A Sizeable Concern

I’ve been AWOL for a while, trying to sort through a few things, but this is a post I have to write. In fact, this is a post that has been a long time coming.

Australian Fashion Week kicked off a few days ago, immediately sending the media into a frenzy, but not over the fashions. Models at fashion legend, Carla Zampatti’s runway show appeared visibly underweight and very unhealthy, including former Australia’s Next Top Model contestant, Cassi Van Den Dungen. Many of the same models then lined up for Alex Perry’s show.

Former Australia’s Next Top Model contestant Cassi Van Den Dungen for Alex Perry. Pic via news.com.au.

Now, I have a number of naturally very slim friends who have faced criticism over their weight, so I’m not about to attack skinny women, but there are extreme differences between being naturally thin and healthy, and being forcefully underweight and unhealthy. These girls have sunken cheeks, hollow eyes, and a sallow, drawn look, even with all their make-up. They look tired, and not at all healthy.

So, my question is, what the hell fashion industry? I get many of these models have just returned from the catwalks of Paris, where they are expected to adhere to French standards of fashion. I get that clothes hang better on women who are on the smaller side of the scale. And I totally get that the better the clothes look, the more people are going to like them. The problem is, it’s hard to pay attention to the clothes when the models are so glaringly unwell. Not to mention the fact that the clothes are wearing the girls, rather than the girls wearing them.

This problem of size goes well beyond the runway. Sizing and fit of clothes has become almost as random and unpredictable as the weather, with even my thinner friends complaining that they are now forced to try on everything, where once they used to simply grab their usual size. I am hardly on the smaller end of the scale at the moment, so I struggle whenever I go shopping, but it’s ridiculous that my wardrobe currently contains sizes fourteen through twenty-two. It makes zero sense that even in the same brand I can be three different sizes, and that’s if I can even find my size, because it seems many companies haven’t figured out that the average Australian is a size sixteen.

And this isn’t just a problem in clothing. My mother bought a pattern the other day, assuming it would be plenty big enough, as she’s a pretty standard size fourteen and the pattern included a size range including a size twenty. However, on measuring herself against the pattern, it turned out that she was equivalent to a size twenty-eight. Twenty-eight! That’s seven sizes larger!

What the hell fashion industry?!

Come on guys! Can we go back to the days of Elle Macpherson and Cindy Crawford, when models were fit and sexy, rather than skeletal and wan? Is it really so hard to make the samples a couple inches larger? Why are we allowing this dangerous culture of super-skinny to be okay, just because it’s accepted elsewhere? If Australia can be responsible for making the mini-skirt trendy, why can’t we be the leaders in creating a more standardised, women-friendly industry? Right now, it seems like the fashion industry is ignoring the needs of the many, for the delight of the few. In fact, maybe that has something to do with why so many of Australia’s high fashion brands are going under. After all, if women don’t feel good in something, they’re hardly going to want to buy it—and no girl feels good buying a larger size.

What do you think? Is the fashion industry not listening to the needs of its consumers?

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Inspiring Change

Today, something lovely happened. I was wandering through a store with my mother, when we were asked by a fellow shopper what we thought of the black and white, fitted dress her mother had on. I was about to give the typical off-handed, “that looks great” reply I normally give, when I looked at the woman. She was slumped and uncomfortable, clearly distressed about being the centre of attention, and desperately trying to cover her hips and thighs. The dress didn’t look too bad, but it was a bit too young for her. What what was worse, is that it made her feel bad.

My sales assistant brain took over, and I quickly scanned the store for something that would work. I spotted a black, sequinned top and thrust it towards her daughter.

“That looks nice, but she needs a longer top to elongate her frame”, I said.

The sales staff suddenly realised what was happening, and came buzzing back over.

“Oh! That’s gorgeous! You look fantastic!”, she gushed, “I love the crispness of the white against your black hair.”

The mother winced. I smiled at her, and told her to throw the black top over the dress. Straight away things started to change. Her back was straighter, her hands weren’t constantly trying to cover her belly, and she wasn’t as tense.

I asked what the outfit was for, and it turned out is was for the daughter’s wedding. She’d bought a dress already, but it was ugly, frumpy, and certainly not Mother of the Bride material. She needed to feel fantastic, and I’d inadvertently set myself the task to make it happen.

Half an hour later we’d found her a skirt to match the sequinned top, a lovely coral jacket to giver her some colour, and some jewellery for a bit of extra bling. The mother was transformed—her back was straight, she was smiling, and she was even excitedly talking about what shoes she had that would match it. She looked gorgeous.

