experience. She prefaces by emphasizing that this is her own experience and she does not represent anyone else.

Francesca first heard of it from a friend who is a member of the clergy. He is a serious, thoughtful, no-nonsense man, so when he told me about how much he had gained from it — as well as his parents, his sister, and his wife — I was intrigued. I trust his judgement — and his parents are among the smarter, more grounded people I know–  so I went into the course with a very open mind, ready to learn something. This is important because in the course they do some corny (cultish-seeming) things sometimes, but because someone I believed in believes in the course, I was open to “going with the flow.”

This is how you feel during and after the course!Before the course, one fills out a long form, including one’s goals for the experience. For example, one’s goal might be to develop more self-confidence, to come to terms with a particular family member or trauma, to become a better listener, to figure out what one wants to do with one’s career, etc. Up to 22 students may register (plus 2 “reviewers” who are retaking the class after a time, to work on themselves more with different goals), so there is lots of personal attention.

It’s 2  1/2 days of learning to be completely honest with others (scary!) and with oneself (even scarier!) in a loving, helpful way. The instructors are warm and funny but also will call you out on your, eh, issues when appropriate! There are lots of whole-group exercises, and some times when individual or small groups (for example, several people who have similar relationship issues they are working on) will be the focus. It is intense and a little draining and feels fantastic — like a good emotional workout.

Once one has finished, one can return (for free) as a “course assistant,” basically there to act as a support to the students. I have found that being a course assistant is at least as interesting and helpful as being a student, since I can watch and listen –learning so much about human nature — and then apply what I can to myself without any pressure. Francesca has gone back to assist four times! One leaves with a happy,  glowing feeling.

Does the feeling last? No. It dissipates after a  while. But the tools one learns do last, if one uses them. There is no magic pill that can make anyone feel confident all the time, or reconciled with a family member all the time, etc. But the course has helped Francesca reframe and embrace her “issues,” and deal with them with some optimism and self-acceptance and a sense of humor. She gets along better with her parents, she sets boundaries for herself better, she accepts her fatness better, she takes insults less personally. (This was all a process over a few years of returning to the course a few times and other helpful things like therapy.)

Yes, people who first come back from a UYO weekend, flush with the emotional high, do sometimes sound as if they’ve encountered some sort of cult, much to the annoyance of friends and family members! (Francesca must point out, though, that the aim of the course is to help one connect with others, and never isolates one from one’s family. Also, returning to “assist” is free, so no one is being milked for funds. You don’t have to keep spending money in order to be part of the program.)

On the other hand, loved ones are usually pleased (if a bit confused) to see one feeling good. Francesca knows many couples for whom this course saved their marriage, or brought it to a new level, even if only one member of the couple took the course.

Anyhow, that is Francesca’s two cents! More information is here!


September 30, 2009

Book Review: Hungry

One of two covers available for Crystal Renn's HungryFrancesca spent an afternoon reading the new memoir by Crystal Renn, a former “straight” size model (that is, size 00) who decided to stop starving herself and is now the most successful plus-size (12) model in the world. Entitled Hungry, the book (co-authored with Marjorie Ingall) describes Renn’s relatively happy childhood; her descent into anorexia and exercise bulimia beginning at age 14 after a scout told her she could be a supermodel; and her rise to fame after re-gaining dozens of pounds.

The book is a quick read, and Francesca enjoyed the peek into the brutal world of modeling and the many illustrative pictures of Renn, which show how much more animated and photogenic she is now that she is healthy. The writing isn’t high literary art, and the (sometimes excessive) references to contemporary pop culture will make the book obsolete in a few years, but still … it is an interesting story, certainly worth an afternoon. Francesca also appreciates that many of the statistics and observations which support the HAES movement have been published in one place.

The important aspect of this book is the messages it conveys about weight and popular media. One good one comes through strongly: that people in the fashion world have a dramatically skewed view of beauty and thinness. Another valuable message is that eating disorders are not only not healthy but also NOT WORTH IT. I’m glad that a beautiful model is getting out there and saying that even a modeling career isn’t worth the hunger, and exhaustion, and inability to focus she suffered when she was eating nothing but steamed vegetables and gum, and exercising for 8 hours a day.

