Reinventing Myself: French Eating

 

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For the last year I have been actively working to reinvent myself—-or, rather, to re-CLAIM my real self. Like many mothers, I love being a Mom, but along the way I lost my authentic self.My kids are now 20 and 21. It is time for me to find the “real me” again. One way I am doing this is by seeking a healthier body and a better body image. These play into identifying my personal style from my mid-50s and after. This is a process–there is no magic formula, no silver bullet. Many weeks it is two steps forward, and three back.

Today I’m sharing some of what I’ve learned about how French women (I suspect mostly the women of Paris and other fashionable neighborhoods, but I’m ok with that) eat all that great food but remain slim and fashionable. In another post I’ll give a fashion update, but today it’s about eating, not dieting.

Above are some of the books I’ve consulted this year. I  must admit here that I was a sloppy librarian for once! I took notes from one book, but forgot to note the title! I am eating my own words to my college students–write the citation down first (or copy/paste it if online). Oh well….

A little background.

At the end of my 30s I lost a  good deal of weight and kept it off for several years. At that time I attended and then led several sessions of a Bible-study and weight loss program popular in the 90s. It fell out of favor when the author decided to not agree with the Holy Trinity. Never mind theology, many of the principles are the same as with French eating. The gist is: Eat when hungry, stop when you’ve had just enough. The Bible study part was mostly to keep you mind on something other than food. It worked.

Americans have lost all reason on food. We eat utter garbage. We drive-thru. We’ve quit eating at tables and slump on the couch or before a computer. We don’t plan. We buy in bulk and not in season. We eat everywhere. We rarely are without something to drink. If we are middle class we eat out almost constantly and overeat each time.We take healthy stuff like popcorn and make it fattening. I’m guilty of some of these. I’m not much for fast food or chain restaurants so I’ve saved myself that. I do make healthy food choices, but got away from common sense portions. And, I love sweets.

 

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Like many I endure depression. I’ve never, ever had it take away my appetite. Over the years I have learned to, occasionally, stop myself (or at least limit to a smaller amount) from emotional eating–eating to sooth. This year, cold turkey, I ended my addiction to McDonald’s Chocolate Chip Frappes–the only seriously “bad” eating habit I had.  I was up to buying a medium sized one almost every work day. I could feel my pulse race as I got closer to the restaurant, felt it ease in the drive-thru and nearly had an anxiety attack on those days when the machine was down. Let’s look at this:  Classic symptoms of addiction and the substance  comes out of a machine and not a garden or an animal. Yet it is sold  as a “desert.” Hmmmm…. Sugar, you see, is as addictive as CRACK. Yes, THAT crack. To make it worse, like my maternal grandmother, I like my “little bit of sweet” after dinner. Both of these had to be conquered.

 

“At least half our bad eating and drinking habits are careless; they grow out of inattention to our true needs and delights. We don’t notice what we are consuming–we are not really enjoying our indulgence, and therefore we think nothing of them and overdo it…. Perhaps you have given up caring about fashion. Or trying other new things? It may be easy for a wife, mother, full-time worker to neglect pleasure; perhaps a part of you even thinks its selfish. But you must understand that there is nothing noble in failing to discover and cultivate your pleasures.” ( French Women Don’t Get Fat, p. 29).

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French Eating Rules.

Eat only when fully hungry. Wait for your stomach to growl. I knew this from the Bible Study, but just like at the beginning of that time, I had to wait over 24 hours for my stomach to be fully empty and growl. If you are seriously overweight it may be 48 or more hours. Yes, I kept drinking water. No this was not some faddish detox. No, you won’t faint. No you won’t see stars. Yes you will get anxious. Yes you will get grouchy. Just hang on until that growl.

Nothing between meals except unsweet tea or water. Americans think of fruit juice as “fruit” and not “sugar water.” It’s “healthy.” We drown our children in it and milk. What both do is make the stomach feel full. We are never truly hungry. Same with snacks. The French don’t do any of this. They don’t eat between meals.

Meals are a daily ritual to be observed seriously. Being an American and lazy in the morning I do still grab McDonald’s a few times a week, but I’ve switched to the much healthier breakfast burrito which features only real food and has a sensible calorie count. I never get hashbrowns. I skip the orange juice, too. Also I’m a typical American worker–I usually eat at my desk because lunch time is when my students are able to call me for help.  I do still like to get lunch out on payday, but it is now usually a small salad. (Warning: Many fast-food salads have as much fat and as many calories as combo meals). Wendy’s and Chick fil et have sensible salads in a small size. Dinner–if I’m not hungry, I just don’t eat. Simple. But as I go along I’ve gotten my eating to sensible enough portions that I’m now usually hungry for a lite dinner. A salad with some protein if I’m alone. Or a sensible portion if I cook for my son.

