For most of my life adult life I have weighed roughly 160lbs and have ranged from a 10 to a 12 in size depending on my level of fitness (which, of course, was far greater when I was single and could devote hours and hours a week to exercise). During a year long bout with gallbladder disease followed by food allergy issues, I was unable to eat much at all because of the pain and consequently I lost most of my muscle mass and dropped to an all time low (and I mean all time that includes my adolescence) of about 145. I was actually able to squeeze into a pair of size six capri’s. How scary is that for a woman nearly 5’ 10” tall? And though I freely admit to having loved being celebrity magazine skinny for the only time in my life, I was frustrated by my inability to eat much of anything and by my lack of physical strength which kept me from being very active. Having now identified most of my food triggers – a lengthy and nonsensical list – and taken up weight lifting again (about four months now), I am back up to my pre-illness weight and, dismayingly for me, size. A size twelve most comfortably in pants as I loathe form-fitting anything and a size ten in some other styles – notably my Lululemon gear. Like most women my age, especially if they have had children, my tummy muscles are not what they were and I don’t have the same ambition to tame them that I did before (or the time – who has two hours a day for exercise?). As long as I keep the tummy covered, I look really good for an older woman. But I know that I am not quite fit and it bugs the heck out of me. When did I get so effing vain?
Yesterday we were in the city to shop. We stopped at Earth’s General Store on Whyte Ave because Jordan had given us a gift certificate to the place as a wedding gift and as we are hurriedly arriving at our first anniversary (June 26th) we needed to get it used. The store is just a room upstairs from street level that has a peculiar odor that stops sort of foul and though it carries a few eco-friendly things (soaps of all kinds, cleaning products, toiletries, baby products and free market coffees) it is mostly a purveyor of over-priced, feel good about yourself without having to do much, tree-hugging, pseudo/wanna be activist stuff. We stocked up on laundry stuff mostly and then after another quick stop at Planet Organic for toaster pastries, we hit the MEC.
The Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is really a place for the hardcore outdoor sports enthusiast to gear himself or herself up. It is also a Mecca for the dilettantes. I am not quite the former but not exactly the latter either. I needed a pair of hiking pants for our upcoming honeymoon trip to Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. The kind that dry quickly and zip off at the knees if one gets overheated. Lots of over-sized pockets and such. While I was there, I also tried on a few pair of shorts and sports tops. One thing I noticed is that there were a plethora of small sizes. XS, S, and M/M. Larges and X-larges were non-exist or picked to the point that only the bright yellow or neon pink colors were left. And if you were a larger size? Shop somewhere else. Preferably a fat chick store and I say “chick” because the men who shop at MEC are allowed to be more than large but like so many places, women are confined to acceptably size limits.
I found this to be true of Lululemon too. The sizes stop at 12. Yes, you read that correctly. Women over the size of 12 must shop elsewhere (though I have noticed when I am there that plenty of my middle-aged sisters are willing to endure muffin top for the sake of the Lulu trademark on their back or bum). And I have gotten to wondering once again, why the insistence by clothing manufacturers and retailers to ignore the obvious? Most of us are not small. We are average (size 14 or 16 depending on your source of information) or larger. At the Lulu store, the 10’s and 12’s are always out. The larges (there are no XL women in Lulu’s world) are picked to the ugly colors and less aesthetic styles.
I find this annoying and, oddly, patronizing. At a 12 I am considered a plus size. Remember Anna Nicole in her Guess jeans days? A 12 and referred to as a gorgeous women – for a plus sized model. Huh? Last year I was a bony size eight. Bony. Seriously. Sure, I could slide with ease into just about any piece of clothing but it didn’t disguise my protruding collarbones and the fact that you could see my ribbed chest. And I was an eight. According to the test I took at the Self magazine sight, my “happy” weight is 157lbs. I am a bit over that, but the accepted weight range for my height is 127 – 171lbs. At 145 I was veering on dangerously thin and if you look at the fashion and celeb magazines there are women my height who are routinely about twenty pounds less than I weighed when I couldn’t eat. And that’s the key to being on the lower end of those oddly figured weight ranges. Not eating. You just can’t do that for long and of course that is why diets don’t won’t as well as changing food habits and exercising (although that isn’t as quick-fix or easy).
I have to admit that I am struggling with the return to my natural weight. I dislike the in between period of getting toned again. I don’t like feeling encased in my own body even when the reality is less about being buried in fat (which is what I feel like) and more about not being in shape with which I am most contented (and just as an aside – between pregnancy, childbirth, care giving and widowhood – it has been years since I reveled in my own body). At present, my weight training level is now about satisfactory but my cardio level has dropped because I am so effing board with circling an indoor track everyday. I long to run outdoors and I know I am strong enough now to do it again but the winter drags on and on.
Mostly though, I am tired of society and its sexist imposition on women via fashion. Although this is hardly the only way in which women are still oppressed in our world, it is one of the most effective ways of keeping us in our “place”. Despite my progress – I have no interest in make up, shun bras and aside from hi-lighting (I love being blonde) don’t fuss with my hair at all I am still a slave.