The sales assistants were even happy, they’d managed to get a sale that was all but gone, and all they had to do was stand there. And the daughter was relieved. Her mother looked modern and smart, and was comfortable. They asked for my number, and the mother gave me a big hug, promising me to send me a picture of the wedding. And her looking all glam, of course.

I wanted to share this story, not to big note myself, but to share a story about women. more importantly, what we as women need to do for each other.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. The theme for this year is “Inspiring Change”. We are called to push for equality, and be vigilant in demanding empowerment and positive change. But can we really call for equality and empowerment within a broader society, when we so often are the ones holding ourselves back?

So many of us spend our time envying, attacking, or deriding other women, when what we should be doing is supporting each other. We make snarky comments about what a random stranger is wearing, or attack physical traits rather than commenting on character. We call each other nasty names, and fight amongst each other about what constitutes a “real” woman. Or we simply ignore the needs of our fellow sisters, just to get ahead ourselves.

These are the things that need to change. We need to be inspired to support each other, and champion each other’s dreams. We need to compliment other women on their achievements, rather than begrudging them for what we didn’t achieve. We need to celebrate our individual looks—curvy, busty, sleek, and slim—and look past what we think the rest of the world expects. And we need to help each other when we’re struggling. Even if it’s just finding a way to feel beautiful, because that’s when we really shine.

Inspiring Change img

Today I felt good, not because I did something for a stranger, but because that stranger was touched by what I did. I was able to make her feel beautiful, and the power that gave her shone on her face. If we can start with that—with the simple act of helping each other to feel beautiful, respected, worthy—than we can inspire change. And that change will be powerful enough to overthrow any inequality we face.

What are you doing to Inspire Change this International Women’s Day?

Resolute: FebruaryRecap

Resolute - Feb recap Img

Another month over already! This year is already going way too fast for me, especially when it comes to resolutions. I’m not going to lie, I haven’t done so well with February’s five, but I’m getting there, and really doing well on January’s five. Here’s this month’s recap.

GET THAT TATTOO
This one failed big time. Between spoiling my new baby nephew, and paying vet bills, cash was not something I had spare. Ergo, the tattoo has been put on hold. Perhaps I’ll make it a splurge item with my first paycheck when I finally land a job.

BE MORE AWARE
Hmm…this could be viewed as a failure as well, especially seeing as I was so unaware this month, that I manages to trip on my own pants and break my toe. Clearly not paying great attention. But I have been paying more attention to my local community, and the changes happening in it. As much as it pains me, I’ve taken to reading the (badly written) local paper of a morning, and paying attention to the (badly produced) local news. Unfortunately for my parents, this means the occasional expletive yelled at the television when they mispronounce names or the weather girl stares at the prompter the whole way through the weather report.

SEW, KNIT, CROCHET
So, I tried to do more sewing, I really did, but it’s really hard to sew with a broken toe. I tend to use my big toe to adjust the speed of the machine—something I only discovered when I lost control and went all speed demon on a hem I was attempting. I did crochet some, though! I’m working on a very bright, rainbow blankie for noone in particular. Pictures to come.

EAT BEAKFAST
I’m proud to say I succeeded at this one! I think I skipped breakfast all of two days this month. The bonus of this is it also helped with getting healthier, because when I eat breakfast I don’t snack as much. Because I’ve taken to eating the same thing for breakfast pretty much every day (poached eggs on toast), I’m a veritable master at the perfect poached egg. An added bonus for me, and anyone else who just happens to be around for breakfast.

BE KINDER
I think I did ok with this resolution. There have been days I have struggled with my temper, or just been too lazy to help when I could see it was needed, so there’s still improvement to be made. I have made a concerted effort to let go of things that would normally bother me, and am certainly getting better at not setting gigantic secret expectations for people, and then getting cranky when they don’t measure up.

I’m also being kinder to myself. Allowing myself slip-ups in my diet, not getting frustrated if I accidentally take a four hour nap instead of a twenty minute one, and accepting that some days my body just hurts. Definitely more work to be done, but I’m getting there.

As for January’s goals, I’m still working hard on them. I’m avoiding gluten pretty well, and don’t seem to struggle too much with avoiding sugar during the week. My Saturday Cheat Day seems  to rollover into most of Sunday, but by Sunday night I’m usually behaving myself again. It’s been easy to be appreciative, with wonderful friends taking me out for a lavish surprise dinner, and a new nephew to enthral me. You know what, it’s also easier to let things go when you’ve got wonderful things to appreciate, because the little negatives seem so less important when you’re holding a sweet baby boy.