Preparing Food is Part of The Ritual. I couldn’t agree more! If I buy dinner out, I always end up hungry much, much faster than if I cooked at home. A great deal of pleasure goes into the making of a meal when you cook real food. You don’t have to be a professional chef to make an acceptable, healthy meal. I love to cook. My Mom taught me to plan and my income all of my adult life has made cooking at home absolutely necessary. I cringe when I hear what my kids spend to eat out. I tut-tut when they come home feeling sick from yucky food. Prepare the meal together. It takes practice. So does planning meals. Just try. Add a night a week till you get it. Set the table. Use real forks and plates. Drink out of real glasses. Use placemats or a table cloth. Turn off the t.v. Put away the phones. It’ll be awkward at first. Pay attention to the taste, texture, aroma and feel of the food. You’ll be feeling full much sooner and you won’t feel sick or bloated afterward. You also won’t be able to beat yourself up for eating too much.

No seconds. The French eat much more slowly and more mindfully than we do. They also eat in courses. But most important of all, they stop just at the point of merely satisfied–not stuffed. They don’t worry about wasting food, either. Gluttony is the sin–not waste to the French. When I cook for my son I immediately take the usual 4th serving (most American recipes serve 4 or 8) out and put it in a container for lunch. Remember, if you get fully hungry later, the food is there–just heat it up and enjoy it.

Only Fresh, In-Season and Natural Ingredients. Most of what is sold in Wal-Mart’s so-called “grocery” section (or most Supermarkets in general) would not be consumed in France. Happily, I was not raised eating convenience food and, due to my budget, I’ve never acquired a taste from it. Sure, I’ve bought things from time-to-time. I occasionally  buy Potstickers or Egg Rolls or Pierogis. “Convenience food” to me is pre-washed salad! I’ve always skipped the inner aisles of the supermarket aside from staples and canned tomato sauce or a few canned veggies.

Eat Real Bread, Real Cheese, Real Butter. American bread is insanely awful. Even most of the so-called “whole grain” bread is dreadful. Few substances on Earth are as bad as American white bread topped with a cooking-oil “spread” that folks insist on calling “margarine” though it is something even worse. Today Almond Milk (contains sugar) and Rice or Soy milks are fashionable. The greatest culinary crime of all though is fake cheese–cooking oil based processed cheese. Those plastic wrapped “singles” that bear no resemblance to real cheese. Just use the real stuff.

Portions, Portions, Portions. The French “get” portions. A serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. Yes, honestly. A half chicken breast the size of your plate is not only from a chicken bread to grow to an unnatural shape and size, but it is at least two servings! A glass of wine–served in the appropriate wine glass, of course–is a good thing. An entire bottle is not. A single pat of butter is fine–a stick is not. A few bites of a decadent desert it something to savor–not pig out on.

Toss the Salad: The French taught Panerra how to do salad. Americans eat “green” salad rather than “tossed” salad.  We pile a salad high with fatty cheese, bacon and croutons, then dump on an enormous quantity of fatty, chemical laden dressing. Again, portions! A teaspoon of each of the goodies–not 1/2 cup! And two tablespoons of real salad dressing–good olive oil (or similar), a nice vinegar, a few herbs, a dab of mustard, salt * pepper. No guar gum or high fructose corn syrup needed. Assemble it all in a large bowl, pour on the dressing and gently toss to coat with the dressing. Then serve it. By the way, the French eat this after the main course and before the cheese course.

Try New Things: “Gastronomic boredom leads to lots of unhealthy eating.” (French Women Don’t Get Fat, p. 34).  Yep, it’s Tuesday so here come the tacos…yawn, nom, nom, nom, nom. Vary your diet–and not just between Taco Bell and Subway. Even a simple cooking magazine like Taste of Home can get you started on new foods. Or save the money and look at Pinterest. Pick one new food and find a recipe.

Rate Your Foods: Eat the most of your favorite in each meal. Don’t skip the others, just get the most enjoyment within the sensible portion.

Beans Are Not For Poor Folks. Beans are healthy and can be fixed in so many more ways than just simmered with a ham bone and served over corn bread. They are a super protein source and cheap, too.

Don’t Buy It: I’ve usually done very well with this one. I know I can’t leave ice cream alone or chips and dip, so I don’t buy them. Just quit buying the junk you binge on. Just quit.

Enjoy the luxuries: Chocolate is its own food group in France, as are cheese and Nutella. But a one inch square of chocolate or cheese is a serving, 2 tablespoons of Nutella is a serving and there are no seconds.

Exercise Naturally:  The French get most to their exercise in the course of their daily life–not at the gym, though working out is trendy everywhere these days. This one is much harder for most Americans. We live in places that are designed to be car-dependent. For most, walking to work or school simply isn’t an option. Few of us hang our laundry or walk up stairs to an apartment. We American women don’t dress in high heels very often anymore, either. We could certainly use lessons in good posture–in itself maintaining good posture is tremendous exercise for our back and tummy muscles.

Beautiful brunette girl in the street cafe in Paris drinking cof
Beautiful brunette girl in the street cafe in Paris drinking coffee. Vector illustration.

My Personal Changes:

I keep a head of ice berg lettuce on hand. I usually prefer nicer greens, but a classic wedge salad is often the perfect lite dinner. Maybe with a small amount of cheese or some beans or a little leftover meat, maybe just with dressing. It satisfies.