Renn’s argument is somewhat weakened by the fact that she did not, in fact, give up her modeling career. Francesca thinks that what Ms. Renn wants to communicate – and obviously means sincerely – is that the best way to live is to give your body what it needs and take care of yourself, and that good things will follow. Indeed it is fascinating to read how Renn’s career skyrocketed after she went plus-size.

That message would be stronger –albeit less dramatic – if it were coming from someone who had actually given up her modeling dream in order to be healthy, and had found success and happiness some other way. As it is, the book is saying “look, I gained back the weight and now I’m a supermodel ANYHOW!” without acknowledging that it wouldn’t happen that way for most people. As Renn explains in the book, most plus-size models are forever limited to “catalogue” work, as opposed to the more artsy and more prestigious “editorial” work in the fashion magazines.

It is terrific and inspiring that Ms. Renn has broken through the plus-size/editorial barrier, but Francesca wishes that somewhere in the book she’d said that going from size 00 to 12 – and becoming healthier and more emotionally stable in the process — would have been worth it even if no one ever wanted to take her picture again.

September 29, 2009

Lonely Hearts Club

Francesca, Plumcake and Twistie received a heartfelt letter from reader L:

I want to thank you for all your insight on fashion, books, art, and life. There have been many times I’ve taken courage and heart from something one of you has written.

I’m in my early 40’s, living alone, doing a demanding job that I love. In the last three years, I’ve ended a long-term relationship and lost a parent whom I dearly loved. At the same time I started eating healthier, became more physically active, and updated my wardrobe and hairstyle. I have loving friends, but they are all married, with families, and they don’t always have time to hang out and talk. I’m close with my siblings but they live overseas. 

Even though I’m shy, I’ve tried to step out of my comfort zone by taking classes, going on trips, volunteering. I’ve tried being outgoing and friendly and have even read books about how to talk to people. But I still feel lonely and disconnected. Don’t get me wrong. I’m an independent, some might even say tough, person. But there are days when I can’t face going to another movie alone, lunch alone, making dinner alone, going for a walk alone. I’ve been dating, but nothing much has come of it.

It’s not just a question of wanting to be partnered. It’s a general feeling of being cut off from life. The loneliness doesn’t occupy my thoughts all the time, but when it does it is bone-deep and crushing. I think about my own mortality and can’t help but think that if I went tomorrow, it would be as if I’d never been here.

Could you write something about how you cope, or have coped in the past, with loneliness? Do you have any strategies or advice? Will seeing a doctor help? Almost everyone who writes into your blog seems to have it all together, but I guess there are those like me who are not quite there yet, despite outward appearances.

Francesca answers:

It may help L to know that, while I cannot speak for Twistie or Plumcake or any of our commenters, Francesca herself (her non-virtual self, that is) is not always as “together” as she is on this blog. Much happens in life that does not make it onto the internets. Even the most superfantastic of us do not feel superfantastic all of the time.

For loneliness that feels “crushing” and “bone-deep,” especially after the death of a parent and the ending of an important relationship, seeing a doctor absolutely could help. It appears to Francesca that L may be suffering from clinical depression (yes, a person can be going to work every day with a great haircut and still be depressed), in which case a combination of medication and/or talk therapy could literally be a life-saver.

Depression has a stigma attached to it, but it shouldn’t. It is a medical condition, and just like diabetes or food allergies, it can be managed (or overcome). It does help, to lessen the feeling of stigma, to live for a while in New York City, where people speak openly about their therapists and their Zoloft (ah, Americans!)

Of course, loneliness does not have to be associated with depression. Anyone who is not “partnered,” when they want to be – such as Francesca– will feel lonely sometimes. Some people feel lonely because they are in bad relationships, or simply because they feel existential angst. Having busy friends, and family far away, as L does, does not help at all, as Francesca well knows.