Still a lot to work on. More goals to get started on. Overall though, I’m feeling pretty good about these thirty accomplishments. As long as the year slows down a bit, I’m totally going to nail the list, maybe even with time to spare.

Resolute: January’s Five

If you’re a regular reader (or have the ability to scroll back a post), you’ll know that this year I turn thirty. You’ll also know that I’ve set myself thirty resolutions for the year, in the aim of making this a year of change and growth. I promised to set myself a few to complete each month, and blog before and after they are achieved.  Seeing as January is almost over, I figure it’s probably time to talk about my Resolutions focus for this month.

This month and the next are a bit different to most other’s because there’s a collection of goals that are really long-term adjustments, rather than quickie challenges. This means, that while I’ll start them this month, I’m not really going to complete them until later in the year, probably not even for a couple years, but this will be the first step.  These one’s will updated regularly, along with the monthly ones, so you can keep me on track. And I mean that—feel free to give me some encouragement, or admonish me when I don’t quite achieve the month’s goals!

So, without further ado, the first five:

DROP THOSE KILOS

For many reasons—because of the PCOS and ME/CFS, because I’m lazy, because I like chocolate—I am the heaviest I’ve ever been. Unfortunately this creates a pretty vicious cycle, because the extra weight flares up my ME/CFS, making it hard to exercise, and then I eat bad because I feel bad…and gain more weight. In the past four years I’ve gone from a size 12-14 to a size 18-20, which has really dented the shaky self-confidence I’d worked hard to build.

I say I’m lazy and that I have eaten badly, but in truth a lot of that was due to frustration over not knowing what was wrong, or how to fix it. Now I know that PCOS girls tend to have to work harder to lose weight, and are much more prone to gaining it, I have a reason. After doing some research, and watching my reaction to different foods I know my triggers. I know what foods make me feel bloated and sluggish, what I eat that tends to make me gain quickly, and what foods make me feel really good. No surprise: the stuff that makes me feel best is fruit and vegetables!

So, this year, all that nasty weight is going to go away, and be replaced with the building blocks of confidence. Sugar, wheat, and gluten are gone, dairy is a sometimes food, and exercise is the new daily staple. Hoepfully, with all this in place, I will be wearing a bikini again at Christmas, and not hiding under shape-wear and baggy tees.

BECOME FINANCIALLY STABLE

When I was younger I was flush with cash, despite receiving pocket money. I got my first job at 12, and have worked ever since, even supporting my family by buying the weekly groceries through a tight patch when I was sixteen. I was strict on myself, allowing myself to blow the first pay-check at a new job, before squirrelling away sixty percent of each pay for a rainy day.

The past two years as I’ve been working to sort out my health I’ve been living predominantly on benefits. The meagre amount received from these benefits was usually barely enough to cover bills, food, and daily living expenses. I’ve had a run of giant medical bills, but I’ve also been stupid with my money at times, spending it willy-nilly, without considering the future.

While I don’t ever want to be one of those people that place great emphasis on money, I do want to go back to the sensible=spending ways of my youth. I want to pay off the debts I owe my parents, lighten the load on my credit card, and develop a positive credit rating, so I can eventually get a loan to buy a house. All those things, however, are secondary to the number one goal: finding a job. To be able to do anything, I have to start making enough money to do more than just scrape by, which means a full-time, nine-to-five, J.O.B. To tell you the truth, I’m secretly really excited about the concept of none-to-five! It’s crazy, I know, but it feels good to have enough energy to get through a week without needing to sleep half of it away—I want to use that energy for something worthwhile.

BE REAL/LET THINGS GO/BE MORE APPRECIATIVE

These next three I’ve grouped together, because they are pretty well connected. You see, I used to be one of those people that was always doing something. Throughout university, I worked an average of thirty-five hours a week and attended full-time classes. When I wasn’t at uni or at work, I was at a gig, or out for coffee, or taking a road trip to the beach. I wasn’t good at sitting still for too long, and I loved being really busy.

Because I’ve been so used to living life at double-pace, having ME/CFS has really been a struggle. My body no longer copes at high speed for very long, and my ability to push past the exhaustion and find a second wind isn’t so great. Not only does this frustrate me, but I’m sure it frustrates others. I’m always late getting to places, it takes me much longer to complete tasks, and I often have to say no to fun outings, so I’m fit to meet my obligations. Then I get angry at myself, and I rant about what I ‘used to’ be able to do and how fast I used to be able to get it done.