A healthy breakfast. When I don’t buy a burrito (or an occasional payday splurge for a bigger breakfast sandwich) I have a breakfast bowl: A serving of vanilla Greek yogurt with a serving each of: Grapenuts cereal, almonds, wheat germ and at least one type of fruit. Often this last me my whole work day if I wait and eat it at the office.

I keep excellent dark chocolate. I’m a big-time milk chocolate fan, but I don’t mind dark chocolate. I buy really, really high cocoa content dark chocolate now. It’s just enough as that “bite of sweet.”

I keep mini peppers. They have more vitamin C than orange juice and have other great nutrients. They are great plain or stuffed with goat cheese.

I keep goat cheese instead of cream cheese. Just as nice, but much healthier. But if we have a family event, the cheese cake is the real deal. I just have a smaller piece.

I walk outside more: I still try to make myself go to the gym, but when possible I go for a 1-2 mile walk outside. A fitness tracker that posts to Facebook is a great way to motivate yourself. I love Map My Walk.

I just eat. Even alone I sit at the table, no phone, no tv, no laptop, no book even. I just eat. Amazing how much nicer it is and how much less is consumed.

I do not weigh myself more than once per month. It’s about how I feel, how my clothes fit and that I make progress. A bad day is just that–ONE day. Just do the right thing at the next meal and let it go.

Treat myself: Even though I’ve lost a tiny amount of weight so far, I have lost about an inch around. I’ve bought some new clothes guilt-free even though they are the same old size still. Why? They feel fresh and invigorating! I’ve made due for so long. Don’t get me wrong–they’re still bargains, but they’re new. I don’t enjoy used clothing so I don’t buy it. The nice clothes also encourage me to stand up straight, to not try to hide, to eat at a nicely set table and to just make me feel a little more confident. I threw out some of the worst old ones too.

10818310-American-and-french-alliance-and-friendship-Stock-Photo-flagIn a later post I’ll talk more about re-identifying my personal style. I hope this post was encouraging to you. Please read the books above or visit their author’s blogs to learn more about French eating. I’ve presented my take on it and what I’ve found helpful. These may not be the tips that “do it” for you. Leave me a comment or recommend another French eating resource.

Fourth of July Style, yes in a REAL plus-size

I’ve never embraced the selfie craze, so I’m pretty bad at this. Thankfully my daughter’s room (which she sometimes comes home to use) has a big mirror.

This year I’ve been working to get into better shape and to lose some weight due to warning from my doctor on blood sugar. I also have heart disease in my family so it’s time to pay attention again. 14 years ago I wore a size 10 for the most part. Today its a 16-20 P. Let’s just say I’m very supportive of plus-size women. And, being 5’3″ even more supportive of SHORT plus-sized women.

With both kids on their own and usually out of the house I also have a little extra to spend on my sadly neglected wardrobe. What’s smaller than a “capsule?” That’s what I have lived with for years. So, this summer I gave myself permission to do a fun outfit just for the 4th of July. In the past that has meant a semi-annual Old Navy Flag Tee. This year, I opted for more than that. I hope you approve!

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Complete outfit–loving that a little weight loss shows up!

Jeans (rolled) Old Navy Rock Star

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My bangs are too grown out–hair cut is scheduled next week, but I’m not a perfectionist AT ALL. Take me as I am!

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J. Crew Factory Ladder Striped T

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Bass Castoff Boater III

I LOVE red with denim.

Continue reading “Fourth of July Style, yes in a REAL plus-size”

Modesty for men: How to keep women from lusting!

Note: This post was originally published on my old blog in May 2013 in slightly different form.
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Thanks to TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” America has discovered Bill Gothard’s idea of  “defrauding” or making men “stumble.” How does this happen? If you watch the show you know it’s because someone forgot to call out the code word “Nike” to warn the men and boys to avert their eyes. Without the warning they could see a women immodestly dressed and be led to think unholy or impure thoughts–hence they will “stumble” in their walk with God and be “defrauded.”

Now Mr. Gothard and his ilk think this only happens to men. I beg to differ! As a service to my readers I’ve put together this blog post to help men protect women from stumbling. The code word to shout , guys, is “Avon” — your wife or grown daughters and sisters will thank you for remembering to say this. They want to be Proverbs 31 women (and eventually Titus 2 women) so this is a blessing to them! “Avon.” Remember it.

Now for the guidance….