In taking care of her body, treating herself, and expanding her social horizons, L has taken important, positive steps.  Here are some  additional things Francesca does, or has done, to manage loneliness, usually with success:

  • Staying relentlessly busy with work, courses and hobbies
  • Reading as much as possible
  • Being part of a religious community
  • Going to therapy when needed
  • Taking a course called “Understanding Yourself and Others” with Global Relationship Centers, and returning now and then as a course assistant whenever her travel schedule allows. (Francesca loves the warm atmosphere, personal tools, and new friends.)
  • Getting a pet
  • Keeping in close contact with my dear family and my friends who live overseas. For this, Francesca uses an American number which rings in her home abroad (get one through Packet8 or Vonage) but Skype works too.
  • Becoming part of various online communities (natch!)
  • Reaching out to married girlfriends and cultivating those relationships as much as possible.
  • Recognizing feelings of loneliness, allowing myself to feel them and let them pass without judging them, rather than trying to force myself to feel happier.
  • Meditation/breathing exercises
  • Entertaining friends at home

 YMMV, so consider all possibilities, and choose the ones that work best for you. And remember, you may feel lonely, but in this, you are not alone.

Francesca wishes to open up L’s letter to the love and support of our wonderful readers. How do YOU, in all your put-togetherness, manage loneliness? Please use the comments section to share/observe/advise.

August 8, 2009

Road Trip!

Filed under: Superfantastic Fattitude — Twistie @ 11:54 am

Mr. Twistie and I have spent the last two days on a road trip. No, I didn’t announce it. We barely had time for bathroom breaks, let alone meet ‘n’ greets. That’s kind of the thing.

You’d think that over the years we would get wiser about these hellrides. We don’t. Oh, I know it won’t turn out the way Mr. Twistie thinks it will, but I keep being optomistic that he won’t be as egregiously wrong this time.

You see, I am an optimist. Mr. Twistie is a double-edged cockeyed optimist sprayed in l’Eau d’Optisme.


July 2, 2009

Francesca comes up with a Good Line

Filed under: Superfantastic Fattitude,The Fat's in the Fire,Uncategorized — Francesca @ 9:23 am

Francesca has dropped her former primary care physician like a hot potato, after said “doctor,” in response to Francesca’s suggestion that she (Francesca) might have sleep apnea, said “Sleep apnea isn’t important. If you are snoring, it would be annoying to anyone else who might be sleeping with you, but it’s not a risk to your health. Since you live alone, I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s not worth testing for.”

Setting aside the idea that a person who lives alone gets different health care from someone with a regular, uh, long-term sleeping partner, sleep apnea causes metabolic problems, which Francesca has. Francesca mentioned to some doctor friends about the sleep apnea, all of whom said without blinking “oh, yeah, sleep apnea is bad. It causes depression, metabolic disorders, and besides, you are tired all the time.” Hello?!?

Anyhow, this means that Francesca has to “break in” a new doctor. Francesca brought the new doctor a letter outlining her health history and issues and what she is doing to manage them, and explaining the “health at every size” outlook.  He spent the first few minutes reading the letter, and then asked me questions, such as the following:

Doctor: You’ve been exercising 30 minutes a day and haven’t lost weight?

Francesca: That is correct.

Doctor: For weight loss, I’m going to recommend 40 minutes.

Francesca: I’m sorry to interrupt, but want to make it clear that I’m not interested in weight loss. I’m interested in staying healthy.

Doctor: But to be healthy, you have to lose weight.

Francesca (with forced patience): Well, I’ve been trying that for 30 years, since I was 6 years old, and it hasn’t worked. I’d rather focus on healthy behaviors than on my weight.

Doctor: I’m very confused because over here (pointing to letter) you say that you’d like a referral to a new nutritionist, but you don’t want to lose weight?

Francesca: I want some support in adding more fruits and vegetables to my diet [Francesca’s note: even though it contradicts the HAES “intuitive eating” model], because I’m not good at that and I want to make sure my body gets the nutrients it needs. But I don’t want it to be that if I eat healthy and exercise but don’t lose weight, that I’ve failed. I want it to be that if I eat nutritious food and exercise regularly, I’ve succeeded, whether I lose weight or not.

This absolutely “clicked” it for the doctor, and he said he might even use that line with other patients. I was so proud! My first thought was “I hope Kate Harding sees the post about this!”

It takes a little time and effort to treat one’s doctor!

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