This year I’m going to focus on recalibrating—slowing down. I’m going to start doing things earlier, or simply allowing extra time to get them done. I’m going to be realistic, and acknowledge that it now takes me twenty minutes just to get out of bed because I need to wake up my muscles. I’m going to factor into tasks extra half-hour it takes me to get them done. I’m not going to get angry at myself, I’m not going to be frustrated at my body, I’m not going to focus on what was, because that only makes me feel worse.

I am going to appreciate the fact that I’m still fully able bodied. I’m going to revel in the fact that I can get out of bed, instead of sleeping all day like I was doing only months ago. I’m going to be grateful for the things that these changes have given me, and work with the positives instead of against the negatives. Which is what The Thirty is all about—working towards a better me. And hopefully a happy and successful one as well.

The Good Side of Chronic Illness 1.0

You know what? Having chronic illness sucks. Having two or more chronic illnesses sucks even more. But, as cliché as it is to say this, there is always a silver lining—no matter how small—to something that changes your life so drastically. In fact, there’s often several.

I’ve written, and will probably continue to write, the odd post bemoaning my lot in life when it comes to health. It gets me down and frustrates me, so sometimes I vent. Tonight though, I thought I’d talk about a few of the good things that have come of these wretched health dramas. So, here’s a few of the things that aren’t so bad about being chronically ill.

Sometimes I Sound Really Smart
Without studying medicine, I’ve become a veritable expert in the field of specific prescription medications. I can tell you what hormones affect which areas of the body, and how the body responds to specific increases/decreases in insulin, thyroid function, and immune system function. If you ask, I can also rattle off a list of substitutes (and recipes) for special diets like wheat/gluten free, Lactose free, sugar free, and super-food-rich. I’m a one-stop shop for information on both traditional and natural medicine…within limits of course—I’m not going to be lecturing on brain surgery any time soon.

I Have an Genuine Excuse for Being a Picky Eater…but I Don’t Dramatise

Briiliance by Rachael Smith.

Brilliance by Rachael Smith.


I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for many years. I’ve made coffees, waited on tables, and catered for events, and there’s always that one customer that drives you crazy with their order. There’s the half-strength-caramel-shot-soy-mocha-latte-no-foam who also orders cake with a side of ice cream, but icing sugar, because “I’m watching my dairy and calorie intake”. Or the white-bread-crusts-off-no-butter-mayo-chicken-sandwich dude who’ll complain if he finds a crumb of crust left on it. Oh, and the bride who wants four mains options because she doesn’t know if she’s going to feel like fish, chicken, beef, or lamb at her wedding…but she only wants to pay for three. Seriously, these are real customers.
Because I’ve dealt with picky eaters, and because I love food (a little too much), I try not to mess with stuff too much when I go out to eat. I pick something that looks appetising, order it, and eat it. If I don’t like it, it was my bad choice. Now, though, there’s some things my body just won’t accept, and others that it only likes in certain amounts, or on certain days. I have a diva digestive system. So, if I go out for breakfast I’ll ask for gluten free bread, if I’m feeling over-dairied, I’ll have soy milk, or I’ll order the salad without red-onion, to avoid the inevitable headache. I won’t, however, make a big deal of it, or recreate a whole dish just to get what I want. And I certainly won’t complain about the extra cost. As much as it sucks, food speciality items are more expensive, you just have to suck it up.

I Appreciate Little Wins
We humans like to complain. We like to assume the world is against us, that others are inherently bad, and that life is out to get us. We don’t do this all the time, but it seems to be our more common way of thinking. We very easily look at the negative instead of the positive, especially when it comes to our bodies. How many times have you looked in the mirror and thought “Ugh! My arse looks huge” or “why did I have to have a pimple today“, as if tomorrow would have been any better a day to have Mt Vesuvius on your nose.
I’m just as bad as everyone else. I hate that I now have adult acne and struggle even more with my weight thanks to the PCOS. I get frustrated when silly things don’t work out as expected. But one of the things you learn very quickly when your whole body aches to some extent every day, is that those molehills are just that—molehills, not mountains. The negatives still bother me, but I try to focus so much more on the positives. I get excited over having enough energy to spend a whole day out and still being able to cook dinner, or being able to get to sleep within three hours of going to bed, or simply not waking up with a headache. These things are so much more important to my day than whether or not my cheek is covered in pimples, or my arms are looking especially flabby, because they make my day easier and happierSometimes this even means I can brighten someone else’s day in return, which I’d say is a pretty big win.

There you have it: three pretty great things that come from chronic illness. It’s hardly an exhaustive list, but maybe I’ll keep the rest up my sleeve and make this a regular feature.

Anyone else out there with chronic illness want to help with my list?