First lets start with the foundation of modesty in menswear: classic white cotton!183553_AE06_M1_WHI

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The classic white, full, short-sleeved, high neck undershirt. Yep, the same one the State Troopers wear–and they wear it for a reason: RESPECT. Women cannot respect a man who is defrauding them with a brazen display of thick, luscious chest hair or smooth, freshly waxed bare chest. Don’t be fooled! At church, your white shirt maybe crisply starched and ironed by a loving wife or sister, but it can still DEFRAUD. This then is your essential “shade shirt.” There’s a reason Mormon’s have special underwear beyond it’s spiritual uses! This shirt shows a girl you care and shows her, more importantly, that you know modest really IS hottest. Save that sexy Godly chest for the wedding night please. T-shirts at any other time are to be avoided. When absolutely necessary wear only dark, plain colors and choose a size larger than needed for modesty. Shoulders and chests can be seriously defrauding when displayed in tight -tshirts. “Athletic shirts,” “tank tops” and V-neck” T’s should be avoided at all costs due to the way the set off  those broad shoulders and chest hair 

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Classic,  full, white cotton briefs–the by-word in male modesty.  Not only has no women found them attractive in decades, but they do tend to have appropriate foundational qualities that prevent any jiggling unfortunate movement. Boxers, beloved of worldly men, are far too immodest as they allow not only for jiggling unfortunate movement but allow for an accurate measurement of potential pleasure to be easily…  unfortunate placement of certain body parts. Ditto the wildly indecent “European styles”. No decent woman would be seen with a man wearing anything labeled as “European” anyway so we need not further illustrate this example.You maybe asking yourself, how would a maiden or married lady notice such things? When men are not adhering to these principles of modest dressing women’s eyes can be unintentionally drawn downward from the countenance to the good stuff  nether regions of man-land with unfortunate results: defrauding and stumbling. Maidens, especially those who may have gained access to forbidden romance novels could then have been said to have “comparison shopped” and  find their wedding night less exciting Godly. Fathers, it’s up to you to set the standard.

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Swimwear is extremely problematic. Not only is much of it “European” and hence immodest, but it offers the double threat of revealing too much both above and below the waist. Regardless of age we recommend long “Board Shorts,” preferably in plain, dull fabric with a dark t-shirt and pool shoes (not shown). Without a shirt the chest is revealed and, even more troubling, groin creases can be seen and if no one remembers the code word, “Avon,” then women are defrauded. Swimming and beach combing should, of course, be avoided as much as possible as even the most modest swimwear can lead to women’s minds straying to thoughts of wet chests an inappropriate nature.    

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Trousers, like every other garment, are another mine field to navigate. Worldly flat-front slacks are simply taboo. They simply are not modest! Always, ALWAYS, choose pleated, ‘relaxed’ fit trousers or, better yet, suit pants–both of which have never managed to cause a woman to stumble. Be sure you do not ever put your hands into your pockets. And, key rings should be kept small–they can distract in a front pocket! Athletic trousers with drawstrings at the waist (except above mentioned modest board shorts when absolutely necessary) are to be avoided at all costs. These can make women think of men working out, being manly and sweating beautifully and we don’t want that, do we, men?

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 Shirts. This is an easy one–whew! I hear you saying! Finally, something easy. With your ‘shade shirt’ on, slip into one of these and relax.   Like classic cotton briefs and pleated ‘relaxed’ fit slacks, no woman has been known to find a man attractive in a short-sleeve sport shirt since the Eisenhower Administration so you’re safe.

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Or, for a more business-casual look, try one of these:  In picking this shirt, look for the labels “classic fit” or “traditional cut.” Do NOT make the mistake of buying these labeled “trim fit” or “athletic cut” and never, ever buy anything in the “Young Men’s” or “urban” section! Remember to ALWAYS tuck your shirt in, wear a belt and accessorize your belt with a cell phone holster.

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The following type shirt is beloved by many men for it’s ease of movement, but it can be a source of distraction to ladies when not carefully chosen.  Even with your “shade shirt” these can reveal broad, muscular shoulders or, if worn too tight, abs muscles. This is totally defrauding to women. To be safe, always go up a size and be sure to stick with plain colors–stripes can and will emphasize broad shoulders. Be wary of expensive “golf” shirts! Many are made of silky fabric that drapes beautifully that emphasizes manly muscles and makes women want to touch the man shirt to feel the silky fabric. It has been known that women have equated the feel of an expensive golf shirt to the feel of  high quality European sheets. 0001712536472_500X500

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Shoes   This is the most appropriate style and brown is the color of choice. Why? Women, strangely, find men’s shoes to be sexy  fascinating. This style has never been known to appeal to a woman, so we highly recommend it. You will have no problem locating these in thrift stores, too, so it will save your wife trouble in locating them.

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Socks? I hear you laughing! What could be defrauding about socks, you ask? The thing to avoid here are PATTERNS! Patterned socks lead women’s eyes upward in very immodest fashion. In fact, it has been proven that patterned socks were invented by a devil worshipper for this reason! Men’s patterned socks are right up there with European-style underpants and Cabbage Patch dolls in terms of Satanic properties! These are the socks we recommend:  Not only are these socks in an unattractive nylon, but when worn in hot leather or vinyal shoes, they produce a rather nasty odor. This helps women tremendously in avoiding the dreaded shoe & sock lust stumble.

Church attire or suits  Suits must be bought off the rack and preferably in discount stores. They are always, ALWAYS to be worn with  a short-sleeved dress shirt. Again this has been researched! No woman has ever stumbled looking at a man in a discount store suit made of unattractive Dacron fabric, with hairy wrists showing. Our research has revealed that hairy wrists protruding from a badly cut suit or sport coat do nothing to make women stumble.

Ties are a major source of bedevilment for women! Men, you MUST pick these yourself. Women can go into an odd trance at a well-stocked tie counter! Be sure to pick nothing a sales person steers you toward. You want plain, solid colors in unflattering widths. Be sure to accessorize with a cross or American flag tie pin. Our research has shown these are a dead turn off to any woman alive. And, please! Pocket handkerchiefs are “European….”

Finally, there is sleepwear.

 

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This one is a piece of cake. Have your wife or sister run up one of these on the sewing machine. Unless, of course, she’s been allowed to read the books of that historical hussy, Jane Austen.   A nightshirt should be full-cut and must not hug the shoulders. It should pass the knees and, ideally, should be made of plain dark cotton. A man must, however, resist the urge to wear this without foundation garments! Letting things underneath bob along Unexpected movement beneath the nightshirt is to be avoided at all costs.  There you have it men! Now make your wife, or sisters, clean out your wardrobe and take the offending items to a thrift store no one likes. Your women folk will rise and call you blessed! Your maidens will make it to their first bedding in complete innocence. Remember that code word! “Avon.

NOTE: This piece is SATIRE. I believe EVERYONE should dress modestly, but I do not think that has to mean unfashionably. I do not think modest attire should draw MORE attention.

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That a girl!

Mother’s Day is always a time for me to reflect on my life. 13 years ago, I became a Mom to a seven year old girl and an eight year old boy. Time flies. I’ve joked for too long that I gained more weight thru adopting than any of my friends did in pregnancy. This year, I’ve begun the necessary work to reclaim my body and reinvent my style. Not Mom style. Not make-do style. My style. At least my style for my empty nest. Or my want-it-to-be-empty-nest. My sometimes-empty nest. I’m sure you can relate to that one, if you are woman of a certain age like me.

How I see myself is huge–huge as in weight. Two digits with a “P” at the end. Short and stumpy. Short and portly. Wide load.  Over the past month I’ve blogged about my body image here and here–no knuckle- biting angst, just realism.

One of the greatest tools for staying motivated on this journey is social media. Each Monday on Facebook I post a gratitude post to start the week on an up note and I post an Inspiration Outfit to get me back to the gym, back to being aware of when I am full and when I am hungry so I can eat like the skinny French lady I’ll never, ever be mistaken for! (More on that in a future post). Here are my most recent inspiration outfits, found, where else? on Pinterest.

 

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I’m a child of the 1970’s–I love jeans and t-shirts. But I hate frump. I’ve been stuck in frump since I grew out of the career clothes I was wearing at the time of my kids’ adoption. Remember that graduation book–Oh! The Places You’ll Go!? Well, my body has gone there, come back and outgrown the t-shirt it got.You try looking glamorous in pants that have a two-digit size and (how ironic) petite length. And fyi–I’m talking upper two-digits, not a slim, svelte size 10 here.

B.K. [before kids] I was a law firm librarian running up and down 4 flights of stairs in watered-silk pumps. I also went running along the canal at least every-other day. At one glorious point in time I was able to wear a pair of pants with Size 6 on the label. It was a mistake–all the others in my closet said 9, 10 or 12, but hey! Life’s too short to quivel!  The tag says 6–I’m wearin’  a 6. Here’s a few of me, back in that day–I cleaned up pretty well back then with a lot of help from Dress Barn for suits and Lancome for make-up. Ok, I’d never match my one-time model grandmother, or my model-wanna-be cousin, or my should-be-a-model daughter,  but I looked good. And, not just at work, either.

 

Back to my current life. My Inspiration Outfits keep me focused on what matters–getting back to the real me, albeit the real me at age 54. A size 6 may not happen–I won’t  ever again be a slave to the gym and my knees can no longer take running. But my sensible French eating combined with appropriate weight-training and walking or other simple cardio are a lifestyle change–not a prelude to the Olympics. The Inspiration Outfits pictured above are not necessarily ones I could afford, nor would they really do me the justice I’d like, but they are cute, mostly age appropriate, and are wearable for my work or social life, so I think, “Yeah, I want to wear this…” and post it. Sorry, but at home I live in jeans and a t-shirt, although even those, too,  are ready for a stylish update.

Using social media to stay focused on goals is a great strategy. If I don’t post my status as at the gym a few times a week, friends get on me. If I don’t post an Inspiration Outfit, friends message or text me to make sure I haven’t given up. In middle age this is crucial. In mid-life we woman can feel invisible–we aren’t young, but heck we aren’t that old, right? But no one sees us. No one hears us. The only demographic less represented in the media is women even older than us!

Social media lets us build our own support groups. We can give and receive those crucial that-a-girls, those virtual pats on the back. We can share our triumphs whether at the gym, in starting a new career or in dealing with the empty nest that doesn’t stay empty. To me the very best part of this is reciprocating by helping my friends stay focused on their own goals and by congratulating them on their accomplishments. Especially when a crucial someone, say a husband, never says a word–or worse, is critical. Encouragement is what makes ladies soar. We ladies of a certain age must band together and support each other.

What about you? Are you struggling to find your real style, or your real career or your real…you again? What steps are you taking? Do you have a support network? No, not the dog, though I’m sure he means well. Do you use social media for this purpose? Do you get inspiration from a class or women’s group or some other place that helps you stay motivated. Leave me a comment-I’d love to hear what you do.

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t want to wear a fat lady tunic

Tunics are everywhere right now and nowhere are they more in evidence than in the Plus Size Department. You know, for us full-figured gals? The short and portly aisle? That’s right, Fat Lady Land. Busty Babes Boutique. Broad as a Barn Backside’s Bin. But-You-Have -Such-A-Pretty-Face-Wear. I admit it–I shop here. I am the other kind of tween–that between an upper misses size (14-18 depending on the item and manufacturer) and Women’s Sizes (XL or 1X depending on the item and manufacturer). And, to make it even more fun, I’m a petite. Go figure. And, for once, fashion employs equality of opportunity to be offended. Men have the Big and Tall section in which they can buy beige or horizontal striped polos, plaid sports shirts and the male equivalent of granny panties. Yeah. Sucks to be us. Back, back to tunics. Here are three that are truly lovely. I’d pay almost any price for the gorgeous fabrics…..if….if…if they weren’t made up into tunics.

 

Stores trumpet the good news that tunics SLIM! and FLATTER!

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they don’t

 

On the much-slimmer-than-plus-sized models they may do this. In fact, they look BREEZY and FUN on these ladies. Here’s the thing, on me and others like me they don’t do this. They have to constantly be yanked down over the butt-shelf, rearranged over the hips, straightened over the boobs.  But why? After all it’s a tunic! It’s perfect! It flatters!

Yes, it’s perfect and it flatters if you are perfect….perfectly proportioned to your height, that is. I’m 5’3″ and yes, I have worn pants that were the width of a hanger. It took daily running, weight lifting and almost never eating to do so. My knees died, life happened and slovenly wimp that I am, I put back on most of my weight. I am now repeating the weight loss cycle again hoping for a lifetime fitness plan that doesn’t finish destroying my joints.

It’s no accident that the same tunic patterns are used to manufacture something called a swimsuit COVER-UP. That’s right–a garment made to COVER something UP. When these are made out of other fabrics, or simply put in a plus-sized catalog, they become FLATTERING and SLIMMING Tunics. Got it?  We are only flattered by being covered up.

Or the same sewing pattern, reduced to junior size, becomes, wait for it….a DRESS. Yes, that’s right it becomes a FLIRTY, FUN little dress that barely hides the model’s thong. Oh, it gets better! They even sell such dresses for those of us who own the entire collection of Buns of Steel still in their original shrink wrap. And, imagine! We’re supposed to wear the dress OVER leggings! I can feel the sweat trickling off my face now. And, worse, I can see people turning away in horror. Leggings, for a butt the size of a recliner seat! Oh the humanity! Fabric stretched tight over a  butt that looks like the moon–craters and all.

Here’s the thing. Clothes meant to hide or camouflage just HURT. We know we are not ideally shaped. We get it that we’ll never be sexy in the eyes of our sex-obsessed society. We know that fashion merchandising is about size 0 being baggy on lucky, blessed girls like my never-ever-will-be-fat daughter. But I don’t want to wear a FAT LADY TUNIC, ok? Isn’t the dreaded onslaught of menopause with its delightful vaginal dryness, flattening boobies, red hot flashes and all the rest enough of an indignity? Must I wear a garment that, no matter how outrageously beautiful the fabric, risks putting me in a People of Walmart meme?

My butt could be used for a billboard. I get it. For another lady it may be boobs that, if she compromised her morals could earn her a fortune in a topless bar. For another it may be that she inherited her football player dad’s body and not that of her delicate cheerleader mom. Being fat hurts enough on its own. We don’t want to wear tunics, mu-mus, bags, old lady housecoats. The necessary, tummy containing granny panties are all the indignity we can endure in one workday.

Honestly, there are few fashion trends worse for the fat body, now that those super-thin layered t-shirts are finally ebbing away. Those awful t-shirts made fat belly buttons look like the Grand Canyon. So, please, no more fat lady tunics. None. Not even, or maybe especially, with a belt. A belt? Seriously? Cause, yeah, I want to spend all day unhooking myself from ADA-compliant door handles, right?

Clothing companies? Let FAT PEOPLE design fat people clothing. Let FAT PEOPLE model fat people clothing. Let FAT PEOPLE decide what flatters fat butts, hips, thighs and boobies, ok? It won’t look like you want, but it will sell. And, we will FEEL slimmed, flattered, flirty and sexy. Yes, sexy. We fat people have sex too. Live with it. But we need clothes made to make us FEEL good. No one wants to be marginalized, covered up, made invisible or made to look foolish.

 

 

 

 

For more of my writing on body image, please see Dumplin, 3 Diamonds, the Box Gap and Me  and Say No to Boyfriend Style

Say no to “boyfriend” style

Chances are good that if you’ve gone clothes shopping lately  you’ve been smacked in the face with one of the most sexist advertising gimmicks in years: Boyfriend Style.  Admittedly, if you are a 6th grader in the first blush of hormonal rush, then you may be excited by this branding. Those of us over 13, however, should find it appalling.

Left to right: Coldwater Creek,  Hollister and Urban Outfiters. Click for source.

The message this style name carries is obvious: Without a man, you  are nothing. Now, for the Junior High and High School set, ok. Everyone believes they’re the first to fall into lust and the first to ever have sex in the history of the world. We’ll skip them. After all, who hasn’t loved (at that age) wearing HIS letter jacket or his his favorite hoodie of his basketball jersey or even his band sweater or whatever. I can live with the dark, overly scented Mall style-stores being all about this. But, hello? Coldwater Creek? Talbots? And just about every major clothing retailer??

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Here’s the test to determine if it  is sexist. Imagine, if you will, (and oh! I wish I could do Photoshop!) say, Abercrombie, showing a buff young God of a boy wearing…wait for it…GIRLFRIEND Jeans!! Yes! They’d have such great embroidery on the pockets and they’d cut off at the ankle! Or, GIRLFRIEND Camisoles! Yeah! Imagine some man going into some nice men’s shop and instead of grabbing a package of 3 super-thick cotton crew-necked undershirts, he instead chose a light pink, a sassy chartreuse and an all-purpose white camisole to wear!! Right.

Yet, every day that a woman wants something a little looser and a little more comfy, she is  must put up with it being called  “Boyfriend jeans” or t-shirt or whatever. Because we all borrow men’s pants right? NO! Because we should want to “get into” men’s pants. SIZZLE!

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Now, I don’t know about you, but at 54 (and even back at 24 when I still liked wearing a boyfriend’s jacket) I find this so insulting, so juvenile that I am refusing to buy any of it. I’ve always loved tailored clothing and darker colors. Today that means many of the things I would enjoy wearing (and that are made to fit a woman’s body) are tagged with this ridiculous name. Cause, we all want to wear his big, soft shirt open showing our cool tube top/bra/whatever that is. Give me a break!

 

 

 

This whole idea is the icon for everything that’s wrong with popular culture today.  Here’s the best example: Underwear.

 

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Here’s the thing. I don’t see any retailer, aside from adult lingerie stores, selling something called “manties” let alone “Girlfriend panties” for men to wear. Yeah. Get that image stuck in your brain.  Yet a young, painfully thin girl, sporting a duck face or sticking out her tongue while pulling down the front of those same briefs just a bit, is called S–Y So, what is being sold here: Girls as you-know-what objects. I have no objection to selling really comfortable underwear–this style used to be sold, if I can remember back that far into ancient history as “banded legs” (albeit with no faux fly).  But why on Earth women need a fly (even fake) on the front is beyond me. It’s tacky. It’s sexist. It’s that whole “Women only want to get into a guy’s pants” notion again.

Retailers? Grow Up. Leave Junior High behind. Stop the sexualizing of everything. Do you really want to see a little girl wearing a miniature version of men’s briefs? Do you really think it’s so cute to see your wife wearing boxer briefs? Ladies? Do we really want to be told that to be comfortable we must be wearing stuff supposedly looking like we picked it up off our current hook-up’s bedroom floor?

I date MEN, not boys–I suspect most people out of high school do the same. If a man loans me his jacket because I’m freezing, I say thank you–I don’t declare it a fashion statement. Ladies, if you love your guy’s hoodie or pajama shirt or…(please tell me you don’t really wear his undershorts, ok? Cause ewwwwww)… just do it. But don’t tell me to buy it. So until I see GIRLFRIEND styles in the men’s section of, say, Kohls or Jos A Banks or wherever, I’m boycotting Boyfriend Style.

Last words: Even my drop-dead gorgeous, size 0 20-year old former cheerleader daughter finds this (and I quote) “Stupid.” Enough said.

 

Dumplin, 3 Diamonds, the Box-Gap, Sports Illustrated and Me: Body Image and the games it plays

Back in high school, yes back when Jimmy Carter was president and interest rates were double-digits, I thought I was fat. There were a few reasons for this.

  1. My Dad teased me.
  2. I wore a size 8 or 10
  3. It was terrible finding jeans that fit.
  4. I was a snoop.

When I look at myself in high school pictures I’m amazed that I thought this, but I’m also glad I didn’t develop and eating disorder because of it. It could have gone that way. When I was a that age teenagers were “moody.” Depression wasn’t a kid thing then. Had it been, I could have felt better about it all. My Mom tried and, in spite of his teasing–which was never intended to hurt–so did my Dad. I’ve learned since then that trying on jeans is a life-long hell. Even when they claim to be the right size–well, they aren’t. That’s that. But then it sent me spiraling for days.

It’s #4 on that list that did me in though. Possibly it was totally the reason for my depression, poor self-image and self-loathing. For the snark and negativity. You see, it made me feel ‘what’s the use? I’ll never be that.’ The snooping that caused this: My Dad’s Esquire magazine (at least in my memory it is–it could have been a girly-mag in my brother’s closet. Neither are exactly written for insecure young teen girls. But then, neither is Seventeen.)

1975 Esq

In an article I read that the perfect woman (I know, I know!! “Perfect” doesn’t exist) had “3 Diamonds” between her legs–near ankles, knees and crotch. Guess what? I didn’t. None. Nada, zip, null, zero.  Perfect women also didn’t have stretch marks–I had grown and “matured” that quickly between 5th and 6th grade that I looked like I’d carried and nursed twins. 3 Diamonds. I practiced trying to stand so there was some light source shining thru my legs. I do have very nice LOWER legs.

But even at my thinnest–even in the pants that miraculously said size 6 that I could wear on my 40th birthday–I never, ever, had any light. Even in size 6 pants my thighs were my enemy. Today’s the 3 Diamonds have been roughed up and slut-if-ied into “the box gap.” If you see nearly skeletal young women, I guarantee they have it. Here’s the thing: they can’t help it any more than I can. It’s body structure, pure and simple.

Thankfully, back in my day, no one had come up with the acronym FUPA (Fat Upper P—- Area). It means that cushion of fat (comfort I would wrongly think) on a woman’s , well, let’s say private “area.” Apparently today  men find it very, very off-putting for a woman to have this. Bones crashing against bones are considered “hot” and not “painful” today. Well, thank heaven no one had identified this feature as a problem area or I likely would have slid into bulimia.

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Julie Murphy’s new novel, Dumplin’ is about a girl of a certain size–let’s call her a 16. A size that will never make the cheerleading squad even if she tried  (and, like me, she wouldn’t have tried). Did I mention this poor girl is caught between a recently deceased beloved aunt so obese at 500+lbs that she never left the house and a beauty queen mother? Double-whammy. But something happens to Willowdean, aka ‘Dumplin’ (her mother’s nickname for her). A boy happens. Actually two, but one matters–Bo.

Bo is everything that Dumplin‘ girls don’t get. And poor WillowDean, well, she can’t enjoy it. I totally understood this. This was me every time a boy asked me out–and yes, I did get asked out! You see, it was only me who thought I was fat and unattractive. The whole “I am not worthy” thing is why I pushed away every decent guy I ever met and married (and divorced) the worst.

This book sang out to me loud and clear. No matter that high school was so long ago that I recognized people at my band reunion based on how much they looked like their parents in the 1970s. This book nails it. With a sledge hammer. There’s much more to the story but I won’t ruin it for you. Read it. Read it if you have a negative body image (well, I assume that’ about 98 % of women–including most of those with the hallowed 3 Diamonds). Read it if you have a teenage daughter–but don’t force it on her. She could and likely would take it wrong–like you thought she had body image problems (she does, but this won’t help). Leave it on the coffee table. Let HER find it and shut up. She needs it like you do.

When Sports Illustrated tries to rectify this situation by putting a “curvy” size 16 on the cover of their fabled swimsuit issue, I take notice. But what did I notice?

  1. si-ashley-graham-600x800 I noticed that she had to speak up and say her image wasn’t re-touched. I notice that her bathing suit was bigger (no pun intended) in terms of coverage than that of a skinny model. I notice that she was posed in a way that hid her thighs and gave no indication of her height. So SI? We aren’t fooled. If you really thought her beautiful, why not show her like she really is? Oh, we’d not see light in that so-sexy “box”? Or would there be comfort in the Private-Zone’s upper layer?
  2. Even when shown standing, she is posed to minimize thighs, distract from hips and she has far more fabric coverage than a size 0 model would ever be shown wearing in this sort of layout.

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The double standard is still there! SI tells us they want more women to love this issue, to love themselves as they are. But the whole thing is posed for men and men alone. Men who somehow think that 3 Diamonds isn’t as unchangeable as the size of their you-know-what. Men who think “heroin addicted waif” is a look that can be pulled off at any age. Men who think a size 6 is “large.” Thankfully, there are men who like their women the way they are and who are pleased to get a boudoir photo from their wife or lady regardless of the size tag in that corset or bra. Thankfully there are men who see things like the SI swimsuit issue for what it is–selling a fantasy.

This week, and last, I’m writing about fantasy–about those fictional characters, actors, film characters who really “send” me.  Today, with Dumplin and the SI issue, I’m showing the other side of the fantasy–the side that can crush, damage, humiliate. All around us women (and, yes, men too) suffer from living in a world in which porn is now called “romance” and in which seemingly everything is sexualized. It’s ubiquitous. We don’t even feel outraged any more. Sexual images are the norm today. And its hurting even very young children today. Let’s try not to see those images. Let’s not buy those goods that exploit sex to sell. Let’s see the size 16 girl as the beautiful creation she is. Let’s see the man who is ashamed to wear a Speedo as manly simply because he is. Lets stop this madness of defining what a man or woman “must” look like to be “sexy.” Lets focus on finding that one who sees us that way regardless of a tag in our underpants and let’s stay committed to him or her and be sexy only for each other.